Of course, we all know now that absinthe doesn’t cause blindness or madness or any of the other evils ascribed to this high-proof spirit back during the run up to Prohibition. But outside of cocktail geeks and urban bars with pretensions of authenticity, I don’t see this spirit becoming the next. big. thing.
A couple years ago, on a visit to the Absinthe Museum of America in New Orleans that’s excerpted in the slide show at the bottom of this post, a fellow visitor succinctly summed up the real problem with the Green Fairy. ” I love buying different bottles of absinthe, I just don’t like drinking it.” I have to admit I feel the same way. After I got over my fascination with Good & Plenty, licorice is something I like in small doses.
It was different back around the turn of the century in Europe where it became the drink of choice for creative types ranging from Oscar Wilde to Toulouse Lautrec, according to The Absinthe Buyer’s Guide. Anise flavored spirits are still popular and plentiful in Europe, the list at Licorice.org includes Pernod, pastis, ouzo, Sambucca, anisette and Pacharan I tasted in Spain’s Basque region.
It may have been in this licorice-loving context that Ernest Hemingway created his potent absinthe and champagne cocktail called Death in the Afternoon. His book Death in the Afternoon is considered one of the best books ever written about the deeper meaning behind bull-fighting in Spain. Hemingway borrowed the book name and contributed the drink made of a jigger of absinthe poured into a glass of champagne to a humorous collection of cocktail recipes by writers that was published in 1935, according to Absinthe Online.
I love the evocative name Death in the Afternoon; but since I think a little absinthe goes a long way, I fashioned Killing Me Softly, which I included in my book The Bubbly Bar. Besides being a tribute to the fantastic Roberta Flack song, it’s a delicate cocktail that leaves just a hint of licorice flavor lingering on the palate.
Killing Me Softly
1 sugar cube
1 teaspoon absinthe
1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 ounces chilled brut champagne
1 thin slice lemon
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a martini glass. Swirl the absinthe and elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice to chill quickly and strain over the sugar cube. Top with the brut champagne. Lightly squeeze the lemon over the top of the drink and float on top.