The green fairy spreads her wings in our apartment

28 February 2011

We had a little party at the weekend. And it was fuelled by the green fairy, absinthe. I don’t tend to make a cult of alcohol, I neither drink frequently nor copiously and I think I have never in my life been drunk — or have I just forgotten?? Anyway, I think you get the point. We are not people who tend to build their social life around the consumption of alcohol or find drinking essential for having a good time. I can have a super time on chocolate!!

On Saturday, I felt not 100% prepared: France is beginning to leave its marks! When you are invited in France, the host tends to offer an Apéritif at the beginning of a party, a kir, a martini… you name it. In Germany and Britain it’s straight to the beer and wine. So Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the start of our get together I suddenly thought “APÉRITIF” . Should I offer one? We had some French people coming to the party… and although I will never master the refined French hosting etiquette, I thought we should maybe have a go at offering some sort of apéritif? So I rummaged my brain and our placard which contains our modest collection of alcoholic drinks:

  • a bottle of whisky that we have had for at least 5 years
  • ancient bottles of Bacardi, gin and some blackberry liqueur
  • a new bottle of amaretto – to make tiramisu
  • a new bottle of port — to make tiramisu
  • a bottle of kirsch for making Black Forest gateau

And at that point I thought that we have quite a collection of bottles in this cupboard, most of them vintage, because they were already in our possession when we still lived in England. But then…

  • a bottle of Pastis – hoorrah, the first Apéritif for the night! And, hidden away, with a beautiful label and never opened:
  • a bottle of absinthe.




I had been given that bottle a long time ago by my sister, who had received it as an unwanted wedding gift years ago. When she showed me the bottle, I wanted to adopt it straight away, I love to have a bottle with a beautiful label (that’s how I buy wine…). And Saturday was just the night to bring out a bottle with a beautiful label, so the absinthe was going to be the apéritif for the night.


Luckily, my sister was also given the spoons that you need to prepare the drink, and Rolf had bought gobelets lyonnais in our first year in Lyon, the perfect glasses for serving absinthe. Sugar lumps we bought, and Rolf recalled his memories from a stag weekend in Prague… and there we were, ready to serve a cool apéritif.



Glass, spoon, bottle, it's all there!



Since nobody had tried it before, most guests were interested. The drink, when diluted with water, has a really cool green colour which looks almost fluorescent. It was also a talking point — we had a colourful mix of guests and people did not necessarily know each other. By coincidence, one of our friends had only just last week read an article about absinthe and how it is becoming pretty fashionable again (I had no idea). He gave Rolf some hints on how to refine the serving technique. The history of absinth is really interesting. There is so much to read! Its production was prohibited in the early 20th century (backed by the wine industry who were loosing a lot of customers to the cheap and readily available absinthe) on the grounds that it had a hallucinogenic effect. Apparently, this has not been proven and I guess any strong alcoholic drink induce hallucination if you just drink enough of it… But absinthe also contains a tiny amount of a substance similar to THC in hashish, but so does incense… and people don’t get high in church, or do they? Since 1988, absinthe is being produced again and there are some ardent fans of the drink out there. There is an Absinthe Appreciation Society on Facebook (this has only 58 members though 🙂 ), but there is a shop in Paris dedicated to the sale of absinthe and its paraphernalia.


  • “Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder!” (Quote from one of our guests).
  • Nobody was hallucinating on Saturday and everyone’s ears are still attached.
  • The fairy is back in the bottle now, but we will definitely let her flap around again.




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