Sunday, 23 December 2007

Real Absinthe: 2007 Review & 2008 forecast

To say that 2007 has been an interesting year for real absinthe would be something of an understatement.

2007 was the year that real absinthe returned to USA bars and shops for the first time in nearly a century. First Lucid from France, and then Kübler from Switzerland.

And more followed. The month before Christmas saw American-made absinthe arrive in San Francisco and locally-distilled absinthe hitting the Canadian market too!

St. George Spirits Absinthe Verte hit the headlines at the end of the year with the press featuring pictures outside the San Francisco distillery.

This photo shows the "St. George Tactical Alcohol Consumption Squad" hard at work!

And yet when 2006 moved over to allow 2007 in, there was no sign that absinthe would become as freely available in the USA as it is now.

Absinthe lovers at the main absinthe forums had enjoyed long debates about La Fée X.S.; they had complained about the £/$ exchange rate, the San Francisco Absinthe Party was raided, and then on January 3rd, the New York Times prophetically ran an article entitled Trying to clear absinthe's reputation.

The Real Absinthe Blog started operations on January 14th, 2007, followed 12 days later by the Czech Absinthe blog. A growing number of bloggers chronicled developments throughout 2007: by December 2007 there were well over 20 regular absinthe blogs offering their writers' perspective on the absinthe business, absinthe events on several continents, with the occasional foray into absinthe's cloudy - one could call it louched - history.

February saw the story of the USB Absinthe Spoon.

Unfortunately this seems to have been a hoax, but we all enjoyed reading about it.

On March 1st, the second anniversary of absinthe going legal in Switzerland, the San Francisco absinthe party organiser heard that no charges were to be made against him (he eventually got his absinthe back!).

And on April 29th, the New York Times broke the Lucid story. The men behind Lucid, Ted Breaux and Jared Gurfein, did not reveal too many details at that stage about Lucid, and this may have been responsible for some of the more ridiculous speculation as to whether it was real absinthe, what the thujone content was, etc. Ultimately the creators of Lucid had the last laugh as it became clear to most neutrals that Lucid was very real with a thujone level that may have counted as zero as far as the US authorities are concerned, BUT that this allows a level of up to 10 ppm of thujone ... exactly the same as any real absinthe in Europe.

In May, the forums and blogs were busy debating Lucid, with the Czech "absinthe" blog beginning its long misinformation campaign on the brand and on Ted Breaux.

June saw the Boveresse absinthe festival in Switzerland.

Two of absinthe's most famous distillers (Ted Breaux and Claude-Alain Bugnon) are shown at the event where the latter's Angélique was launched.

I enjoyed July but not for England's terrible weather! This was the month where I published my interviews with Hiram of the Wormwood Society and Louched Liver of the Louched Lounge. More significantly it was the month of Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, an event which saw many of America's absinthe lovers get together for work and for play.

August and September were superficially much quieter, but behind the scenes absinthe distillers were preparing for new events in the USA, and absinthe consumers - especially in the USA - could hardly begin to believe what was happening with news of more launches starting to spread.

The October Absinthiades saw Claude-Alain Bugnon winning his third consecutive Golden Spoon, with La Fée X.S. also winning gold and silver.

November saw the launch of Kübler in the USA after a lengthy legal process in which the product itself was cleared long before Lucid, but in which the Swiss decided to launch only when they had full agreement for the label they wanted with its clear "absinthe" nomenclature.

And so to December, with the St. George launch, rumours of more absinthes coming to the USA, and, in two events that saw the news come full circle, the revelation of La Fée's new 38% NV, and Paul Nathan's latest, legal (?) absinthe party.


Before coming onto my forecasts for 2008, I want to make some awards to those people who made their mark on the absinthe world in 2007.

The Lion's Den Award

This award is for utmost bravery in going to meet the enemy and there are three potential candidates in 2007: Ted Breaux for braving the censorious Czechs, Elliot Novak for coming to discuss the new Oliva (Czech) Absinthe at Fée Verte, and finally to Tom Hill for coming to defend his family's absinth at the Wormwood Society. Personally I feel that Tom's initial willingness to discuss the issues in a relatively alien language should win this award.

The Kofi Annan award for diplomacy (or should that now be the Ban Ki-moon award)

This award goes to Oxygénée for trying to engage with those writing on L'Absinthe Rend Fou, and for his proposal that non-French/Swiss styles of absinthe could use the Bohemian designation.

The Absinthe Writer of the Year

Ultimately there can only be one winner of this: for sheer volume of materials, all written by a person/people who professes/profess no commercial link to absinth(e), but who nevertheless has time to participate on countless blogs (including his/her own), on Wikipedia, Tribe, etc etc. The winner is .... Anonymous, otherwise known as Absintheur, DrAbsinthe, Dr. Sam, Dogtanian, RedSalmon etc. All that is publicly known about this person is that he accesses the internet in the Czech Republic ....

Absinthe Launch of the Year

There are many candidates including Belle Amie from Vert d'Absinthe, Roquette 1797 from Archive Spirits, and Claude-Alain Bugnon's Angélique.

While opinions on the tastes of these - and others - may be quite subjective, the sheer historical significance of Lucid Absinthe Supérieure makes this the clear winner in this category.

Absinthe Photo of the Year

And so we return to the defining theme of the year in which real absinthe finally returned to the USA. This is best illustrated by the queue of those waiting to buy the new absinthe from St. George Spirits:-


Reviewing the past is relatively easy; predicting the future (even with a little inside knowledge) is a lot more difficult.

My main predictions for absinthe in 2008 are as follows:-

1. By December 2008, there will be at least 8 - 10 absinthes freely available in the USA. They will include more absinthes from France, Switzerland, the USA and the first Czech absinth to launch officially in the USA.

2. At least one of the big multi-national companies, probably Pernod-Ricard, will start to show more significant interest in absinthe. Pernod Absinthe is becoming slightly more prominent within Pernod's portfolio in some countries and the US interest in absinthe will have been noted. And if a second multi-national starts to get interested, then anything could happen!

3. One or two unlikely alliances between some of the main players will start to be seen. Consolidation is happening throughout the drinks business and absinthe will follow this trend.

4. Prices will fall, whether on the internet or in the retailers selling absinthe around the world. Some of this will come from greater production efficiency in the business and from greater competition; some will come from specification changes with suppliers reducing the alcohol strength as has been observed in at least one key market (the UK) in recent months.

5. More absinthe blogs will start (and many will wither); membership of the absinthe forums will continue to grow, and many of the longer-established members will tire of the inability of newcomers to read the FAQ's (that's an easy prediction)! However at the Louched Lounge, change will be less obvious!


To those readers who stumbled across me while searching "real absinthe" in 2007, I hope you have found what you were looking for. To those readers who stumbled across me while searching for "absinthe effects" and "absinthe hallucinations," I hope you have found something better than you were looking for.

Santé et bonne année!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Censorship is still alive in the Czech Republic

I don't like to give them a link, but I have to refer today to the Czech "absinth" blog.

Having written eight negative articles about Lucid absinthe in the last few months, the blog authors finally persuaded Ted Breaux, the distiller of Jade Absinthes and of Lucid, to join a debate on the blog.

Now frequent visitors to the Czech blog are well aware that posts disappear, which the blog admin blames on the system. I have had responses edited.

This time, the blog admin posted one of Ted Breaux's answers, and soon afterwards it disappeared. I had saved a copy of Ted's answer, so it was clear to me that this was blatant censorship. I had thought that censorship had died in the Czech Republic, but absintheur, our "host" at the Czech "absinth" blog, seems to be doing his best to keep it going!

Ted Breaux's deleted post follows below. The first part is shown on the screen grab: click on it to see the details.


I appreciate your professionalism and candor.

The comments I made 7+ years ago concerning thujone and vintage absinthe were based upon *assumptions*. Unfortuntately, I *assumed* those who published such figures did so from actual analysis. When the results of my first actual analyses proved to be in complete disagreement with what had been published up to that time, I contacted the researchers (Arnold, etc.) to discuss. Upon doing so, it became clear that their figures were dependent upon essential oil studies and not actual analyses of finished spirits, old or new. At that time, I realized that I was the first to analyze actual spirit samples, and I realized that everything I had assumed, AND everything they had published prior to that point was without actual proof. At first, I was hesitant to contradict myself without further investigation. When other researchers followed suit and demonstrated results similar to mine, I became more convinced that the old estimations did not consider many details that were not apparent from paper research. These details would eventually clarify themselves to me, but not until I actually had a hand on real-world distillation, from cultivation of herbs through a finished distilled product – something the prior research has never considered nor conducted.

Again, no 'shop' was ever mobilized in Thailand. An associate there offered a quick, low-cost, low risk solution toward getting production initiated in a country where there was no public perception of absinthe, good or bad. This remained a possibility during a time when it was unclear how absinthe would be received by regulators and the public in France.

I created Lucid for the purpose of introducing the U.S. to something that was handcrafted, made true to antique methods, using correct materials and original equipment, free of industrial adulterants, artificial dyes, etc. It had to be possible to produce it in sufficient quantity to secure nationwide distribution (a real challenge), and the price point requirements determined that it should be a mid-level offering. It remains an ongoing challenge, and the unfavorable exchange rate makes things even more difficult.

John Q. Epoch:

Like any genuine absinthe, Lucid contains a trace of thujone. Some absinthes contain a little more, some a little less. I can't give you an exact figure for Lucid, as it varies a little from batch to batch. It tests consistently <10 mg/l, which satisfies the 'thujone-free' requirement of the U.S. government. Nevertheless, we employ as much absinthium in its crafting as one finds in any of the best protocols in the old treatises. Lucid's construction involves NO alteration of the details of the traditional methods, and no reduction in the quantity of materials used.


Either I wasn't entirely clear in my previous account, or you misread it. Allow me to clarify.

I happened to have a telephone conversation with Dr. Arnold just before I was notified of the Time blurb. It became clear to both of us in our conversation that he had been under the impression that we were not using traditional absinthe distillation methods (e.g. Duplais, Brevans, Fritsch, etc.), primarily because a journalistic account of my distillation activities in an older article omitted certain details. Upon his expressing the nature of his impressions from that article, I corrected and clarified them. We discussed other points of misunderstanding as well, which I went to great lengths to correct and clarify. I sought nothing else from the conversation. It isn't the first conversation we've shared over the years, and it won't be the last.

Let's refer to the BMJ article reference by the TIME journalist. In that article, we find the following statement:

"The thujone content of old absinthe was about 0.26 g/l (260 ppm)8 and 350 ppm when the thujyl alcohol from the wormwoods is included.3"

8 – References Duplais – a 19th century treatise.
3 – Arnold references himself

If we apply simple logic:
This statement doesn't say, "our best estimates imply that . . . ", and it doesn't say, "we have reason to believe that . . . ", and it doesn't say, "barring any unforeseen details that may influence our estimations . . . " It says, "the thujone content of old absinthe WAS . . . "

This statement was made as an absolute, without any 'safety valve', and was not based upon actual testing of the very substance to which it referred (old absinthe). Clearly one can see the potential precariousness of this statement. We ALL assumed it to be correct (as did I for many years), but actual testing revealed something very different, and continues to do so.

As for Jad Adams, AFAIK, he is a journalist, not a scientific researcher. I know of no scientific research/analysis undertaken on his part. I don't recall seeing anything in his writings that reflect the revelations of new research, possibly because much of what he wrote (IIRC) was done *before* the latest research.

I cannot stress how important it is to realize that anyone who has pubished writings and theories that are heavily dependent upon thujone for sensationalism would have reason to NOT WANT to accept all the latest revelations, and some will undoubtedly refute that which contradicts their beliefs beyond a reasonable point. This is simply human nature. As for the rest of us, we had our beliefs, we tested our beliefs, we admitted our beliefs were wrong, we attempted to resolve the facts that make the truth what it is, we adapted our thinking to accommodate the truth and moved on.

And on that note, I can tell you there is more coming . . .


(1) I checked two original samples of B-65 for glycyrrhizinic residues some years ago, with interesting results The analytical data from my original samples concurs precisely with the written protocol (from an original distiller's notes) that came to me from Switzerland some time later.

(2) The wine spirits I use are indeed expensive and in short supply, but I wanted something distilled using the appropriate varietals and to my exacting standards in the interest of being as historically correct as possible. You can take comfort in the fact that the spirits I use exhibit a methanol content that is well within the contemporary health standards."

Why would this post be censored? Maybe because it shows the blog's eight attacks on Lucid were misfounded?

I doubt that the debate at the Czech blog will progress now, so for further information, read the coverage on the Wormwood Society.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Absinthe Distillery Webcam!

In what is believed to be a world first, an absinthe distillery has gone fully public by installing a webcam at the entrance to the distillery.

The picture, which is refreshed automatically every 15 seconds, allows the fast-growing numbers of absinthe consumers to see for themselves how absinthe is made.

The pictures come from the Artemisia Distillerie Artisanale in Couvet, Switzerland: the birthplace of absinthe and the home of La Clandestine. In fact, prior to March 2005, the production of La Clandestine was as hidden as its name suggests. So it is ironic and a sign of the times that a clandestine absinthe distillery is now the first to go so public. How things have changed in just two years!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Tales of the Cocktail - Absinthe in NOLA

Tales of the Cocktail hit New Orleans from July 18th to 22nd and seems to have hit some of the participants as powerfully as any hurricane!

Five days of sipping cocktails in seminars, catching up with old friends and making new ones, great food all followed by one or two bar visits: it sounds tough and very exciting. Try as I did, however, I couldn't justify flying there from London this year. But I have certainly been experiencing the whole event vicariously through the numerous blogs, press articles and forum threads about the event. And from a distance it is clear that absinthe played a major part in the festivities, or should I say "work load," of the participants.

First stop in my reading was the Wormwood Society: you have to be a registered member to read their accounts and see their pictures. Without giving away too many secrets, I can reveal that the highlights of the event for the dozen or so Wormwood Society members who attended were:-

1. Dinners and drinks together with great friends, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time. This gave many of them their first opportunity to sample Marteau, which will be launched later this year.

2. The Sunday 10:00 am absinthe seminar led by Ted Breaux and presented by the Maison d'Absinthe.

10:00 am Sunday? After a heavy Saturday night? Well, a drinks purist would probably say that provided those who attended had breakfast a couple of hours before the event, their taste buds would have been perfectly ready for Ted's creations, namely the Jade and Lucid absinthes.

3. Finding absinthe openly on sale in several of the bars in New Orleans.

Thanks for the photo, Larspeart!

4. For some, the opportunity to meet up with some of the team behind La Fée, although it is clear that several people were shocked to see that La Fée were offering all their absinthes (and not just the Bohemian) by burning the absinthe unless one insisted on drinking the right way. It seems they may not have studied the Wormwood Society guideline, or "mantra:"

which may explain why Hiram/Gwydion of the Wormwood Society does not seem to have met up with them!

5. And I wouldn't be a good blogger if I didn't also refer to the long discussion between Ted Breaux of Jade and George Rowley of La Fée, seen by several observers. Were they just discussing the New Orleans weather?!

Next up in my reading was the press, with several regional newspapers covering the Absinthe seminar. I also enjoyed the report in Zagat (where La Fée say that "Van Gogh .. was drinking loads of other alcohol, and smoking all kinds of weed," and the Washington Post coverage of the event including references to the presentations given by Dr. Cocktail, who talked about the "holy trinity" of lost spirits, including absinthe, and Drinkboy. I was privileged to meet them both in London in June for Bar Show 2006.

However most of the best coverage of TOTC 2007 is to be found in blogs with Kaiser Penguin having the best summary of the entire event. Absinthe is covered in detail by Cocktail Chronicles (who also covered the Wormwood Society dinner), The Art of the Drink, and Looka!

To sum up, I'm more than a little annoyed I didn't get to make it to NOLA for this event. To make things even worse, I understand that there are plans to have a separate absinthe event in New Orleans in the fall of 2008, meaning that there are two events that I should attend in NOLA next year. Well I can only hope that by then there are a few more bottles of La Clandestine in the USA. In 2007, I spotted just one among the photos of metodd1 (thanks!) from the Wormwood Society. I suspect that Dan (who appears to have made an impact with at least one lady in 2007) or whoever attends from La Fée will be much busier with their camera next year!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Vert d'Absinthe - my favourite absinthe shop

Are you going to Paris this year? For many travellers, Paris is their favourite city, with all its restaurants, bars, and shops. It's easy to imagine oneself back in the Belle Epoque days when absinthe flowed freely, and the Moulin Rouge dispensed absinthe WITHOUT burning it as they do in the film! I had a girlfriend in Paris a few years ago, so it has special memories for me too. If you are visiting Paris, my favourite city, soon, then you must visit Luc-Santiago Rodriguez at my favourite "bricks and mortar" absinthe shop.

Vert d'Absinthe
11 rue d'Ormesson
Phone Number: + 33 (0)142716973

Luc's shop is an oasis, a hidden treasure in the historic Marais area of Paris and once inside you'll forget the bustle of the Parisian streets as you discover all the secrets of absinthe with the help of a wonderful tour guide (no tipping, please!). Luc has one of the finest ranges of absinthes - and absinthe accessories - available anywhere with almost all the French absinthes preferred by real absinthe lovers and some of the favourite Swiss absinthes too (unfortunately the French legislation on fenchone content in drinks limits the number of Swiss absinthes on sale).

Luc's shop is probably the only "bricks and mortar" retailer where you can buy both the distilled absinthes which won Golden Spoon awards at the 2006 Absinthiades in Pontarlier (Recette Marianne from Claude-Alain Bugnon's Couvet distillery, and the Jade La Blanchette from Combier, Saumur).

I've been visiting Luc since he first opened his shop in 2005 and have enjoyed a few glasses with him over that time. Bad salesman that I am (or good salesman that he is!), I have probably bought as much from him as I have sold to him. But with his Gallic charm, his amazing selection of absinthe, and, above all, his knowledge of and passion for his subject, it is all too hard to resist.

Santé, Luc!

PS If sampling absinthe with Luc has whetted your appetite, then in the square next to his shop there are some great restaurants. My favourite is Le Bistrot de Diane, at 2 Place du Marché Saint Catherine. And if you arrive at Luc's before he opens, the restaurant looks straight onto the shop, so you can enjoy lunch and a drink or two while you wait!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Absinthe for Sale

Absinthe is not a cheap drink to make or to buy. A good absinthe could be made with around a dozen different plants. The artisanale methods used to make many of today's absinthes are themselves very labour intensive.

However this absinthe is more expensive than any ever sold before. Even more expensive than the pre-ban absinthe samples sold once in a while by Oxygénée.

This absinthe will cost you $16,900,000, the equivalent of 291,379 bottles of La Clandestine swiss absinthe ...

Originally built in 1973 and then re-fitted in 2005, M/Y Absinthe is currently located at Ensanada, Mexico, so there may be a small delivery charge too. Fraser Yachts, who are selling it, report that its maximum speed is 17 knots, so delivery may not be as fast as the couriers who deliver absinthe!

Want to know more. Well here's the plan ...

The Dining Room ...

and the Master Suite ...

Finally if you lead a very busy life, and are concerned you may not be able to get to your yacht very easily, note that it comes with a helipad ..

Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Louched Lounge


The things a blogger has to do nowadays. Having conducted an interview with the founder of one absinthe forum, I thought it important to look at a different side of absinthe on the Internet. And so it was with some trepidation that I approached one of the members of the famous Louched Lounge. The Louched Lounge is different and greets you with the following messages:

Not just for insufferable pricks anymore.

Being a drunk asshole isn't a requirement but it helps.

Making the absinthe world stupider. Post by post.

I've posted on the Lounge a few times, and been flamed most times. I've even had my own thread. Since I'm commercially involved in the business, flaming is only to be expected, so nowadays I lurk more than I post. To many, first impressions of the Lounge to an outsider must be ... interesting, to put it mildly. It's anarchic, with little apparent respect for feelings, and only at times seems to stray into discussion of absinthe. But dig deeper, much deeper, and a very different picture emerges. In the last few weeks, there have been some very intense - and very important - discussions, including one on a "secret place" which sadly led to another sub-forum being closed down, one about L'Artisanale, and a critique of my last blog article.

The discussion with my first contact there (a Crosby who may be named after a famous American absinthe lover of the 1920's) went a bit like this:

Tell me a bit about the history of Louched Lounge. No.

Later that day ...

"Good afternoon," says Crosby. "I think you should talk to Louched Liver. He's the best person for this."

So 3,000 miles later, here I am looking for Louched Liver. Sometimes known, at least by himself, as "The Mayor of Absinthetown", also known as Allentown, PA. That may be his photo at the top of this article but he also uses these avatars ...

Hi Liver. Or maybe we can use your real first name:

Sure, you can use my whole name - Mike Marvin. I’ve had it out on the Internet for years.

Can you provide a bit of personal background? How long you've been drinking absinthe?

Drinking for 6 years. If you ask my liver - 60 years.

Your first absinthe?

Good ol’ Deva, from Spirits Corner. If I could get that xit here as cheap as it is in the House of Spain, I’d always have it on hand. For an oil mix, it ain’t bad at all. And the sexy heft of that full liter bottle? Gives me a hardon. And actually lasts 3 days instead of 2.

What have been your favourite absinthes?

All were hogsmack. The time, care, love, and huge effort the cookers put into their stuff jumps it into a league commercial cannot touch. The old saying still holds - “If you really want it, you can’t buy it. If can buy it, you don’t really want it.”

What else do you drink?

Cheap beer and cheap wine, on a ‘cuz that’s all my broke ass can afford. Plus, living in the Deep South, I thought it’d be a good idea to not try to fight the (lack of) culture.

What do you do in your private life that you can talk about?

I do basically nothing. I’m your classic underachiever - 50 years old and waiting tables 4 days a week. A real fuckin’ role model for the striving youth of today. Beyond that, I read (fuck you, no I don’t move my lips and the books don’t have pictures that take up ¾ of the page) and watch movies. Mostly foreign, independent or documentaries. That way I can remember there really is a world out there w/culture and a nonconservative outlook.

Liver and I discover we have a shared interest in foreign movies - we both like Fellini.

(And he also does a fine job at self-deprecation. Talking to his friends, I discover later that Liver is a lawn mowing machine. "Drink with him until the wee hours and the fucker still gets up at 6AM to mow the lawn."

"You’ll never meet a more gracious, generous host. He also has the ability to walk for miles while drinking. We walked to 13 bars in one day, having at least one beer in each one, more in the better ones. Only problem with this being the drunker you get, the further you have to walk to get back home."

"The most important thing to remember is never offer him a Wheat Thin. That and don't let him call your wife and tell her he needs your bail money sent out, on-a-'cuz he ain't gonna pay it. Grate guy.")

Can you tell me a bit more about your personal life ... your partner?

The Lounge’s own Greeneyes, aka Peeps.

She’s the reason I moved to Tallahassee. We actually met in the Lounge. 3,000 miles apart, both in relationxips. A whole story in and of itself, full of heartbreak, longing, phone sex and ultimately, redemption, love and a shared postal code.

A short history of the Lounge. When did it get started?

Woulda been ’02. Some of us at FV (Fee Verte) got mysterious emails to check out a new site. A lame fuckin’ site. I went in one night, drunk (surprise!) and figgered out the whole site was a sham. Populated by puppets. Poorly disguised puppets at that. The whole fuckin’ thing was basically set up sell sketchy absinthe by someone w/the tag Optimal Smarts. Who came to be known as OP, and ultimately Opie. I kicked the furniture around, slung xit on the walls, pissed in the ‘fridge. And forgot about it. Next day, someone posted @ FV that Louched Liver pitched a bitch @ the Louche (no “d” then) Lounge and someone called me an ENORMUS dick (sic).

So some of us from FV started hangin’ around over @ the Lounge because we could do/say anything, as opposed to the civility of Fee Verte. And more and more fucks piled in until we had our own little Internet bar w/a small but fiercely loyal crowd. There’s a whole ‘nother story involving the Lounge being given, then taken back, by Opie, then burnt to the ground by Jack Batemaster and the new Lounge, with a “d” rising from the virtual ashes. (More about this in the 5th comment added at the end of this article).

How can I describe your role on the Lounge?

God would be a description only slightly off the mark. Since I was 1st in, and despite frequent absences and deleting myself entirely at one point, in aggregate I’m still top poster overall, I set the motherfuckin’ TONE, and always have. As someone just said, we let ‘em all in, we always have, and the Liver sorts ‘em out. The whole mob sorts ‘em out, really, but I like to get the initial bitchslaps in. I hate poor grammar and sloppy spelling, and the fuckin’ idiocy of quoting the post above yours to answer it has always gotten me pissed off.

Officially it says "Moderator." Any more to add?

Used to be one of the Three Stooges ...

Cros, Dinky, and me. The Admins. Quit. Came back, got my admin keys back, got pissed (another side story), deleted a bunch of xitty porn and other stuff and turned the Lounge into a beer forum, got busted down to Horse’s Ass.

I see you are also one of the very first members of Fee Verte too.

I was there right before/after a retooling. Hence my low member #, but I was there back starting in about 2000. Head I consider a personal friend. We are both from Michigan and we would amuse ourselves at Fee Verte w/out any care at all if anyone else got what the fuck we were on about.

So why did you see the need to use the Lounge too?

See above. Fee Verte is what it is, and part of what it is is civil. People complain if threads go off topic. At the Lounge, it’s hard to catch a thread more than 12 posts long and figger out what the fuck the original topic may have been. I used to do it as a kind of game, see the last couple posts and try to figger out how the fuck it got to that point from where the thread started.

What makes it different from other absinthe forums.

No censorship, we admit everyone, we are brutally frank, and sometimes cruel, well, usually cruel, especially amongst our core membership. We don’t talk much about absinthe at all. We’re pretty fuckin’ unstructured. If fucks would look at the Lounge as a virtual incarnation of a real life dive bar, they’d get what we’re about pretty quick. Xit’s gonna happen, just not the xit you may expect. Bullxit and hucksterism get sniffed out and pissed on real, real quick.

Information on current Lounge members: numbers total, number active.

A bunch. Not many.

Describe the range of your users: ages, locations, experience.

We’ve had as young as 18 and a few are older than me. Mostly US, but we’ve picked up some You Row fucks lately. Fun to make of their language problems. They all seem to have no trouble w/profanity, though. God bless ‘em. Most Newbians either hang on the periphery until they feel they’ve got a grip on the TONE well enough to not get their asses kicked, or they dumbly wade in and get their asses kicked.

Few stick around after that. Some do. Not many. Hence, the experience level is high by dint of the fact if you aren’t already knowledgeable, you aren’t gonna really find anything out in the Lounge, anyway. If yer funny and have a tough hide, well xit, c’mon in and join the party.

How many of your members have you met?

Dozens and dozens and dozens. My last Louche Fest in Allentown, Pa had about 2 dozen+ plus attendees, from 10 states, and lasted 8 days. I am the motherfuckin’ party master. It’s part of my mystique. If you go to the Louche Fest Scrapbook sub forum, and set it to All, you can see the 3 Louche Fests. Lots of pics too ...

(above a T-shirt design from Louche Fest 2003 and below some of the damage done at the event)

Part of the glue of the Lounge is the high percentage of regulars who’ve actually stepped up and looked each other in the eye. And crotch punched each other. Just a little thing we like to do.

The future of absinthe in the USA. How do you see the absinthe market developing?

Really fuckin’ slowly. It’s a niche drink. It’s unknown. And, in the main, those who know of it only know the stupidass side of it. The fucktard mythology. Not exactly a repeat buy clientele. And the fuckin’ price is pretty crazy, too. Especially when you consider the 1st offering that’s legal stateside, Lucid. Weak ass, low quality and still 60 damn bucks. High price, lack of knowledge the xit even exists=slow row to fuckin’ hoe, Joe.

Why is there so much ... ill-will between the forums, ... the rivalries between some people, the animosity, the jilted lovers etc? Or are the forums just a reflection of life?

Thazzit. Different bars for differing barflies. And as most of the forums have a small, but loyal member base, fuckers get testy when they think their xit’s gettin’ stepped on. Each of the forums draws a different base crowd, although there is much interspecies mating. The actual online community is pretty fuckin’ small. You see the same fucks poppin’ up everywhere. There’s been some actual sex involved, and as always, that’ll get xit really percolatin’.

Personally (yeah, I'm supposed to be interviewing, but ...), I think it's because there is so much passion about absinthe.

Um, no. At the Lounge, we really don’t discuss absinthe much at all. It’s gotta be 90% crap yap. Until the last couple years, w/ever expanding legalization and more decent commercial products coming out, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to be passionate about. There just wasn’t that much fairy squeezin’s around worth talkin’ about. Even now you can’t really sustain talk about absinthe very much. Get some motherfuckers in an online pissing contest, that’ll bring out the passion! Seems like it erupts in the Lounge more than at the other forums. Since we don’t censor, and our TONE is pretty snitty, it’s the place for xit to get aired out pretty frequently.

So do you think we can all ever be friends again? (A bad question to ask, immediately seized on by Liver ...)

Again? Who the hell were you buds w/? I’ve seen pix of you, they must have been blind. I think eye to fuckin’ eye we’d all pretty much be palsy-walsy anyway. The mess that is communicating over an Internet board causes mucho miscommunications, to put it very mildly. Nuance, irony (fuck emoticons), shrugged shoulders, a touch, a smile, all missing. Of all the Loungers and Fee Vertians I’ve met over the years, only 1 managed to be a big enough dickhead for me to actually dislike. I’m not sayin’ I’d suck everyone else’s cock, but at least they weren’t assholes, just people.

Here's a possible theory about absinthe forums and the future. They have done so well simply because absinthe is illegal. Now it's becoming legal, the forums won't attract new people. What do you think?

Sure they will. People will wanna see what they should be buying. Like going to Amazon to check out an espresso maker’s reviews. Fucks wanna have some idea what end of the pool to dive into. Hopefully there will be enough choice on the newly legal side at some point to make it worth continued investigating in the future. It’ll be like now, where at most forums the majority peekin’ in aren’t members, they are guests, sniffin’ around to find out what’s what. Most never join. Those who do usually stay for a bit then fuck off to some lawn care forum or who knows where.

And how about the current members? Isn't there a danger they will lose interest?

How much interest can actually be sustained anyway? As I said, at the Lounge we rarely talk about absinthe - that was merely the web that caught us flies. Which is an apt analogy, as we not only regurgitate on our food, we puke all over the place. Forums are good places to plan Fests, check in on your b’day for that lame ass xit where everyone puts together a string of emoticons and wishes “Merry! Happy!” even they don’t have a clue who the fuck the person is.

Some people are obsessed w/absinthe and everything about it, but how many actually? And who the hell wants to hear them prattle on about egg glasses vs. Pontarlier forever, anyway? Not me, amigo! Let’s yammer about sex, music, the weird shape of that guy’s head. How does he buy hats to fit that thing? Had to be born Caesarian or his mother’d look like a wishbone.

What would you like the Lounge to do in future that it can't do now? An even better online bar/pub .. where we can all see each other and talk to each other in real time?

Inexpensive, and working Webcam feeds from Fests would be good, until about 4am when it would be only be good for those who like to watch slow motion train wrecks. As it is, drunk dials are a blast for those screaming into the celly “YOU SUCK AND I LOVE YOU AND YOU’RE A CUNT FOR NOT BEING HERE BECAUSE YOU SUCK AND YOU SHOULD BE HERE AND HERE’S xxxx-----“ who promptly screams "YOU SUCK AND I LOVE YOU AND YOU’RE A CUNT FOR NOT BEING HERE BECAUSE YOU SUCK…” And you can only imagine how much more fun that’ll be when you can see someone’s melon right up against the camera, steaming the lens. I’m waiting w/masturbated breath. Yeah, right.

What does Peeps thinks about your absinthe interest/obsession?

I can’t even afford to pay for absinthe. Generous fuckers send me some from time to time. A real treat when it’s from a hogsmacker. Last Louche Fest I went to, in Seattle in September, flown out through contributions and staying for free as well, that’s how we do xit @ the Lounge, I drank beer during the party. She shares my interest - that is, after all, how we met, but neither of us is obsessed by absinthe. I’m pretty much a self-obsessed drama queen, which is quite evident if you read the crap I post. Me! Me! Me!

Why does Jack Batemaster use your photo as his avatar?!

Um, on a ‘cuz he’s got good taste and we were lovers @ summer camp. Man, can that boy ever kiss!!

Which seemed a suitable way to conclude my interview with Liver.


I watched Capote last night. In it, Truman Capote decides to get close to a murderer to help him write his book, "In Cold Blood." He finds himself getting closer to the murderer than he expected and is drawn into his world in a way he had not expected at the outset. I felt a bit like that during this process, although any comparisons between Capote and myself, or between the murderer and Liver would be ludicrous. Well, maybe the Liver/murderer thing isn’t so off the mark. What I found is that this apparent world of anarchy that deigns to discuss absinthe only from time to time is in fact 100% about absinthe as the glue or - as Liver might put it - the "shit" that binds the forum members together. It is a crucially important absinthe forum which charts (if you can dig to find it there) much of the history of absinthe over the last few years, but also contains much of the ... soul of the 21st century absinthe drinker. Some might say that it goes beyond that: that as social history it is an important Internet phenomenon the way it gathers people with nothing in common initially beyond absinthe and turns it into a 24 hour pub. Some of them may be drunk as they write, but they post with passion for their subject (whatever it is) and with loads of mutual respect.

And a few hours after their last posts at night, they resume their daily tasks like Liver (did he just mention "lawn care forum?")...

As normal as any of us, apparently, but running a great bar and a great meeting place. Judging by some of the comments made by friends, it should perhaps be renamed The Loved Lounge.

Yes, tacky, I know, but for those who know and use the Lounge daily it describes it well. They have a real passion for the place. For those yet to discover the Lounge, it reflects the possibilities it offers. If you've not tried it yet, do so. Once the members start shouting at you, you'll know you've made a good start. Bon voyage!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Wormwood Society re-launch: interview with its founder

Later this month the Wormwood Society, the world's liveliest and most user-friendly absinthe forum, is re-launched. For those of my readers who don't know it, you must check it out (even if it means you spend more time there than here in future!). The crowd who meet up there are highly informed, very receptive to newcomers (they even welcomed me!) and have the liveliest discussions on absinthe (and a few other completely unrelated subjects from time-to-time).

If you've any absinthe question at all, they've probably got the answer (so check the FAQ before you ask the 800+ members the same old question).

I wanted to ask some "IAQ" (infrequently asked ...) and I recently managed to grab a few minutes between louches with the founder of the Wormwood Society, Gwydion Stone, otherwise known as Hiram.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your habit, your family etc?

"I'm 50 years old, married to Trinity, and I call myself a Cincinnati expat living in Seattle. I've been here 19 years.

Two adult children, 30 and 32. My daughter really likes absinthe, but my son doesn't care for it (eew ... licorice!). I worked briefly in the food industry through the late 80's and early 90s cooking in a series of cafés and trattorias. I've considered opening a café, but I decided I'd rather cook at home."

Hiram's love of food was always evident within the "What ya drinking tonight" thread on the Wormwood Society discussion forum, over 9,500 member postings, describing their drinking and eating habits and including many of Hiram's own creations (food). A new Cookbook section has recently been added.

And on the drinking subject ....

"Aside from absinthe I love good whisky. I was a scotch and gin man for years, until I became interested in classic cocktails. I still like scotch, but now it's mostly bourbon and rye. My favorite cocktails are the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, Theda Bara, Obituary, Gin & Tonic, Dry Martini and a bourbon & ginger ale highball."

It is recommended you don't offer Hiram a vodka martini. I intend to try this when I meet him face-to-face and will keep readers informed!

Could you give a short history of the Wormwood Society? Why did you start it? When?

"The Society was first announced on January 6th, 2004. We had our first event just over three years ago (March 13, 2004). The online forum started later that year."

Why did you start the Wormwood Society?

"The reason I founded The Wormwood Society is simple: I wanted to be able to have absinthe parties and associate with others who have an appreciation for absinthe, both experienced and novice alike. It was a purely selfish gesture, really. It also has the added benefit of being instrumental in spreading absinthe culture and giving people an opportunity to explore their interest in this unique beverage further than they might do on their own."

And this is from the current "mission statement":

"The Wormwood Society started as a casual, local (Seattle) absinthe club. As interest grew, and after many requests, the doors of the previously private discussion forum were opened to an international audience. Soon it became apparent that there was a need for an organization with an independent voice which could help educate consumers, guide them in their absinthe choices and help them avoid unscrupulous profiteers in a new industry."

From Gwydion's Bio:

Gwydion Stone, aka "Hiram"

Gwydion has long been intrigued by arcane and obscure topics, from alchemy to freemasonry, from gnosticism to herbalism. It was only natural that when he encountered this intriguing green spirit he should try to get to the bottom of its romance, allure and mystique. He soon learned that most information available was misleading and inaccurate. This prompted his journey toward discovering the truth behind the "Green Fairy" and gaining a deeper understanding of what absinthe was, and wasn't.

Featured in radio and TV segments, newspaper and magazine articles, and included among Imbibe magazine's "Imbibe15" innovators of the drinks world, Hiram is constantly working at dispelling the myths and misconceptions surrounding this fascinating drink. He hopes to help bring absinthe back to its rightful place in cocktail culture as a traditional ingredient in classic cocktails as well as a drink in its own right.

That's an aim I fully endorse: I am currently reading The Savoy Cocktail Book (a re-print of the 1930's classic) which contains over 100 different cocktails containing absinthe. Just think how today's mixologists in the USA will thrive given easier access to absinthe!

So what makes the Wormwood Society different from other absinthe forums?

"Well, the Wormwood Society is an actual organization, intended to bring people together at real-life events, So in that respect, Wormwood Society isn't just a forum, it's an organization with a forum.

Aside from that, the Wormwood Society has always been geared toward both novices and experts, much to the exasperation of some of the less patient veterans! It's always been my aim to make absinthe knowledge and the absinthe culture accessible to anyone who's sincerely interested, giving novices a place to learn and experts a place to share. Some online absinthe venues have become somewhat insular and protective of their boundaries—not that there's anything wrong with that—and are geared more toward being a haven for connoisseurs and insiders. There are only a handful of worthwhile absinthe forums on the web and each serves its own purpose and occupies its own particular niche.

Many, many more online groups are lacking in experienced guidance and often seem not to know just how much information is already out there. Unfortunately some of these groups do more harm than good to absinthe's reputation, as they perpetuate the same old myths about absinthe. A lot of those folks simply use absinthe as a social accessory. These are mostly the "I don't drink it for the flavor, I drink it for the effects" crowd."

Why are you re-launching and what will be different it in future?

"The forum has gotten a much-needed facelift and has had one or two new areas added, but otherwise it'll stay pretty much the same. There is a new forum for cocktail-oriented discussion, an area which I think has been very sadly neglected in the absinthe world so far. There will also be new sections for discussion of other topics which seem to frequently overlap absinthe culture: cooking, cigars, other liquors, beers, etc.

The Wormwood Society, as an American organization, is uniquely situated to bridge the gap between the Cocktail Revival, already well under way, and the Absinthe Renaissance which is still quite embryonic. Part of the way we're doing this is by participating in Tales of the Cocktail, an annual event produced by the New Orleans Cultural and Culinary Preservation Society. This gives us a chance to work with food and drink professionals all along the spectrum of the industry from bartenders and chefs to liquor industry executives. Getting the word out to these people about absinthe can have an enormous impact on its perception by the public.

The biggest change is to the main site. has been an HTML-only site from the beginning, but it's gotten to be unwieldy that way, and I found myself falling behind in keeping things up to date, mostly because it was such a pain in the ass.

I've moved to an entirely database-driven site, which was a huge challenge, because I'm not a programmer of any sort. It's been a huge job converting the whole site, and I'm glad it's almost done.

The most exciting thing for me about the new site is the Absinthe Review System. Readers can now post their own reviews and absinthe scores using the online scoring utility. The component uses Wormwood Society absinthe scoring system, which is based on the UC Davis wine scoring system. I started working on a system back in early 2004, but put it on a back burner. A while back, Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess rekindled my interest in the idea and I let him run with it. It's an easy and simple system anyone can use and will actually be a learning tool for those new to absinthe."

What can you tell me about your current members: how many are there, how many are active, what do you know about them?

"Of course people come and go, but we currently have around 800 members, about half of which have been active at some point with the rest just 'lurking,' and an active core group of around 70 members. Our active member ratio is pretty good.

Most of us are in the US, but we have members all over the world; the internet is handy that way. Diversity has been important to me from the beginning since I have a pretty diverse background myself. You name it we have it: ages from 21 to upwards of 60; all sexual/gender orientations; many ethnicities and religions, conservatives, liberals, old hippies, young rappers, and all points on the economic spectrum. Well, to be fair, not all points—you pretty much need to have a computer."

In the 21st Century, many people seem to live exclusively on the internet: how many of your members have you met?

"Oh, jeez. I remember at one point mentioning that I'd met 30% of them. But I think that was when there were only 150 or so. As of right now I've met 185 of our members, and I expect to be meeting a few more in the coming months, as many as a dozen or so."

How do you see the future of absinthe? Given the aims of the Society, you must be delighted at the news on Lucid and Kubler.

"A year or so ago I said I thought legalization would be within the next five years. Now I'm really excited. I really hope this flies."

A banner developed for the Society re-launch, with a slogan that is now not needed!

"When it comes to bureaucracy, 'public safety' is no match for economics. If there's revenue to be had, you can bet the government agencies will acknowledge what we've known for years: absinthe isn't any more harmful than gin and there's no reason it shouldn't be available on the US market."

And finally some real crystal ball gazing. How do you see the market evolving? High end brands or low end? Maybe market polarisation both ways?

"I think the market will stay pretty much the way it is, only bigger. The US has strict labeling and marketing laws about alcohol, so many of the Eastern European distributors will have to adjust their marketing vectors substantially.

I do think the up-market space will expand quite a bit. But that will happen globally anyway. As good as the current top shelf absinthes are right now, they're only going to keep getting better, with more and more new brands appearing all the time. What a wonderful thing to look forward to!"

Thanks, Hiram, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the site develops!

UPDATE: July 27th: The site has been re-launched and looks great. Well done to all concerned!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Angélique - Claude-Alain Bugnon's New Verte Suisse Absinthe

Officially launched at the Boveresse Absinthe Festival, Angélique is now also available from It is the first Verte created by Claude-Alain Bugnon of La Clandestine fame and is in response to many customer requests for a "véritable Verte Suisse."

Distilled using 12 plants, it is named Angélique partly after Claude-Alain's daughter and partly because it contains angelica. However, as Claude-Alain says, this new absinthe has both an angelic aspect and perhaps one that is almost .... "devilish." Angélique may be the natural daughter of his original Charlotte La Clandestine (named after Charlotte Vaucher, the original inventor of that absinthe's recipe), but she is evidently a rebellious daughter, judging by her impish appearance on the new label! Charlotte and the distillery also feature, echoing the original Clandestine label.

Angélique itself is slightly more bitter than La Clandestine and takes it natural colour from the aromatic plants of the Val-de-Travers region which are steeped in the distillate.

In fact, Angélique has been privately offered to a few of Claude-Alain's friends both in Switzerland and via the internet in recent months. Their response has been overwhelmingly positive, with reviews such as:

"Oh my....we just tried it. You have created a wonderful new verte. That smells wonderful and tastes incredibly delicious. Congratulations on one of the best I have tasted in the vertes. We already love the CLB! When can we "talk" about this product on the Wormwood Society website? Best to you. This is outstanding!" ..... "Our desert island absinthe." (B & C, Washington).

"The most amazing quality of this verte suisse is its mouth feel, truly like nothing I've drank before. Louche is beautiful, perfect. Great with sugar! Sweet, bitter, and very aromatic, Angelique is my new favorite, even my friends preferred it when i let them sample my absinthes (their first time)." (K, California)

"I thought the Angelique was terrific. It was well-balanced with just the right amount of wormwood." (J, Nevada)

"I want to congratulate Claude-Alain on the Angélique. It's wonderful! I hope it'll be going into full production soon so that I can rave about it on the forum! It's definitely my favorite verte of the ones I've tried so far, superceding the Jades which constitute my only reference. If Artemisia is aiming for a monopoly, well, you're quite close to having one in my book. :) I think I'm going to start telling my friends absinthe is a Swiss beverage." (D, New Mexico)

And my favourite review, just in:

"I will treat the description of this bottle as though it were made just for
me because it is that good. The graphic designer has gone above and beyond
with the label. It is beautiful and captures a mood that is befitting such
an amazing recipe as this. It must have been the fairies that contributed
to the herb selection and balance because it could only be through magic or
an extremely sensitive pallet that this combination could have been

The smell as the bottle is opened the first time is strong and reeks of the
essence of absinthe as it ought to be.

The louche is perfect and beautiful. As it is difficult to determine the
rations the first time an absinthe is mixed, I used the method I always use.
I slowly drip the spring water from my fountain until it is entirely
opaque; only then do I stop and I stop exactly then.

I suggest smelling this with your eyes closed to see what the
smell evokes as I did. It is olfactory perfection.

The taste of this absinthe is just as absinthe was meant to be. It
accomplishes what many other absinthes are obviously trying to accomplish.
It is a refined combination that makes no attempts at being overly complex
just to stand out. The subtle tincture of background herbs dances around
the dominant flavors in such a way that there is no competition. It is
drinking a bottle of harmony.

The mouth feel of this absinthe has just the right amount of bite even when
diluted. I can feel it working as the flavor passes over my tongue. The
aftertaste of this fine mixture is of strong anise. I have grown to adore
anise over the last several years of drinking absinthe so it is as though it
is still in my mouth long after I have lamentable pleasure of swallowing my
last sip.

I am greatly pleased that Claude-Alan has turned his expertise to the
absinthes verte as they have always been my favorites. Thank you for the
pleasure I have had this evening."
(N, Colorado)

A forum friend toasts Claude-Alain at the launch in Couvet

Given these comments, Claude-Alain was delighted to be able to launch it in time for Boveresse. At a time when other absinthe distillers may be focused on the bigger volume opportunities perhaps available in the USA, it is good to see at least one artisan sticking to his roots.

Note: Angélique was originally released at 72% abv, and some of the photos in this article show that label. The top photo shows the latest 68% abv label.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Absinthe World 2007

In the last week, I have seen two very different sides of the absinthe world.

- The world of real absinthe lovers assembled together in Couvet, Switzerland, for the 10th annual absinthe festival at Boveresse.

- The world of absinthe sellers (mainly French companies) assembled together at Vinexpo, Bordeaux, for the world's biggest wine and spirits exhibition.

The contrast between the two was remarkable, and probably indicative of the way the absinthe world will develop: from one of absinthe lovers to one in which professional companies will materially change the way the market operates. There will always be a place for both, but change will continue to be the name of the game.


I was in Couvet for two nights (the second was very short) and I was privileged to stay with the Bugnon family.

After a lot of work on a label for a new absinthe soon to be launched by Claude-Alain, we had the pleasure of meeting many of those who had travelled from overseas for the Festival, including Wild Bill Turkey (see below)

The Standard Deviant and Oxy,

Ted Breaux of Jade and Lucid fame,

and Mr. and Mrs. Pan Buh.

I met many other absinthe lovers for the first time (Salsa, Gertz, Sixela, Dom Lochet, Spoon, Kallisti, Head, mthuilli, and Toxic_Psychosis), and also met again with absinthe "professionals," Helfrich and Mike from Alandia.

Fate - and my early Saturday departure - prevented me meeting Hartsmar at last!

Here is Toxic_Psychosis's account of the visit to Couvet, as well as more details of the events of that evening and the following day.

The hour or so which the absinthe lovers spent at the La Clandestine distillery was over all too soon. It was great to meet up and to share a glass or so, and hopefully there will be many similar meetings in future.


A different world. Mile upon mile of wines and spirits, with a few of the French absinthe distillers (and two others related to absinthe) exhibiting. I'd estimate that each of the absinthe companies present must have spent a minimum of $15,000 dollars to be present (including floor rental, stand costs, and all other expenses) and one or two may have spent $30,000 plus. It seems that there is money in absinthe!

Absinth(e) exhibitors were:-

1. Devoille, distiller of the Fougerolles, Libertine and La Charlotte absinthes.
2. Francois Guy.
3. Le Mercier.
4. Liquoristerie de Provence: Versinthe.
5. Henri Bardouin: Absente.
6. Wine and Spirit International: Hapsburg.
7. Frenchman (whose stand was too far away to visit in the time I had!).

The recent launch of Lucid didn't seem to be too much of an issue for most of the absinthe distillers I spoke to: some seemed unaware of it, but maybe they were just feigning a lack of interest!

In any case, most of these distillers sell most of their products in their local markets (except for Absente), and the French distillers use Vinexpo to put their brands in front of the French bar or supermarket trade: so their nonchalance towards Lucid was perhaps understandable.

In 2008, Vinexpo moves to Hong Kong and returns to Bordeaux in 2009. It will be interesting to see the numbers of absinthe distillers involved in those events: maybe more of those who were at Couvet and Boveresse for the absinthe festival will want to be at Vinexpo in future. As absinthe develops, I feel that the commercial absinthe companies will have to adapt and invest at events such as Vinexpo, but I hope that doesn't lead them to lose touch with their consumers at Couvet and Boveresse too.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

More real absinthe coming to the USA?

Well, it seems that the genie is now out of the bottle. Following the announcement of the launch of Lucid Absinthe at the end of April, there has been some fevered speculation on the main absinthe forums as to the significance of this move. Posts have been made and quickly edited/removed, an online poll was launched to guess the thujone content of Lucid, and now Oxygénée (aka David Nathan-Maister) has announced on his Fée Verte forum the following:

"1. Absinthes with less than 10mg/l thujone are now potentially legal in the US.
2. Two others (apart from Lucid) have already been approved, and dozens will follow in due course.
3. There's no reason at all to assume that Lucid has signifcantly less than 10mg/l, and neither Ted nor the manufacturers have made any claims to this effect.
4. Effectively, the US regulations are being brought in line with the EU standards. This has been done by administrative fiat (based - to simplify - on an expanded definition of "margin of error" when it comes to thujone testing), not legislation, but the effect will be the same.
5. I'd expect something similar to happen with the 35mg/l "bitters" category at some stage in the future.

Veridian (sic) have spent a very large amount of money opening a gate through which anyone can now enter. Whether this was a shrewd business strategy, only time will tell."

Note the date - June 3, 2007 (or 6/3/07) when this significant announcement was made!

So what are the implications and who is next? Well this blog is described as "an inside view of the absinthe world in the 21st century," so I should maybe make some predictions:

1. The business models of most of those selling absinthe to the USA via the internet may need to be revised.

2. Those absinthe brands queuing up to get into the USA will need big pockets, plenty of connections and a lot of resource to succeed. The opening up of the USA market is no guarantee of future sales success, or anything other than the need to invest heavily.

3. Who can/will do this? Pernod, maybe. Doubs, from South Africa, which has relatively big company backing. Versinthe and Absente, which I would expect to see re-launched. I imagine one or two Swiss companies may be interested!

4. And Canadians, who still seem to be restricted to the small choice available via their local liquor boards, may start moving south!

I'll add more predictions as the picture becomes clearer ...

Meanwhile head over to Fée Verte and the Wormwood Society to read the debate.

Update July 2007:

Following confirmation of the US legalisation of absinthe, I have received the following advertisement:

"Blue Swiss lady, 72, non-smoker, WASP, GSOH, seeks rich US partner for fun, travel to all States (except transcendent). Picture attached."

If you are interested, please leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

All 108 cocktails with absinthe from the Savoy Cocktail book ... plus a few more!

UPDATE (February 2013): I have compiled a Pinterest board with photos of every one of the Savoy Hotel absinthe cocktails.

Absinthe cocktails? Here is one of the longest lists of cocktails containing absinthe that I have ever seen, and it comes from The Savoy Cocktail Book* (first published 1930). It is recommended that you do not try all of these in one session, or even in one month!

Most of the photos here come from Erik Ellestad's superb Savoy Stomp blog. Essential reading! Thanks, Erik.

Links for all cocktails are now provided: just click on the name; I will add key ingredients to each cocktail to allow "at-a-glance" searching. Some of the older links (pre-dating the US re-legalisation of absinthe in 2007) may list pastis, anis, anisette or Pernod as an ingredient: of course you may now use absinthe instead (unless you are reading this in Vanuatu!)

Here are the first two pages of the Savoy list: rather scarily, the first page contains three cocktails with absinthe.

It was probably this page that got me started on the idea of compiling this list. Luckily, perhaps, most other pages do not have so many absinthe drinks!

Here we go with the first two: the Absinthe Cocktail and the Absinthe (Special) Cocktail:

1. Absinthe cocktail: with Angostura bitters
2. Absinthe (Special) cocktail: with gin, orange bitters and Angostura bitters.
3. Absinthe Drip Cocktail: with water and sugar

4. Apparent Cocktail (see above): with gin and Dubonnet.
5. Atty Cocktail: with gin, French vermouth, and creme de violette.
6. Bitter Cocktail: with gin, green Chartreuse and lemon juice. (A drink made for 6, sometimes called The Biter)

7. Blackthorn Cocktail: with Irish whiskey, Angostura bitters and French vermouth (shown above).
8. Block and Fall Cocktail: with calvados, brandy and Cointreau.
9. Bombay Cocktail (2): with Cointreau, brandy, French vermouth and Italian vermouth.
10. Brazil Cocktail: with Angotura bitters, French vermouth and sherry.

11. Brunelle Cocktail (see above): Gin, Lemon Juice
12. Bunny Hug Cocktail: with gin and whisky.
13. Cabaret Cocktail: with Angostura bitters, gin and Dubonnet or Lillet blanc.
14. Castle Dip Cocktail: with apple brandy and peppermint liqueur
15. Choker Cocktail: with whisky. (Made for 6)

16. Chrysanthemum Cocktail: with dry vermouth and Benedictine.
17. Cordova Cocktail: with gin, sweet vermouth and cream.

18. Corpse Reviver (2): with gin, Cointreau, Lillet blanc and lemon juice. Here is my version!
19. Deep Sea Cocktail: with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters.
20. Dempsey Cocktail: with gin, apple brandy and grenadine.
21. Depth Charge Cocktail: with Lillet and gin.
22. Dixie Cocktail: with orange juice, gin and dry vermouth.
23. Dream Cocktail: with brandy and Cointreau.
24. Du Barry Cocktail: with gin, dry vermouth and bitters.
25. Duchess Cocktail: with dry vermouth and sweet vermouth.
26. Dunhill’s Special Cocktail: with orange curacao, gin, sweet sherry, and dry vermouth
27. Earthquake Cocktail: with whisky and gin.

28. E. Nos Cocktail: with gin and dry vermouth.
29. Eye-opener Cocktail: with egg yolk, light rum, curaçao, crème de cacao, and sugar
30. Fascinator Cocktail: with gin, dry vermouth and mint leaves.
31. Fourth Degree Cocktail: with gin, French vermouth, and Italian vermouth.
32. Gasper Cocktail: with gin and sugar.
33. Glad Eye Cocktail: with peppermint white liqueur.
34. Harry’s Cocktail: with gin and sweet vermouth.
35. Hasty Cocktail: with gin, dry vermouth, and grenadine.

36. Irish (or Irish Whiskey) Cocktail: with Irish whiskey, curacao, maraschino, and bitters (see above).
37. Jeyplak Cocktail: with gin and sweet vermouth.
38. Johnnie Mack Cocktail: with sloe gin liqueur and dry Orange curacao liqueur.
39. Knock out Cocktail: with gin, dry vermouth, and creme de menthe.
40. Kup’s Indispensable Cocktail: with gin, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth.
41. Ladies’ Cocktail: with whisky, anisette, and bitters.
42. Lawhill Cocktail: with whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino, and bitters.
43. Linstead Cocktail: with whisky, pineapple juice, sugar, and lemon juice.

44. London Cocktail: with orange bitters, gomme sirop, and gin.
45. Macaroni Cocktail: with Italian vermouth.
46. McClelland Cocktail: with sloe gin liqueur and triple sec.
47. Maiden’s Blush Cocktail (2): with gin and grenadine.
48. Martini (Special) Cocktail (Serves 6 people)
4 glasses of gin, 1.5 glasses Italian vermouth, A third of a glass of Orange-flower water. Before shaking, add a dash of Absinthe and one or two dashes of Angostura Bitters.
49. Maurice Cocktail: with gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and orange juice.
50. Melba Cocktail: with grenadine, light rum, lemon juice, and Swedish punch.
51. Merry Widow Cocktail: bitters, vermouth, Benedictine, and gin.
52. Millionaire Cocktail (2): with curaçao, grenadine, whisky, and egg white.
53. Minnehaha Cocktail: with gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and orange juice.
54. Modern Cocktail (No. 1): with dark rum, orange bitters, whisky, and lemon juice.
55. Modern Cocktail (No. 2): with sloe gin liqueur, grenadine, orange bitters, and whisky.
56. Monkey Gland Cocktail: with gin, orange juice, and grenadine. Nice article from the San Francisco Chronicle.
57. Moon-raker Cocktail: with brandy and peach brandy.
58. Morning Cocktail: with Angostura bitters, brandy, and Italian vermouth.
59. Morning Glory Cocktail: with gum syrup, curacoa, Boker's bitters, brandy, and whisky.

60. Nick’s Own Cocktail: with Angostura bitters, Italian vermouth, and brandy.
61. Nine-Pick Cocktail, with 2/3 Absinthe, 1/3 Gin, 1 Dash Angostura Bitters, 1 Dash Orange Bitters, 1 Dash Syrup.
62. Nineteen Cocktail, with 1 Dash Absinthe, 1/6 Dry Gin, 1/6 Kirsch, 2/3 French Vermouth, 4 Dashes Syrup.
63. Nineteen-Twenty Cocktail
64. Nineteen-Twenty Pick-Me Up Cocktail
65. Olivette Cocktail Use absinthe, not anisette.
66. Pansy Cocktail
67. Pauline Cocktail
68. Peggy Cocktail
69. Phoebe Snow Cocktail
70. Piccadilly Cocktail
71. Plain Sherry Cocktail
72. Plain Vermouth Cocktail
73. Presto Cocktail
74. Queen Elizabeth Cocktail
75. Rattlesnake Cocktail
76. Ray Long Cocktail
77. Saucy Sue Cocktail
78. Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail (No. 1)
79. Sazerac: with cognac (or rye whiskey) and Peychaud's bitters.
80. Self-Starter Cocktail
81. Some Moth Cocktail
82. Special Rough Cocktail
83. Suisse Cocktail
84. Temptation Cocktail
85. Third Degree Cocktail
86. Third Rail Cocktail (No. 2)
87. T.N.T. Cocktail
Several other absinthe cocktails on this page.
88. Trilby Cocktail (No. 2)
89. Turf Cocktail
90. Tuxedo Cocktail (No. 1)
91. Tuxedo Cocktail (No. 2)

92. Ulanda Cocktail
93. Victory Cocktail
94. Weesuer Cocktail
95. Which Way Cocktail
96. Whip Cocktail
97. White Lily Cocktail
98. Whizz-Bang Cocktail

99. Yellow Parrot Cocktail
100. Yokohama Cocktail
101. Yolanda Cocktail
102. Zazarac Cocktail
103. Morning Glory Fizz
104. Absinthe Frappé Half way down the page.
105. The Gangadine Cocktail. This one nearly got away, since the Savoy lists the ingredients as 1 Teaspoonful Framboise Syrup, 1/3 Oxygenée Cusenier, 1/3 White Mint and 1/3 Gin. Pre=prohibition, Oxygenée Cusenier was indeed an absinthe, but post-prohibition it was re-formulated in the direction of a pastis. It is possible that Harry Craddock could have meant either of these. Erik Ellestad uses absinthe in his re-creation, so I will go along with him.


The three that got away, including one that was first published in the 1934 Edition, and two that I missed. After 105 cocktails, I should be allowed to have missed just one or two!

106. Gun Cotton Cocktail (from the 1934 edition)
107. Moonshine: Gin, Vermouth, Maraschino (serves 6)
108. Yellow Daisy: Gin, Vermouth, Grand Marnier (serves 6)


I especially like the Absinthe Frappé and, of course, the Sazerac. I also love the Absinthe Sour, not specifically listed here, which I first tasted in Shanghai in May 2005. What are your favourites?

It is interesting that these cocktails were being served in London around 1930, given that absinthe sales in France were banned from 1915. Exports of remaining French absinthe stocks continued after 1915, and legal production of absinthe shifted from France to Spain. So Londoners could have been enjoying pre-ban French absinthe or French-style absinthe produced in Spain, or illegal absinthe from France or Switzerland. Indeed the Lancet of 1930 refers to absinthe being imported into the UK between 1921 and 1929 from Spain, France and Holland (the last may have originated elsewhere, e.g. Switzerland. In any case, those bottles would be highly prized by collectors now. But in the "carpe diem" days of 1930, it seems, judging by this cocktail list, that absinthe drinkers had other things on their minds!

* A footnote on the book's author: Harry Craddock was born in the UK, then emigrated to the USA, becoming a US citizen. He left the USA during Prohibition and joined the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, London, in 1923. Craddock was one of the most famous cocktail barmen of the 1920s and 1930s. Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” was published in 1930, and is still in print today. Craddock invented a number of classic cocktails possibly including the White Lady, and popularised the Dry Martini. (Source: Wikipedia).

Update July 2007

I have aded here two very recent UK creations to complement the 104 1930's recipes. I like both the idea and the taste of the first: a very modern cocktail (the Caipirinha) using a timeless ingredient (absinthe). I have yet to try the second. WARNING: If you don't like burning absinthe, don't read the second recipe!

Clandestine Caipirinha (as served at the London Bar Show)

Glass: Old fashioned/ small rocks

50ml La Clandestine Absinthe
12.5ml Ice water
5 wedges of fresh cut lime
1 bar spoon muscovado sugar
Crushed Ice

Using your small rocks/old fashioned add the bar spoon of sugar, 50ml Clandestine and 12.5ml ice water. Using the spoon, stir the contents allowing for all the sugar to seperate. Squeeze and drop the 5 pieces of lime in to the drink and once again use the bar spoon to stir the contents. Finally fill the glass with crushed ice and stir all ingredients through the drink, making sure that all flavours are perfectly mixed together.


Steamers Boat (as served at Adrian's Bar, 82 West Nile Street Glasgow, Scotland)

Glass: Chilled Flute

Orange zests soaked in Clandestine for 3 days and brown sugar (covered with clingfilm)
25ml La Clandestine Absinthe
Champagne of your choice

In a brandy balloon, add 2 of the absinthe soaked orange zests with some of the brown sugar and 25ml Clandestine. Usinge a lighter, light the Absinthe and start swirling the glass allowing the sugar to caramelise and some of the alcohol to burn off. After about a minute blow out the flame and using a hawthorn strainer, transfer into a chilled flute. Top up with Champagne and garnish with a flamed absinthe soaked orange zest (beware as this can be slightly dangerous!).

Both recipes created by Darroch of Black Tie Bartending.