Wednesday, 28 February 2007

La Clandestine's birthday photo competition

Absinthe lovers really love to take photos of their absinthe: the labels, the bottles in unusual situations, the ritual, and the louche are all popular subjects.

Recognizing the time-honoured concept of absinthe aiding creativity, La Clandestine is marking the second anniversary of the re-legalisation of absinthe in Switzerland (or her second birthday as they are calling it!) with a birthday photo competition.

Good luck!

Monday, 26 February 2007

Absinthe blogs, absinth ads

Interesting to see some good coverage of absinthe on Liquor Snob, an important American drinks blog. La Clandestine is one of several high quality absinthes covered in Liquor Snob recently, and it's coverage like this that may help sway opinion in the important American market in the long-term.

Reading Liquor Snob reminds me that there are several absinthe blogs all covering slightly different perspectives. There's Salsa's Absinthe Blargh, and there's In Absinthia, which has just returned from a break of a few months. Both these are written by American absinthe consumers who are also active members of the main absinthe forums; both are well-informed and can be relied on to give accurate information. And, of course, Oxygenee's Blog is bound to be thought-provoking with his unique insights into his area of the absinthe business.

The Czechsinthe blog (link removed) has, of course, a different take on the world. I've commented on this blog on a couple of issues, in particular the importance, or irrelevance, of thujone. To me, it's sad that some companies, especially those involved with Czech drinks, continue to stress the thujone issue.

Much worse is pushing the aphrodisiac or, worse, "date rape" aspect as seen in these two advertisements for Czech "absinth:"

and, getting even worse,

Marketing a drink on the basis of thujone with cynical hints that it will get you high, or marketing it as "the ultimate panty remover" does no favours to the absinthe category, and will only set back the cause of those wishing to legalise absinthe in the USA.

In this context, the industry as a whole should be really thankful for the support of people like Liquor Snob!

Post Script: Here's a long set of the advertising used by the "ultimate panty remover" people. Please feel free to add your comments. What do you think of these ads?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Cocktails for Mardi Gras

Happy Mardi Gras!

Make it even happier with these classic cocktails ..


The ABC stands for Absinthe, Bourbon, and Cointreau.

In a wide-mouthed wine goblet mix:

* 2 parts Absinthe (a real absinthe like La Clandestine is best)
* 2 parts Bourbon whiskey (a real bourbon like Jim Beam is best)
* 2 parts Cointreau
* 3-4 ice cubes.

As the ice cubes melt in the drink, this dilutes the absinthe and simultaneously chills the bourbon.


Served: "Straight up," without ice
Standard garnish: Lemon peel
Standard drinkware: Old fashioned glass

Commonly used ingredients:

* Two parts cognac or rye whiskey
* One dash Peychaud's bitters (if this is not available, use Angostura)
* One tsp sugar or simple syrup
* One tsp absinthe

Preparation: Coat the inside of the glass with a film of absinthe, then stir the ingredients together in a glass of ice, and strain into another glass. Garnish and serve.

Notes: Originally this was made and served in an egg cup.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest known cocktails and is claimed, by some, to be the first. It is very closely linked with New Orleans and was apparently so named by John Schiller in 1859 upon the opening of his Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans.

Here's an old postcard of the Old Absinthe Bar in New Orleans. The postcard is believed to date back to the 1920's or 1930's, so it is unlikely that there is any absinthe in the picture!


This cocktail is for people who love the bitter taste of wormwood.

The name seems to have a variety of origins.

* It might mock the cynicism of the Fourth Estate (historically the press, but now all the popular media), who prefer the bitter to the sweet.

* It might represent the French Republicans (the revolutionary "Fourth Estate") with its tricolor of Blue (Gin) and White and Red (the Vermouths) topped with a splash of Absinthe, the favorite drink of the revolutionary Montagnards.

In a cocktail shaker over ice mix:

* 1 part Gin
* 1 part "French" (AKA "White" or Bianco) Vermouth
* 1 part "Italian" (AKA "Red" or "Sweet") Vermouth
* A dash of Absinthe.

Serve in a cocktail glass.

Cocktail recipes from Wikipedia.

Monday, 19 February 2007

The story of La Clandestine (abridged)

Did you ever wonder why La Clandestine bears that name? If so, this video makes it quite clear. It was filmed for the Thirsty Traveler in Switzerland in 2004 (when many of today's absinthes had not even been conceived), while La Clandestine was still illegal and while Claude-Alain was distilling in the laundry room in his house! Kevin, thanks for the film.

But, now, let's go back to the very beginning ...

Switzerland was the birthplace of absinthe at the end of the 18th century, and, over the years, the Val-de-Travers region was famous for producing some of the best absinthes. Some French absinthes even used the designation "suisse" to denote the highest quality absinthe.

The area of the Val-de-Travers and around the nearby French town of Pontarlier is reputed to have the best conditions for growing wormwood and some of the other plants used to distill absinthe: the combination of topography, soil and climate are ideal, in much the same way as the areas around Cognac and Champagne in France are ideal for the grapes used in those drinks.

The popularity of absinthe in late nineteenth century France and other countries took substantial sales from the French wine companies whose business had already been badly affected by the phylloxera outbreak. Absinthe was so popular that the temperance movement and wine makers characterized absinthe as dangerous and addictive. In fact, the most famous brands of absinthe were produced to exacting quality control standards and were certainly not dangerous!

After the 1910 ban of absinthe in Switzerland (that subsequently spread to many other countries), the distillation of absinthe moved underground. Distillers produced clear absinthes, allegedly in part to fool the Customs officers that they were really vodka: these absinthes turned a milky white when water was added, and the clear blue Swiss skies were apparently reflected in the absinthe. This led to the nicknames of "blanches" or "bleues" to describe fine Swiss absinthes, while the term "Clandestine" absinthe was also used.

One of the more famous distillers, Claude-Alain Bugnon, began distillation at home in 2000, fighting for space in the laundry and kitchen with his wife (both laundry and kitchen are shown in the video at the top)! As legalisation of absinthe spread throughout Europe, he became one of the first Swiss distillers to be granted a licence to distill legally on March 1st 2005. Every batch remains hand-crafted, and every bottle is still hand-filled. His most famous absinthe label depicts a lady in blue whispering "Charlotte," the name of his friend's aunt. Charlotte was the inventor of the absinthe's 1935 recipe.

La Clandestine is now sold in fifteen countries globally, from USA and Canada to Asia and Australia. If you cannot find a local source, Claude-Alain's La Clandestine absinthe is also one of a carefully selected range of fine Swiss absinthes (and an even smaller range of French absinthes) available in Europe through his internet boutique,

His Recette Marianne, launched primarily for the French market, has won the Golden Spoon four times at the Pontarlier Absinthiades which are, according to some, absinthe's Oscars.

More about the 2009 Absinthiades in which Claude-Alain's absinthes were the top rated products in both verte (green) and blanche (clear) sectors.

La Clandestine has long been a favourite of many absinthe lovers, so the opportunity to buy directly in the USA, Canada, Japan and elsewhere will be an attractive option for many. And those looking for their first real absinthe will be delighted to sample a fine drink from the birthplace of absinthe with a heritage and history that is unique in today's absinthe world. The fuller story of La Clandestine can be found on the brand website, including more "clandestine" videos!


Friday, 16 February 2007

The Absinthe Media

With absinthe sales still banned in the USA, and with most “respectable” drinks magazines not covering the sector, the internet has been a key area for absinthe lovers to get information and to communicate with each other. I have mentioned some of the forums and groups previously.

Of course, the existence of internet forums is no big thing: there are some big plumbing forums apparently.

An interesting development within absinthe, however, is the ownership of some of the forums by some of those who sell absinthe. I don’t say that this is a good or a bad thing: just that this is unusual. Maybe it is a sign of things to come elsewhere: maybe Scotch companies will run Scotch whisky forums, maybe Coca-Cola will run a cola forum one day.

I should admit my interest here: I run a MySpace Absinthe group, I have this blog, and I am involved with selling and promoting La Clandestine.

Here’s a run-down of some of the absinthe companies and the media that they are involved in.

1. Absinthe Classics/Absinthe Spoon: also owns Fee Verte, has a blog.
2. Absinthe24: apparently also “owns” Absinthe Minded MySpace group.
3. Absinthe-Suisse: I help out there and run RealAbsinthe MySpace group & this blog.
4. Absinthe Distribution: also has several blogs.
5. Absinthe Helfrich: also owns Groene Fee, the Dutch forum.

This list is not guaranteed to be comprehensive: maybe there are others. If you spot them, please let me know.

As far as I know, the other big absinthe forums and groups are not owned by people with a commercial interest in absinthe.

Good? Bad? Or maybe it is irrelevant. The general concensus based on feedback from a MySpace group seems to be that is not an issue. As long as the owners continue to be transparent and fair, and as long as there is not too much blatant advertising (especially on forums and groups), then it seems that those forum and group users are generally relaxed about the issue.

Meaning, I assume, that I can carry on here!

Friday, 9 February 2007

This week in absinthe

While I don't promise to post a wrap-up every week, I'd like to try to do so. So what's been happening this week?

  1. 300 cases of Sebor stolen! Given Sebor's history and reputation, then this is probably not a disaster as far as Real Absinthe lovers are concerned!

  2. An absinthe spoon responsible for a murder on CSI. Typical mass media approach to absinthe: now blame the accessories used for absinthe for crime! I won't dignify this with a link, but I'll show the spoon that was responsible!

  3. A photo of an absinthe label goes up for sale on ebay.

    At the time of writing the reserve price of $7.99 had not been achieved. There are currently over 340 absinthe items on sale at ebay: spoons, posters, glasses, soap (?), ear-rings (?), black absinthe toilet paper, etc.

  4. What was that? Black absinthe toilet paper? Yes, again not to be dignified with a link, but here are the details. "$17.99 and all orders placed before 2/28 recieve (sic) 20 free Absinthe Sugar Cubes. Includes 6 Dry rolls of Gorgeously Perfumed Black Toilet Tissue."

So, not the most exciting news week for absinthe with CSI definitely being the low spot. I am told by at least one North American friend that this sort of ongoing negative publicity just makes absinthe more popular among a certain crowd (younger and less discerning). It certainly does nothing to help promote a normal image for absinthe and the other issues posted above don't do much for absinthe either. Hopefully I'll have some better news next week.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Absinthe: where to get information

In part because absinthe is still banned in the USA, there's a lot of information posted on the net about it. The allure of absinthe has led to the development of a variety of forums, discussion groups, tribes, etc. There are forums based in:-

  1. USA: see the Wormwood Society below. Also various Tribes, MySpace and Yahoo Groups, etc.
  2. UK: Fee Verte. A forum and buyers guide.
  3. France: L'Heure Verte. Lots of information and smaller forum.
  4. Germany: Absinth-Guide. Lots of information and forum.
  5. Netherlands: Groene Fee. Information and a smaller forum.
  6. Italy: Sifattack. Less absinthe focused forum.
  7. Russia: AbsintheClub. Seems good, but I can't comment too much since I don't understand it at all!
  8. Poland: Absynt Forum. Comment as above.
  9. Belgium: Muse Verte. Comment to follow.
  10. Japan: allegedly!

and those are just the ones I know about. Many of these have hundreds of members, and a few have thousands of members. However, let's not confuse quantity with quality, or ease of getting information for those just starting on their absinthe journey.

For me, one of the best resources is the Wormwood Society and its forum. It's not the biggest absinthe forum in member numbers, but it's very active, the discussion is good, the members are fervent in their desire to help people, and they are a great group of people. Most importantly, they seem to have a passion to do the right things to get absinthe legalised in due course in the USA.

Some other forums may not provide such a warm welcome for new members!

And let's not forget Wikipedia: the main editors of the Wikipedia absinthe article have done a great job compiling an article that was Featured Article of the Day on June 20th 2006, and remains at the time of writing the only alcoholic beverage article so honoured.

Some other resources are partly or largely gateways to vendors promoting Czech absinth. Buyer beware!