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!