Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Absinthe co-operation

I think that Blues Cat, whose label has just been approved for US launch, is the 78th absinthe to get that permission. Not that it is possible to find more than about 40 of those anywhere currently.

What I like about Blues Cat is that it represents a co-operation between 4 absinthe artists, who all appear on the back label.

I think co-operation like this is great: pooling strengths and working on a shared goal can often produce something that is more than the sum of its parts. Wine has seen great collaborations like this (notably Opus One), and absinthe has seen some transatlantic partnerships too. Notably the first Marteau was a collaboration between America's Gwydion Stone and Switzerland's Oliver Matter, and more recently Butterfly is a collaboration between America's Brian Fernald and Switzerland's Claude-Alain Bugnon. Even more recently, Stefano Rossoni and Martin Zufanek worked together on La Grenouille and L'Ancienne.

Cheers to the creators of Blues Cat: Cheryl, Eric, Kirk and Kenneth. I look forward to trying this soon!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Absinthe Days

Dates are strange things: they can take on a significance because of an event that happened years ago, but can also mark a more modern event. Today, for example, is St. David's day in Wales, a long-standing event of course, and is also the more modern World Book Day. Which is why my daughter dressed as Artemis to go to school. I wonder if she knows about Artemis and Artemisia (the name for the wormwood family of plants)?

There are also two absinthe days that are celebrated around this time.

March 5th has been declared National Absinthe Day in the USA, by Viridian Spirits, the owners of Lucid. March 5th, 2007 was the date when the Lucid label was approved by the TTB, although the recipe had been approved several months earlier.

As far as France (one of the world's major centres of absinthe production) is concerned, there does not yet seem to be a similar date, and certainly no similar events. Apart from maybe the Pontarlier Absinthiades which is not a fixed date and moves from year to year.

Switzerland, however, and especially in the Val-de-Travers region, also celebrates its own absinthe day, on March 1st. March 1st, 2005, was the date when absinthe production and sale was finally re-legalised in Switzerland. In fact, March 1st is a public holiday in the region where most Swiss absinthes are made, although to be honest, the holiday marks the date in 1848 when Neuchatel gained independence from Berlin and Prussia. So while this area of Switzerland celebrates a holiday on the same day that absinthe was legalised here, I cannot claim that the holiday is just for absinthe. I think it likely, however, that a few glasses of absinthe will be enjoyed there today.

The fact that there are "absinthe days" in both Switzerland and the USA leads me onto some related points about these two countries.

Firstly, Switzerland, in re-legalising absinthe, became the only country to lay down specific standards about the absinthes that can be made and/or sold in Switzerland. They have to be distilled and they cannot contain any artificial colouring.

Secondly, the USA, in re-legalising absinthe, became the only country to lay down specific standards about the way absinthes can be marketed, in particular stating "the term “absinthe” cannot be the brand name; the term “absinthe” cannot stand alone on the label; and the artwork and/or graphics cannot project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic or mind-altering effects." In other words, ruling out some of the more sensational and misleading approaches to absinthe marketing that have plagued other countries.

Between Switzerland and the USA, then, standards for product and for marketing have been established; standards that will hopefully start to be adopted elsewhere. So it's a good idea to celebrate both today (the Swiss absinthe day) and next Monday (the US absinthe day). I was delighted, therefore, to see a New York bar using the US national absinthe day to promote a range of Swiss absinthe cocktails. I may just try this one later on today ...

The Edgar Degas cocktail: La Clandestine Absinthe, Kaluha, Grand Marnier, espresso

Cheers! Santé!