Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Absinthe: "Mother's Ruin" for Mother's Day

Apologies, first of all, to those of you who have already celebrated Mothers' Day this year. Mother's Day is a very complicated event, celebrated on more than 30 different dates throughout the year (mothers in Indonesia have to wait until December 22). For those of my readers in the USA, Switzerland, Australia, most of Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and South America, who are all celebrating Mother's Day on May 12 in 2013, I want to explore the connection between absinthe and mothers to celebrate this particular Mother's Day.

Absinthe was first made by women in Switzerland, including the most famous absinthe mother of all, Mère Henriod (Suzanne-Marguerite), with her two daughters.

Given absinthe's early use as a medicinal cure-all, it is not surprising that mothers looking after their families were so influential at making absinthe.

It is perhaps more surprising that when absinthe was banned in Switzerland (and almost globally), it was again Swiss mothers who were responsible for keeping absinthe alive. The excellent Duvallon blog writes about some of them, including

Malotte, Calotte (otherwise known as Charlotte Vaucher, the creator of La Clandestine absinthe), and

Marta. In these cases, it seems that while their husbands were working, it was one more task for the wives (and mothers) to keep the family stocked with absinthe!

So with all these mothers involved in the history of absinthe, it is interesting that the phrase "Mother's Ruin" has historically been used for gin. In October 2012 I had the pleasure to visit Mother's Ruin in Manhattan, and it seems that this bar is very popular with many New York bartenders. Great ambience and great bartending.

And it was this Mother's Ruin that led Jay Newell, Bars Manager at London's Soho House, to create his own version of a Mother's Ruin cocktail. Given the name's gin roots, it is appropriate that the main spirit base is Bombay Sapphire, complemented by Apricot Liqueur and La Clandestine Absinthe. Perceptively, Jay comments that the use of absinthe in this cocktail "hits on a huge trend that is influencing the cocktail scene in London at the moment." Interesting that this trend comes 13 or so years after absinthe first returned to London, since it is only now that there are several companies in the UK who are promoting a higher standard of absinthe (distilled, not cold mix, and with no artificial colours or sweeteners). A trend that seems likely to lead to be repeated elsewhere with brands like Pernod Absinthe now moving to a more natural recipe.

Jay's cocktail marrying gin and absinthe is in fact reminiscent of many of the cocktails in the 1930 Savoy Hotel Cocktail Book. Of the 105 Savoy cocktails that contain absinthe, around 50% of them also contain gin. Jay's cocktail is part of a new trend, but also echoes a 1930 trend. But more of that later.

In the meantime, I'll be celebrating Mother's Day with a Mother's Ruin. Santé, Jay!

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