Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Absinthe! The Green Hour: An Excerpt from Libation

The following is an excerpt from Libation: A Bitter Alchemy by Deirdre Heekin. It has been adapted for the Web.

After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world.
—Oscar Wilde on absinthe

The first time I contemplate tasting that renowned green liqueur, absinthe, I am a little frightened. My husband and I are sitting in our restaurant eating our after-service dinner. The hour is late, eleven o’clock. Our chartreuse walls surround us, and we must look as if we are swimming in absinthe, the flickering candlelight casting watery sparkles and shadows. I have absinthe on the brain, and not because I have already partaken of too much wormwood. This is what scares me: the wormwood. I have heard and read all the horrid stories of debauchery and addiction, of people falling prey to the Green Fairy, of the artists’ preference for this rumor-laden drink. I know all about van Gogh cutting his ear off in response to his absinthe muse, of his drinking absinthe right before he took his own life. I’ve read about Manet’s first painting of the grim ragpicker, which shows a man drinking absinthe; and about how Toulouse-Lautrec’s nifty cane flask held absinthe, so that he always had a nip nearby. While I might be intrigued by the Gothic elements of the late-nineteenth-century absintheuse, I am more like the stolid 82,450 Swiss who signed the petition to ban the drink back in the early 1900s. The dark tales make the skin shiver, and make me want to be outside on a sunny day drinking something pleasant like sweet tea. Yet I come to the table to taste absinthe because I believe that there is more to this drink than the macabre, hallucinogenic, and dissipated past. I am tired of having been swayed by what I know must be propaganda. I believe absinthe became a scapegoat for a fear that was spreading through a world in an era increasingly defined by uncertainty.

Of course, others before me have been rehabilitating absinthe, and it is already making its long-overdue comeback as an aperitif or after-dinner drink. Slowly, current artisanal makers like T. A. Breaux, the chemist from New Orleans, or Lance Winters, the brewer-turned-distiller from California, have created beautiful jewel-like textures that are now legally labeled and distributed as absinthe. They are craftsmen who became intrigued by the idea of breaking down the historic liqueur into its various parts and reconstructing its recipes.

I must not be like those nineteenth-century women, for I have never before been drawn to absinthe. Perhaps my aversion connects to my alcohol-checkered ancestry. If I were to start down the green road, as it were, would I not be able to return? And yet, I am drawn to wine, to delicate eaux de vie, to the hearty aromas of various herbal bitters. Absinthe becomes my challenge. I want to understand this liquid artemisia: to learn how to sidle up to it, become friendly, and banish my fear; and if I go back, follow my own thread out of a labyrinth, I think I may become absinthe’s champion.


Recipe: Summer Herb Flower Vinegar

Olivia’s mom, Lola, is famous for her potato salad that seems so simple, but has a certain je ne sais quoi—the secret ingredient: chive-flower-infused vinegar. She recalls, “As a child I was enchanted by the apothecary bottles lined up on our kitchen shelves, stuffed with purple pompoms—I just knew there was magic happening inside.”This recipe […] Read More

Learn the Nutritional Secrets to Keeping Healthy Bones

Despite the millions consumers spend on calcium pills and the number of prescriptions for bone loss drugs they fill, worldwide there is an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds.Drugs that claim to prevent or redress bone loss can actually cause bones to crumble and break. Calcium supplements, fortified processed food, and pasteurized dairy don’t work because […] Read More

Food & Drink Sale! Save 35% on all Food & Drink books through August 1st

Here at Chelsea Green Publishing, we believe that it matters where our food comes from and how it is grown because a healthy food system is key to ensuring a resilient, sustainable, and healthy future for all of us. We’ve put ALL ourfood & drink books on sale for 35% off — but hurry it […] Read More

Recipe: Ginger-Apricot Mead

With reader interest in Sandor Ellix Katz’s Ginger Beer recipe, here’s another ginger concoction for summertime sipping: Ginger-Apricot Mead. Jereme Zimmerman, author of Make Mead Like a Viking, shares his recipe below, along with tips on sourcing local honey to make mead. When Jereme was in North Carolina earlier this year to present at the […] Read More

How-To: Foraging for Flavors to Fire Up Your Grill

If you love grilling, you are certain to know that various woods impart delicious smoky flavors to grilled meat, fish, and vegetables. In this excerpt from The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, author and self-described culinary alchemist Pascal Baudar offers foraging tips for finding the best woods and barks to add flavor to anything you toss on […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com