I have always been curious about Absinthe, rumours abound about its mind bending properties and it is widely known that Vincent Van Gogh had been drinking the potent spirit before he cut off his ear. Absinthe was banned for a long time in many European countries but is now fairly widely available. A bottle of Hapsburg black absinthe costs an eye watering £45 for a 50cl (500ml) bottle. It is available online and from some specialist off licenses.
My friend bought a bottle of black absinthe out of curiosity and to take on our book group weekend trip to a remote Scottish island to liven things up. Our book group has cruelly been re-named wine group and even booze group by some non-members so you can imagine that any alcohol would be popular with our group of ladies set free of all responsibility for a weekend. The absinthe was sampled but soon abandoned for the familiar safety of wine and vodka.
Absinthe is a spirit which is made from alcohol which is either distilled or mixed with herbs including wormwood, anise, fennel and anything else they feel like bunging in there. It is wormwood which gives absinth its traditional green colour, I have no idea what is added to give the black colour. The black absinthe is stronger than the traditional green preparation and has a whopping 79% alcohol compared to 70% in traditional blends.
We decided to try the absinthe neat first by pouring tiny shots of it into the bottom of a glass. The inky black liquid looks scary and needs to be sipped very slowly. The first sip was almost pleasant, a strong aniseed taste was present but it went downhill from there. Each subsequent sip tasted like we were drinking rubbing alcohol and the extremely bitter taste of the alcohol was overwhelming. The abisinthe made my tongue go numb and teeth and tongue go black and it was a real test of endurance finishing the glass.
We then decided to dilute the absinthe with water to see if that made it more pallatable and this worked. The resulting purple liquid looked more like ribena than ink and tasted a bit like pernod with the aniseed kick. The traditional way of mixing is to pour the water through a sugar cube but we never had any sugar so just used the water. Even though this was far nicer than neat absinthe, it was still not a drink that any of us would choose.
Did absinthe have any of its famed effects and induce madness in any of us? My cousin claimed that it made her talk non-stop rubbish for 10 minutes without a break but she is rather fond of the sound of her own voice anyway. I certainly never hallucinated or had the urge to remove any sensory organs so I was fairly disappointed that the only effect was drunkenness.
I can now say that I have tried absinthe and that it is over-rated and hyped up too much. It would be good at getting you drunk very quickly due to its massive alcohol content but it really is an unpleasant tasting drink that has no special powers.
Served straight, it's as dark as night with a taste that rocks. Mixed... anything goes, but it will never lose its dark side. Make a great shot layed with Baileys cream & red grenadine.