Yay! It's October! The month that I can finally turn off the AC and live my life normally again! It's also the month that we can start to break out our festive and holiday drinks! So many people are doing pumpkin beer, and honestly there's more to October than just pumpkins and drying corncobs. I love entertaining, and my favorite holiday by far is Halloween. Every year I bury myself in crafts, cooking and glaring at Martha Stewart's webpag—full of glittery skulls and genius inventions. Of all the things that I look forward to in the month of October, bringing out my absinthe fountain and setting it up for guests to have a “properly poured” taste is at the top of the my list. There is so much mystique behind the history of absinthe, from it's psychedelic properties, to people going insane under the grasp of the green fairy. But the fact is much of it is untrue. Like with most things that have gone under prohibition, we can always find the origin of the fear lying with someone either ignorant of the substance or with a hidden agenda, and Absinthe was no different. Between tales of men murdering their families under the influence of the drink, to the french wine industry of the time being threatened by the affordability and popularity of absinthe, the spirit was banished into infamy and prohibited by law until a few years ago. The addition of Wormwood has always been the heat of the argument against absinthe. The psychedelic element of the absinthe comes from a chemical byproduct of the wormwood called Thujone. However, Thujone is found in many every day products like tarragon, coriander ,and even “Vick's Vaporub”—but before we all run to the cabinet to mix up our Vick's Tarragon cocktails in hopes to see God, let's keep in mind that these products contain it in such a small amount that we'd choke on the fumes way before we see any fairies. In these small quantities though it does do something—it promotes brain activity which is what it has been used for in the holistic sciences for many years. Thujone promotes what is known as "CNS cholinergic receptor binding activity," which is essentially improved memory and comprehension which combined with the alcohol leaves you with a sense of alertness and clarity. This may explain why characters like Poe and Hemingway were under her spell and in many ways digging their brains deeper and deeper into thought to the potential detriment of the imbiber.
Now I made a bold statement about “properly poured” absinthe above. This statement is a lie. Absinthe can be enjoyed many different ways, much like scotch whiskey. Neat, on the rocks or with water are all fine ways to enjoy absinthe. Absinthe was originally consumed as an aperitif during the height of it's popularity in Paris' fin de siecle cafe's they would drink the liquor “louched with water.” Louching or La Louche is considered the most traditional of serving methods, the ice cold water slowly dilutes the liquor lubricating the essential oils needed for many of the desired cognitive effects, unlike drinking it neat, in which many people do just for the effects of the alcohol.
Personally, I like to add a little drama to my absinthe cocktail. I pour 2 ounces of absinthe over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon into my glass. Light the sugar on fire until it starts to caramelize and slowly drip ice cold water to put out the fire and louche. You don't want to light your booze on fire as this is both pointless and even damaging to your experience burning off oils, flavor and alcohol. I louche till it's just barely milky and add a rock or two to keep cold.