Oh, the curious case of absinthe. Frat bros ready to bro out via a bro-centric drink that was once reportedly banned from the Bro States of Bro ‘Merica love it.
Because there’s nothing more bro-tastic than putting on a backwards baseball cap and proclaiming you’re about to “down this s#!% that makes you hallucinogenic” while moving money from your third trust fund into your “high-stakes” fantasy football account and listening to Migos.
As for me … well, I just like the stuff because it’s uber potent. No, it’s not hallucinogenic. No, it’s not impossible to find in this country.
And no, I don’t believe drinking absinthe ensures that your night will either be special, lit, woke or breeze (a word I’m working on popularizing as the next adjective du jour).
Still, the spirit sure does have its share of folklore attached to it. As liquor.com wrote a few years ago, “The history of absinthe is a cocktail of myth, conjecture and controversy. A turn-of-the-twentieth-century favorite of artists and writers, the spirit was banned in the United States in 1912 because it was believed to be hallucinogenic.”
Naturally, the same website followed that up with a list of absinthe myths, including, of course, “absinthe is hallucinogenic” and “absinthe was banned because it’s hallucinogenic.”
In the wake of a recent trip to New Orleans, and the type of afternoon I pieced together because of it, I couldn’t help but paraphrase Future President Jerry Seinfeld and ask … What’s the deal with absinthe?
Anyone who’s been to Bourbon Street has probably been to the Old Absinthe House. It’s one of my favorite places to go, not only because of the absinthe, but also because of the business cards pinned to the wall and the old-style football helmets hanging from the ceiling.
Definitely not the bathrooms, though. Anyway, I only really had one day to soak in Bourbon Street on this trip, and after lunch, I, along with my traveling companion, arrived in the heart of the party midafternoon. We wanted to get as much in as we could. Sure, we weren’t able to get there until 2 p.m. or so, but we had a solid 12 to 14 hours in front of us to immerse ourselves in the debauchery that is Bourbon Street.
Immediately picking up a hand grenade (another staple of Bro States of Bro ‘Merica) and a whole bunch of beers, we thought we’d head to the absinthe house. It was a little after 6 p.m. and by this point, we had seen some great bands, walked into some shops and even followed a parade.
We sidled up to the bar to look at the menu of absinthes and … whoa, there. I definitely forgot that a tiny glass of absinthe will run you the cost of approximately three children, nine pets and a full ride to an Ivy League school. But, I digress.
Two glasses were ordered. The liquor came. The sugar cube appeared. A fire was lit. A first taste down the hatch and …
… and …
… and …
… that was about the end of that. A milli-drop of absinthe to my traveling companion’s lips and it was time to head home.
Around 6 p.m.
On a Saturday night.
In New Orleans.
I couldn’t blame her, of course. It had been a tiring, busy day thus far, and the menu listed our particular absinthe at something like 128 proof. Thankfully, the New Orleans open container laws are, well, the best, so I poured the rest of her drink — along with mine — into a to-go cup, and we bolted out into the early evening rain. I wasn’t about to leave half a Harvard scholarship in a glass at a dive bar in New Orleans.
So, what’s the lesson learned? One, definitely head to the credit union and take out a mortgage before stepping foot in the Old Absinthe House.
Two, schedule more than one day for Bourbon Street if you plan on drinking absinthe.
Three, and when you do that, save it for a nightcap. The place is open until three in the morning. Hittin’ it hard and hittin’ it early doesn’t necessarily work for all people.
Four, definitely do not chance the bathrooms on the first floor of the Old Absinthe House. Definitely.
And five, while absinthe might be “a cocktail of myth, conjecture and controversy,” there’s no mistaking the realities a glass of it will bring on a cold, rainy, Saturday afternoon in April, no matter your intentions, no matter your ambitions.