Absinthe: the drink of bohemians.
I’ve always had a fascination with Absinthe. In the mid 90s I saw an episode of Highlander (remember the catchphrase: “in the end there can be only one”) where Duncan MacLeod is sipping a glass of it. The drink immediately went on my mental bucket list. It was beautiful and eerie, and for crying out loud, the Highlander drank it!
The beverage was illegal in this country from 1912 to 2007, so at the time my fascination began, I assumed I was going to have to travel out of the country to give it a try.
It’s often called The Green Fairy or The Green Goddess and was said to have hallucinogenic properties. I want to make clear that I’ve never experimented with, nor wanted to experiment with, hallucinogenic drugs, so why the attraction to Absinthe?
Absinthe was a drink favored by many artists and authors: Van Gogh, Toulouse-Latrec, Gaugin, Hemmingway, Oscar Wilde. Was there magic in the bottle? Did Absinthe evoke visions that made their creations so much more revered? The drink took on mystical proportions in my mind.
Then, two years ago, I saw a show in Las Vegas called . . . you can probably guess – “Absinthe.” Not only was it the show’s title, but guess what was being served! You probably guessed again. Absinthe! I ordered a drink called a Green Fairy! I was, truthfully, very scared. Here it was in my hand. I was afraid to take the first sip.
The show was set up in a circus-like tent with a small stage in the middle. I was afraid I would pass into a semiconscious state and miss the show. I was then afraid maybe there was no show. Maybe everyone sat in a large circle and hallucinated one.
Below is a photo of me with not only my Green Fairy in one hand, but someone else’s absinthe drink in the other (probably my step-daughter who was photographing this momentous occasion for me).
I sipped very slowly and remember the show quite well. (Or at least I think I do). It was fantastic! But, because this absinthe drink was served in a plastic cup, after the show we went in search of a more authentic absinthe experience. It led to a couple of other nice, dark and cozy pubs, but no one had this thing:
This is an image I found online. A beautiful container that drips water over a sugar cube and into a glass of the beautiful green liquid causing it to turn cloudy. Right there is a magical experience in itself.
In the 90s it began being served with an alcohol-soaked sugar cube on fire (I admit it looks pretty in my painting above). That was how my second-ever shot of absinthe was served to me in a dark, medieval-looking pub.
I did a little reading on the subject before I wrote this and read that absinthe has no more hallucinogenic properties than other alcoholic beverages. It is simply a very strong drink (tasting of anise) and people tend to drink too much of it. (Not me. I was so nervous I would hallucinate I only had two drinks over a period of 5 hours).
As for the artistic inspiration: the evening, the show, and the pubs afterward did end up sparking an idea for a short story that I am currently working on. Who knows, maybe someday that story will be famous and they can lump my name in beside Van Gogh and Hemmingway as another of the artists inspired by the Green Fairy.