Friday, February 27, 2009

John Glassco on Absinthe

John Glassco on his first experience of absinthe during a 1928 jaunt to Luxembourg:

     We went back to the Grosplatz, where the heavy men had now switched from beer and buns to aperatifs and anchovies. Many of them were sitting in front of elaborate ice-filled glass tanks with little spigots extending over their glasses. When I learned these were filters for absinthe I at once ordered one and was served an aperitif glass a quarter full of pale green liquid over which was fitted a flanged and perforated spoon holding a large domino of sugar. A tank of ice was then brought and the glass placed under one of the spigots. I had now only to turn a little tap to let the iced water drip slowly over the sugar until the glass was full.
     The clean sharp taste was so far superior to the sickly liquorice flavour of legal French Pernod that I understood the still-rankling fury of the French at having that miserable drink substituted for the real thing in the interest of public morality. The effect also was as gentle and insidious as a drug: in five minutes the world was bathed in a fine emotional haze unlike anything resulting from other forms of alcohol. La sorcière glauque I thought, savouring the ninetyish phrase with real understanding for the first time.

From John Glassco, Memoirs of Montparnasse.

To see photos of the absinthe paraphernalia that Glassco describes, check out the Virtual Absinthe Museum.

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