Monday, July 07, 2014

Absinthe makes the heart go founder?

Apparently not, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. Absinthe does not drive its drinkers mad.

Or so implies an article, "On the Absinthe Trail," by Evan Rail for The New York Times (July 4, 2014). Rail belies his surname and instead praises the disreputable drink, and he ought to know, for he's a booze writer, author of In Praise of Hangovers and Beer Trails: The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest.

And even if he -- counterfactually -- know not, an expert he met near the 'Valley of Absinthe' would: American writer Scott MacDonald, author of Absinthe Antiques: A Collection From la Belle Époque. The two met in the French town of Pontarlier and compared notes, though MacDonald obviously knew more -- and treated Rail to a special drink:
Mr. MacDonald approached with a glass. "Try this," he said.

The drink seemed thicker, perhaps just in terms of the density of its aromas, with a long-lasting bitterness hiding behind a slightly oxidized, licorice-like anise nose. It was an absinthe verte, but the taste was more gentle than the others I'd tried, with an alcoholic warmth that seemed to expand into infinity.

I felt a strange sense of disappointment when Mr. MacDonald told me what I had just tried: one of the distillery's own pre-ban absinthes, made just before the drink was outlawed in France in 1914, and poured from one of the last remaining bottles as a gift for Mr. MacDonald by the distillery's owner. Until then, I thought that I had found what I was seeking on the route de l'absinthe, and that was Swiss absinthe bleue. But this had been one of the best sips of my life, and unfortunately I would almost certainly never taste anything like it again. Not even in the Val-de-Travers, beside a mountain spring, just a few steps ahead of the Green Fairy herself.
A mite overwritten, and the disappointment is not entirely clear -- one has to think about the meaning -- but I infer that the disappointment was over having sought the special Swiss absinthe bleue, only to discover a sip of absinthe verte exceeded in taste any other absinthe he might imbibe for the rest of his life . . .

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