The Second Glass of Absinthe Returns

My third Eden Murdoch novel is being released in paperback this coming August. And with a brand new cover!
Since Absinthe plays a role in the story--set in 1880 Leadville, Colorado, I am often asked how I became interested in it.
I first learned of it a long time ago while reading a biography of Oscar Wilde. It was said to be his favorite libation and that he was particularly fond of the ritual that went with drinking it. I enjoyed one of his quotes on absinthe so much I based my title (and, in some ways, the story itself) on it:

"After the first glass [of absinthe] you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."

Absinthe was popular among the artists and writers of the 19th Century and is particularly associated with the Belle Epoch café society in Paris. Its legendary fans included Degas, Van Gogh, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Picasso, and of course, Wilde.
Hemingway also drank absinthe. My favorite quote from him is, "Got tight last night on absinthe. Did knife tricks."

The Absinthe Drinking Ritual

The herbal ingredient called wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is very bitter, so the liqueur needed sweetening in order to be palatable. Sugar does not readily mix with alcohol, so the absinthe ritual was born.

A sugar cube was placed on a slotted spoon over the glass containing a shot of clear peridot green absinthe. When icy water was drizzled through the sugar to melt it, it begins to "louche." That is, the clear liqueur becomes cloudy and palest jade in color. This signals it is ready to drink. My main character in the book calls this ritual "watching the clouds come out."


Anonymous said...

How very interesting this sounds! Yes I'd love to win a copy and the bookmark! Thank you! Lynn

Helen Kiker said...

This is a delectable bit of information. Now to see how it is part of a mystery!


Tara said...

Oh.. I'm intrigued. Not sure I would like the "bitter" part though. I go more for sweet drinks. Michelle, have you drank this yourself? Can absinthe be found today?

Michelle Black said...

Tara-- Yes, absinthe is now available in larger liquor stores. It was illegal in the US for nearly 100 years, but has now been re-legalized (is that a word? haha)
It actually tastes like licorice candy as both are flavored by anise.