I recently joined the ranks of French history’s notorious “bad men,” Paul Verlaine, Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde, when I indulged in absinthe, known in late 19th century circles as “la fee verte,” or green fairy. Absinthe is my new favorite drink, not because of the much exaggerated psychoactive effects, but for its mystique and the ritual involved in enjoying a glass of the notorious green spirit.
Absinthe is the cherries jubilee of spirits. The anticipation of consuming it escalated throughout the table-side theatrics of preparing it. A server presents the glasses, lays an ornate slotted absinthe spoon with a sugar cube over each one, pours absinthe over each cube , lights each sugar cube on fire, blows them out, and then dilutes and sweetens the emerald green liquid with water poured over the softened cube. After the ritual, I sat back and savored the anise and herbs.
As Oscar Wilde said about absinthe, “After the first glass, 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.” I temporarily flirted with bohemia and drank only one glass, but I’ll be back. The green fairy’s powers are strong.
Enjoy absinthe at Tapas Downtown, 1257 Oregon Street, Redding. For a comprehensive review of absinthe, read “Absinthes to Go Mad Over,” a review from the May 13 New York Times, Dining and Wine.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop.