No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Absinthe @ Bar Keeper

The Liquid Muse's Cocktail Club held an absinthe tasting (and Poe Bicentennial Reading) at the Bar Keeper last night. Since I know the LA Cocktail Examiner, and have plied him with absinthe on occasion, and his wife doesn't care for absinthe, I got to go as his arm candy to this exclusive event. Given his backlog of Examiner articles, it'll be Christmas before we hear his version of events, so I will steal his thunder with my own recounting.
The Bar Keeper is a swinging place, with all the tools and paraphernalia of the trade: from shakers and flasks to absinthe fountains and vintage cocktail recipe books. The Keepers are aces for keeping the store open late and hosting a bunch of deadbeat hipsters cocktail cognoscenti. The event was also sponsored by Viridian Spirits, which reps Lucid and La Clandestine. Many thanks to them, as well.
I was hardly in the door before a White Christmas was handed to me. A very tasty concoction, and an excellent alternative to a Death in the Afternoon, if you have a hankering to get your sparkling wine in your absinthe or your absinthe in your sparkling wine.
Although the connection between Poe and absinthe is tentative at best, I'm a devotee of both and had no problem mixing them. Since I was present due to the good graces of The Liquid Muse and The Cocktail Examiner, I felt obliged to sing for my sipping. The Muse had suggested that attendees might wish to offer Poe readings, so I got to kick off the formal part of the event with The Conqueror Worm. It was a bit daunting to discover that mine was the only reading [until another gentleman arrived later in the evening and let The Lake lap against our ears.] In any event, despite one absinthe-laden cocktail and one slightly stage-frightened tell-tale heart, I managed a satisfactory reading.
Next, a fine presentation on the history, art, ritual and myth of absinthe, by an "Absinthe Category Specialist" formerly of Lucid. He demonstrated the different characters and louches of Lucid, La Clandestine, and (non-Viridian) St. George. He may not be associated with Lucid anymore, but he still seemed to have something of a bias against St. George, or possibly it's just the way marketing speak gets stuck in your brain. He dinged them for using star anise instead of green anise, which maybe inflames my own biases, since the kitchen sink aromatherapy product uses star anise. But what compounded matters was that he said something about star anise being an extract; perhaps St. George uses some kind of anise extract -- I wouldn't know, though it seems unlikely -- but star anise is a perfectly respectable spice. Oh, and he kept saying "a-NIECE" like he was French or something. Pfft.
I was surprised that the St. George louched a kind of murky yellow-brown. It was not appealing to the eye. I know from experience that sunlight (or age?) has quite a yellowing effect on the natural colors in absinthe, so maybe the bottle had been left in Death Valley for six months. The expert attributed some of the darker color to St. George's use of brandy. Some lilt in his voice suggested that brandy was somehow an unsuitable substance, somewhere between Thunderbird and Colt 45, but I can't for the life of me imagine Pernod Fils preferring Lucid's alcoholic base: sugar beet spirits.
Color aside, the taste of the St. George was really quite good; maybe a little heavy on mint, but a great and complex herbal taste. I had to ration myself to ensure the car would stay between the lines, so I didn't taste the other two, but I've had Lucid before: it's quite good, probably better than anything you can get in the States at an equivalent price. Judging solely by appearances, Lucid and La Clandestine both looked beautiful and louched very nicely.
But I did save room for the Phoebe Snow, which was a powerful strong cocktail like they made in the good old days. The cocktail's name, of course, commemorates anthracite coal. Not as tasty as the White Christmas, but perfect if you need the liquor to work quicker.
Tags: absinthe, alcohol, friends, la

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