By February 2, 2013 4 Comments

Have you ever had a love hate relationship with a drink? I have and it’s called Absinthe…

Absinthe Green FairyRewind to 2001 to when the outlawed drink suddenly started hitting shelves again and the word ‘Absinthe’ circulated in the mainstream.  In the UK,  the only Absinthe that was available was a significantly toned down version that lacked all of the fascinating extras that come with the magical drink – where’s all the fun with that?

I wanted to experience the real power of Absinthe, I wanted to feel what others felt and to be taken on a trip by the ‘Green Fairy’ into La La land… so queue a few months later and I found myself in Soho, London and in front of a small alcohol shop with many variations of Absinthe on display.  I entered the shop to enquire about ‘real’ Absinthe and I was told everything they had on offer was at the front of the shop. There was an old man in the corner behind the counter and he smiled when I expressed disappointment with the lack of availability of the real article  He said something friendly and I caught his accent being Greek so I struck up an amicable conversation with him about Greece, Greek food, wine etc… eventually he told me his name and introduced himself as the owner of the shop.  I was about to leave, when he asked me to wait.  When other customers had left and the shop was empty, he turned round and said something in Greek to one of the assistants who seemed hesitant but the old man stressed again.  The sales assistant vanished for a short while then when he emerged, he held a bottle of dark green Absinthe, the label in a foreign language that I did not recognize.

“My friend, this is Czech Absinthe…. not allowed here, but I will sell it to you for £25 but you be careful, this is not joke… this is very strong drink, make you go crazy!’  His eyes widened and he let out an ominous laugh.
“Don’t worry, I will be careful”
“My friend, I am serious… if you are not careful you will have problems, maybe some people die… this is not for everyone”

His assistant stepped in “You should not have more than a single shot… it is hallucinogenic.  This is the real deal here mate, thujone and wormwood in all…”

Hallucinogenic, eh?  Oh yes!

They quickly wrapped the bottle in brown paper and before my crispy notes found their way into their hands, I was already on my way home to try it.  It was a Friday and my wife had already made plans for us to go to a bar with friends.  When she saw me with the bottle, she immediately knew that I was up to mischief and tried to warn me but I was already preparing for my ‘experience’

There is a ritual to drinking Absinthe, it is fundamentally simple but timing is of the essence.  You pour a little measure of ice cold water into an empty glass and then you place the Absinthe spoon across the top opening of the glass.  Your stand a brown sugar cube on the perforated spoon and pour some Absinthe on the sugar, let it soak and then when it starts dripping, you set the sugar cube on fire and the caramelized sugar starts dripping down to mix with the cold water in the bottom of the glass.  The flame that rises from the lit Absinthe is very inviting and mystical, it sets the scene to the surreal.   When the sugar has burnt sufficiently, you drop it into the water and mix the concoction before drinking it.  You are not meant to gulp Absinthe but to savour it slowly and over a period of time in relaxed and unrushed settings.

In the old days, artists, musicians and plain lunatics drank this stuff in dark, dank taverns where quite often some of the more daring chased it with a hit of Opium for good measure… I was crazy, but not totally insane.

I finished my first glass and waited for the effects but apart from feeling mildly tipsy, I felt none of the anticipated effects.  My friends stopped but I poured myself another glass much against the advice of the old Greek’s voice in my head nagging me not to.  I was convinced that they just made a big deal out of nothing simply to sell me a bottle at double the price.

Round two and the drink was downed pretty quickly and now it was time to leave to the bar.  We took a taxi and the journey was pleasant with a few good laughs in the company of my wife and friends.  We reached our destination and it was a really nice bar, good music, good crowd, certainly not packed.  It was a relaxed atmosphere and I very quickly eased into it.  I was at the bar trying to order a drink for my wife when I felt it… a wave of warm and tingling sensation across my face, my arms and my hands; a rush that momentarily disoriented me and just when I thought the first one had passed, it was followed with even a deeper and warmer anesthetizing feeling that struck me numb.  It was incredible and quite indescribable… suddenly I felt connected to every single person in the bar and even the bartender who eventually served me looked familiar, like an old friend.  I asked him for a champagne for my wife and he responded angrily “That’s the fifth time you asked me for a champagne for your wife!”

I was surprised but I quickly forgot what he said and walked back to my wife with her drink.  I remember the music sounding really cool and inviting.  I am not a dancer by nature but I felt the rhythm and the next thing I know I was dancing right in the middle of the bar with my wife and when I eventually came round to whatever few senses I had left, I discovered that the girl that I was dancing with wasn’t even my wife!  I was dancing with an oriental girl who I’ve never met before, a total stranger and I was grooving to the music…  Then I found my wife dancing and laughing to my side, I looked back and forth and panic set in; I was under the impression that I was dancing with my wife all along… what the hell was going on?

“Who is this girl?” I remember asking my wife.
“I have no idea who she is but boy were you grooving away there Garo!” my wife laughed but I was concerned, I was not finding it funny at all.

“Take me home…” I said to my wife and that is the last I remember before I found myself in bed.  All night I had weird dreams and I kept waking up to visit the bathroom to throw up.  I was exhausted, sick and restless at the same time.  Eventually I slept…

The next day, my wife was thinking of calling the doctor and I told her not to.  She said that I was ‘gone’ for a couple of days… I did not quite understand what she meant by ‘gone’ and a couple of days?  She said that I was out for a couple of days while I had thought only a few hours had passed.  Apparently I was delirious and slept for hours, spoke gibberish and ate very little; I could not even remember any of it.  Even worse was the fact that I had lost 48 hours of my life totally unaccounted for.

That was the last time I indulged in the mad drink.  I kept good memories from my experience, my wife and I laugh when we remember my ‘Travolta’ evening at the bar, some things are best left untouched and ignorance is certainly bliss.

As a child, my grandfather warned me to stay away from many ‘bad things’, including bad friends, bad girls.. I personally and specifically wish to add Absinthe to the list.. too good to be bad and too bad to be good!

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4 Comments on "Have you ever had a love hate relationship with a drink? I have and it’s called Absinthe…"

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  1. Keep it away from me!
    2 shots (taken at the same time) in June 2005… and never again!!!

  2. … never NEVER again! Hehehe
    Ramy I KNOW you can relate to this one…….. or maybe you can’t remember 😉

  3. Argh…get it away from me!

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