Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Chasing la fée verte
In 2007, absinthe was officially (re)legalized in the U.S. I began to hear about French or Czech absinthes one could order online, but the prices were a touch high, and I didn’t want an entire bottle until I had tasted it. I finally managed it yesterday. The absinthe in question is brand-new to Texas, and it has a celebrity sponsor (like some tequilas and vodkas): Marilyn Manson. The portmanteau name for the spirit? What else but Mansinthe. Sounds like a 1970’s Kraftwerk bootleg, doesn’t it?
So, I finally caught the green fairy. How was it? Not bad. Not amazing, but pretty good. For those who haven’t tried it, the overwhelming flavors are anise and fennel (one might just as well say double-black-licorice). I happen to like this flavor — I also like ouzo and sambuca —but many people do not. No doubt I’d enjoy it even more were the whole ritual observed: slowly dripping water over a sugar cube to release the full bouquet of la louche, etc., and I have been promised the whole grand affair when I travel to England later this summer (where absinthe has never been officially banned). I had expected that to be my first experience with absinthe, and perhaps it should have been! But as I say, it was pretty good; just a little anticlimactic after all these years.
I actually tried three other spirits at the same tasting which I like more. The first was Boca Loca Cachaça (80 proof). This is a spirit made from fresh sugar cane, so it’s a sort of cousin to rum, but it tastes nothing like it. The aroma is exactly like fresh sugar cane, and the flavor follows the nose closely. Drunk neat, it has a kind of smooth, milky sweetness, a really wonderful flavor. In cocktails like the Brazilian caipirinha (which I’ve had before), the flavor of the cachaça itself tends to be overpowered by the fruit. I tasted it neat and in a cairpirinha at the event. Next, I tasted an organic rye vodka flavored with organic cucumber, Square One Cucumber (80 proof), which was really delicious and refreshing, and then an unclassified botanical spirit, Square One Botanical (90 proof), which deserves some elaboration.
I should start by saying that it was amazing. If I’d had a little more wiggle room in the budget, I would definitely have bought a bottle. It’s similar to a vodka, perhaps closer to a gin, but really, it’s its own distinct entity — a botanical spirit — so that’s what she called it. More unique, which I like. It’s an “organic rye spirit infused with the essence of 8 organic botanicals: pear, rose, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, coriander, and citrus peel”. Right up my street! I also met the owner of the distillery, Allison Evanow, who was very nice and answered all my questions. She also made us a cocktail, called Pear of Roses: Square One Botanical, Meyer lemon juice, muddled pear, lavender syrup, and fresh rosemary. Boy, was it good! They also make a Basil Vodka, using four different varieties of organic basil, which I’d really like to try.