Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Spirit Log: Grande Absente 69 absinthe

Decided to use my booze budget on something a little different this month. Having stocked up on bourbon on my Florida trip and with two poker nights coming up, it seemed like a good idea to invest in a fancy bottle of absinthe. You might not see the logic there, but it made sense to me.

There are way more available (and readily so) than the first time I ever bought a bottle (15 years ago), and there is even an online store that specialises in absinthe, though sadly I didn’t find that one until I had already made my purchase. Nevertheless, this one- Grande Absente 69 - is quite interesting as it claims to be the nearest product to the absinthe that was banned throughout Europe and America in 1914. I’m not going to go into a history lesson.

I’ll just tell thee nah, I don’t actually like absinthe as such (it’s generally far too bitter to actually enjoy the way I’d enjoy my favourite genres of spirit), but I do love bringing it out at parties, impressing the guests by preparing it in the bohemian method, and then getting everyone smashed. There are loads of ways you can have it, but I’ve always used this one:

Pour a shot in a glass, pour a little more onto a teaspoon of sugar, light the contents of the spoon, wait a bit while it caramelises, tip the contents into the glass, stir until the sugar is dissolved, then pour a shot of water into the glass to douse the flames before too much alcohol is burned off. Neck it. And thusly you are changed (for the evening). Best cleanse your palate with something if you want to follow it up with something a little finer.

Apparently, though dependent upon which source you use, that isn’t even the correct way of doing the Bohemian method, so with this bottle I be trying a couple of different methods gleaned from here.

As the name suggests, this brand tips the scale at a liver-melting 69 ABVs. Absinthe can be found at a variety of strengths, and this one is approaching the pinnacle, though the strongest I’ve seen so far is 89.9 ABVs. The more I read into absinthe though, the more factors there are to be concerned with when selecting a bottle. Apparently brands at 89.9% aren’t the genuine article and sadly, the more I read about Grande Absente 69, the more I’m getting the impression it isn’t a particularly good brand in spite of its profession to adhere to traditional French distillation methods and follow traditional recipes. That’s a fucking shame considering it cost me more than 40 notes. I probably should’ve looked at this site first.

I never realised so many people were so serious about absinthe.

I’m not going to get too down about it though because, to be fair, it is just for getting smashed at parties, and none of my guests are going to know the first thing about absinthe. Getting them hammered will be enough this time.  I’ll worry about quality next time I look for an absinthe. The Germans make it well apparently, and with a trip to Berlin coming up it looks like I’ve finally found an alcoholic souvenir to look for.

Absinthe reviews all seem to talk about the ‘louche’ which is supposed to be a sign of quality, though apparently they don’t have to louche and sometimes bad ones do… so make of that what you will. The last one I bought certainly louched, and presumably this will be something I am more concerned about in future.

So, as I said,  I thought I’d try a couple of new methods with this one. Read about the Backdraft method next week, when I talk about actually opening the bottle at a poker night. For now though, here’s something I did after that, that for some reason I am including outside of synchronicity. Think of it as Pulp Fiction without the violence or dialogue.

Glass in a glass

The results then, of the little experiment you can watch in the half-assed video above were… that it was fucking awful. All the sweetness I had originally found (that will probably make more sense when you read next week’s post) was replaced by a bitterness that felt like drinking liquid plague. Perhaps I should have put some ice in it, I don’t know. What I do know was that it made me gag. I just had to neck it, but sadly, because I’d put so much water in it, there was too much and it took 3 big, entirely unpleasant gulps before I could call it job done and think about booking a hypnotherapy session that would wipe all memory of it from my mind.

Do people really drink this for pleasure?

I told Mrs Cake of the experience the next day, and she asked why I’d bothered with the whole method – could I not have just poured some water in it? And you know what? I don’t have any answer to that. It’s not going to be any different to just adding water, is it? Sure it’s a little bit more interesting to look at but… yeah! Nevermind.

With Ice

Yeah well, that absinthe sat around in the kitchen for a good while (after the poker night that you can read about next week) with no parties to go to and no one clamouring to drink it, so one Friday night when I was already fairly smashed from some post work drinks, I thought I’d give it a go with ice. And most surprisingly… it was all right. The deep cold clearly helps to suppress the overriding bitterness – and that’s apparent because after a while, when a large proportion of the ice has melted and the solution is working its way back to room temperature, those bitter flavours return. So my advice to you is to finish it while it’s still cold.

My knowledge and experience of absinthe is still in the newborn stage at this point – so I’m not able to focus on things and haven’t recognised who are the important people in my life yet. It wouldn’t be fair or even very illuminating then to draw any conclusions for you on whether you should buy this product. I won’t be buying again, but by the same token I haven’t found any brand I would confidently buy again yet. Keep joining me as the adventure continues, as you know it will. In the meantime, keep enjoying your booze and join me next week when I'll be writing a little bit more about absinthe and drinking in general.

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