Absinthe:The green fairy
So much has been said and written about this drink that I just had to try it for myself. Absinthe is currently legal in france and one place you can go to try it is the bar at the Royal Fromentin Hotel - 11 rue Fromentin near the Blanche Metro station.
They will teach you how absinthe was consumed back in the day, and set you up with a shot and the traditional slotted spoon, sugar cube and water bottle.
Back in Montmartre’s cabaret heyday in the late 19th century, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his fellow gang of merry artists and writers spent many an evening swimming in a hallucinogenic sea of absinthe.
Also known as the 'Green Fairy' , absinthe was an anisette-based liqueur with a bit of poisonous herbs that didn’t just get people drunk, but also apparently turned them mad.
So absinthe was banned and the party ended.
A few years ago it re-emerged in a legal version that tastes the same (a bit like pastis, which was the original absinthe alternative), minus the poisonous bits.
Of course, the new versions have different names, such as 'Versinthe'.
You can purchase it in most liquor stores in France, although it’s still sort of a novelty so don’t expect to see it served in the corner café.
There’s a method to serving it that involves a water tank with a spout, a flat silver spoon with holes in it, and sugar cubes.
If you’re interested in an introduction to the whole tradition, stop into the Hotel Royal Fromentin (11 rue Fromentin, 9th; right around the corner from Pigalle), a former cabaret known as Le Don Juan with a lovely bar specializing in absinthe.
Try popping in after dinner when the night staff aren’t too busy and can give you the full presentation. (And guests at the hotel even get a little color booklet about the history of the beverage)...see website below for more info.
The bar at the Royal Fromentin
Hotel Royal Fromentin at the foot of Montmarte