Pop culture would have us believe that drinking Absinthe will have you seeing all kinds of weird and wonderful green fairies and other assorted nonsense. But, never fear – this is almost entirely false. Almost.
The bottle-backs of the more readily available blends maintain that the drink was never far from the lips of visionaries such as Toulouse Lautrec and van Gogh. And of course, one it’s most fervent supporters, Oscar Wilde, who famously said:
‘After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing of all…’
Amble on down to the suitably named Absinthe Salon on Albion Street, Surry Hills and the owner will give you his own spin on absinthe-lore. He has a comprehensive range of around forty different French and Swedish blends, and is quick to point out that a good Absinthe should not make you hallucinate, but aid good conversation, and make you more lucid and more open-minded.
Unfortunately I cannot attest to the conversation improving aspect of the drink. As we drank, we talked less and less, alternating between reasonably coherent pub-chatter and staring inanely at the strangely clinical 19th century Parisian décor. For a drink that was responsible for the unravelling of so many astute and respected European minds, the salon is strangely clean. I felt like there should have been candle wax dripped carelessly on the floor, and portraits that leered at you and questioned your sanity. The proprietor of the salon looks the part at least, sporting a ridiculous handlebar moustache curled at both ends and a non-specific European accent.
It’s not a place to get a night started – it closes at ten pm and has a three drink maximum, and then you get the boot, like a typical French bum (not true, the staff are completely polite). But it’s fun stuff to drink. I can’t remember giggling quite so much on a weeknight. My out-take is that Absinthe is first and foremost rippingly-strong alcohol, with something weird thrown in as well. The décor is an experience in itself, and the owner has some very interesting stories, which he’s more than happy to share. The up-shot is, it’s definitely worth trying out. I even took my dad – but that’s another story.