absinthe

Joanne Simon

When I first tasted absinth (no ‘e’: I’ll come to that), I couldn’t believe how horrible it was. Surely, the drink Oscar Wilde said was “as poetical as anything in the world” can’t have been as vicious and cough mixture-like? It wasn’t, as it turns out. Thanks to the analytical researches of Ted Breaux, a New Orleans environmental chemist, we now know what the original absinthes were like. We can even taste Breaux’s replicas, made using herbs of the same varieties, quantities and origins.

The absinths from eastern Europe (hence no ‘e’), which revived the drink in the late 1990s, bear little relation to the absinthes of belle époque France, as most of the newcomers are made simply by dissolving herbal essences and colouring the alcohol. Authentic absinthe is a distillation of alcohol macerated with herbs, including the notorious wormwood. The only thing the two share is strength — up to 72% alcohol (144 proof).

Breaux’s three Jade absinthes are available from Soho Wine Supply (020 7636 8490) and www.absintheonline.com.

In 1915, absinthe was banned in France.