I seem to have generated a bit of controversy at Wormwood Society with an introductory post So I thought I’d post some more thoughts on MY blog before stirring up the pot over there any further.
I hosted a booth where we presented Mata Hari as well as the range of other Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum (aka Fischer Schnapps) Absinthes at distil. I ran into George Rowley who claims(and rightly deserves) credit for the renaissance of Absinthe in the U.K. and Europe. George put on a very informative seminar on Absinthe featuring (perhaps a bit too much focus on) La Fee Absinthes. And what I realized was twofold. One, most people even in the industry don’t have much of a clue about Absinthe, what is “real”, what are the different styles, alcohol levels, history, etc. And second, those that are informed tend to bring a biased point of view to the party. Certainly understandable…I’ll be the first to say I’m biased as well. But that bias does tend to color (pardon the pun) how they view the subject. And the informed types fall into two basic categories as well: Purists who hold to a conservative, one might even say reactionary, perspective, and those with a contemporary point of view…sort of “that was then, this is now.”
I think its important to recognize that nobody is right…at the end of the day, Absinthe is nothing more than an alcoholic beverage with a history equally as colorful as some others (think Rye and Scotch and Prohibition). So this whole issue of what is “real” Absinthe is analogous to the Martini. They used to be a mix of gin and vermouth. But by 1972 the martini morphed into a vodka based cocktail. And now we have appletini’s, chocotini’s and more variations of flavors and ingredients. Are they real martinis? To the purist, perhaps no. But to the consumer who orders them…most definitively YES! As Tony Abou-Ganim and Dale DeGroff mentioned in a seminar I went to recently…if it’s served in a martini glass (more properly called a cocktail glass), then it’s commonly considered a Martini…no matter what’s in it.
In fact, take the argument one step further. Historically vodka used to be a very rough spirit so it was traditioonally flavored with something to cover up the roughness…buffalograss in Poland (Zubrowka), Caraway seed in Scandinavia (Aquavit). Then it became the spirit we know today as neutral spirits. Now all the manufacturers are becoming ever more innovative with ever more esoteric flavors and combinations. The TTB standard of identiy for vodka is “neutral spirits so distilled or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”