Absinthe Salon

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Strictly speaking, a birthday isn’t over until the birthday boy / girl is under the table snoring in their own filth. To that end, I was hauled to Absinthe Salon (Absinthsalon) by my friends to achieve just that. Looking like any old heritage house in Surry Hills, we walked in to find ourselves in something resembling a dungeon, a lair you’re not meant to see filled with gothic artefacts, skulls, and roots. Notes from the harpsichord thicken the air like a fog on an eerie night in Transylvania to announce the arrival of the green fairy.

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Absinthe, you might have heard of it; hell, you might have even had it and recall it’s a throat-searing substance that shouldn’t even be legal. Here, it’s not served as a shot to down in an instance, it’s prepared in the traditional rituals, for you to sip at your own pace like many revered artists have done before us including Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde. Yes, one of them is stark-raving mad and all certainly kooky, the drink I’m about to have was renowned to drive one to insanity.

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As we’re seated and given the spiel about operating the century-old fountain, what makes absinthe absinthe and the telltales of a drinkable mix, I just sat in awe of the setup. Arranged like the four waypoints of a compass, the fountain sat in the middle ready to dispense ice-water onto our sugar-laden spoons sitting on top of our ornate glasses. Give the tap a twist to drip water on the sugar cube and wait until your absinthe reaches that milky, opaque state for optimal flavour.

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So what does it taste like? My first, the Francois Guy, tasted like very much like liquorice being sweet, minty and spicy. It felt warm trickling down my throat and gentle on the liver. Despite its 45% alcoholic content, this is palatable! Next came the Libertine Originale with creamy undertones but slightly stronger, then in all honesty… I lost track.

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I seem to forget that most people don’t particularly enjoy liquorice and so the hand-me-downs began, relentlessly. Glass after glass, I drank green, white and red fluids varying in concentration but all sharing the same aniseed body. Discerning the differences isn’t as easy as cheese, chocolate or even coffee, but like a game of cat and mouse as you battle the deleterious effects of alcohol. Some were spicier, some were milder, and some were intense, but none made me stand up to declare “that’s distinct”! But wicked (in a good way), they were!

My brain now frayed having succumbed to the mind-numbing sensation that comes with being inebriate, I surprise myself by standing and waddling. As we’re ushered to the exits, I’m at once overwhelmed yet fuelled for more. The green fairy never showed herself before my eyes, but left her unforgettable scent on the tip of my tongue.

~ Jambon Cochon

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