June 26, 2010

WAS THE HATTER TRULY MAD? OR WAS HE JUST ABSINTHE-MINDED?


This story will take you down a rabbit hole, through the looking glass, to the cafes of Paris in the 1800s, will have you feeling "curiouser and curiouser" about green fairies, and will end with a madly marvelous cocktail ~ and that's no Jabberwocky. 

I was enchanted with Agatha Christie's great detective Hercule Poirot from the very first time I read a story featuring the famous Belgian detective.  And thus began my romance with many of the earliest "criminal psychologists" in literature; among them, Edgar Allen Poe's Auguste Dupin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

"What?'" says you.  "Surely you have the wrong story!  The wrong author!  Everyone knows that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland!." 

 I ask that you please bear with me, gentle reader. 

It wasn't long after adopting a nightly routine of reading Poirot mysteries by flashlight, in my eighth-grade year, that I also became intrigued by the mention of the "Green Fairy", the mysterious, ritualistic, otherworldly spirit (in the truest sense) known as Absinthe. 


What is Absinthe?  It is a distilled, highly alcoholic anise-flavoured spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia Absinthium, commonly referred to as "grande wormwood". Absinthe is typically a natural green color but can also be colorless. It was purportedly invented by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in 1792 as an all-purpose remedy. Used as a cure-all, it was nicknamed "La Fée Verte" ("The Green Fairy") and quickly gained popularity throughout Europe and America. 



It is not difficult to see why so many in the 1800s were seduced by Absinthe once you read the a description of the Absinthe ritual: 

An elegantly apportioned silver spoon, long, flat and slotted with baroque cut-outs, was first suspended over a tall glass filled with a shot of luminous green absinthe.  A solitary sugar cube was placed atop the spoon, and then, daintily, water was dripped over the spoon and allowed to fall in beads into the glass.  With each drip, the absinthe slowly transformed from green, to a light citrine, and finally to a milky opalescent.  It is said that seeing the drink metamorphize as such, drip by drip, "surely resembled alchemy."


At the end of the nineteenth century, absinthe was embraced by the literary bohemian crowd who gathered in European cafes and claimed the Green Fairy (La Fee Verte) as their muse and inspiration.  Absinthe played a large role in the Impressionist art movement, both as inspiration and as subject matter.  It is featured in such works as:  Van Gogh's-”Still Life with Absinthe", Degas'-”The Absinthe Drinker” (L’absinthe), Edouard Manet's-”The Absinthe Drinker”, and Toulouse-Lautrec's- “portait of Vincent Van Gogh”.  Absinthe makes its appearance throughout literature: from the aforementioned Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle tales, to Oscar Wilde and Hemmingway.  The once legendary Absinthe Room in New Orleans attracted an impressive list of visitors, including presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Aaron Burr. 


It has long been speculated that Lewis Carroll partook in Laudanum, opium, or some other form of mind-altering substance when writing his Wonderland stories, but these suspicions have never been substantiated.  It is known, however that Carroll made use of homeopathic remedies, and had several books on the subject in his private library.  Given that he was writing at the height of the Absinthe fervor in Europe, it may not be unreasonable to imagine that he was acquainted with the Green Fairy.  And if not Carroll, why then certainly the Mad Hatter. 


From the time of the 1840’s through the 1880’s, absinthe was – much like wine had been and is today – the drink of choice for French people of all classes. Around 1912 the French winemakers, in an effort to win their customers away from absinthe, joined forces with the temperance movement to discredit the enjoyment of absinthe. “The Green Lady” became the “Green Curse.” The psychoactive pleasures of absinthe were now classified as toxic side-effects and, worse, the result of MADNESS. And at last, dear reader, (Oh frabjous day!  Callooh, Callay!)  we arrive at my POINT.  As promised ~  the cocktail at the end of the long and winding adventure.  Please, sit back, rest your weary self, and enjoy this creation, in tribute to the Mad Hatter, Lewis Carroll, and the fairy in the bottle:


The Mad Hatter ~ a magical elixir

1 oz Absinthe
6 oz Proseco, chilled
1 maraschino cherry and a splash of cherry juice
2 splashes Midori melon liqueur
1 splash Rose's Lime

Place 1 oz Absinthe in a martini glass.  Set your absinthe spoon (you may use a slotted serving spoon) over the martini glass, and the maraschino cherry atop the spoon.  Pour the chilled Proseco over the cherry and in to the glass and let the magic begin!  The absinthe will turn from green to milky white (ah, there's your white rabbit!).  Remove absinthe spoon, dropping cherry to the bottom of the glass.  Top off with two splashes of Midori and one splash of Rose's Lime.  The drink will appear to phosphoresce in the light.  Add a splash of the maraschino cherry juice.  The cherry juice will settle to the bottom creating a glowing red layer beneath the shimmering chartreuse.

Serve with oysters.  Curious, young oysters.

25 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed the story before the cocktail!

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  2. ~*~*~*Hip hip hurray it's Tea Party Day!*~*~*~

    Oooo, how interesting! I loved reading more about this magical drink!

    Thanks for having me at your tea party! if you haven't been already, you're cordially invited to my mad tea party! Have yourself a mad sort of day! :)

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  3. Hello Jenn,

    thanks a lot for this interesting blogpost about the " green fairy" !

    I knew some things about it, but not everything you told now.
    I know my mother's neighbour grew wormwood in his garden and that it has several healing capacities, but he didn't want to give some to my mom because she was a young widow and wormwood is not good for a pregnancy !

    After years my mom did grew wormwood in her garden and when someone had sprained their ankle, she put wormwood in hot water and put the leaves on the ankle to heel...

    I also read wormwood is very good if you have stomach problems !

    With the info I read from you I think I'll grow wormwood in my garden too and get me a bottle of Absinthe !!

    greetings from belgium
    Inge

    web.me.com/pinkepinke
    feel welcome at my party : I have a blog give away..

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  4. Thank you so much for the history lesson and the recipe! Delightful tea!

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  5. Oh my, and educational tea party! One can never stop learning...me thinks my Bad Alice would like to get a hold of that recipe!
    **blows kisses** Deb

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  6. Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorite childhood stories as it always took me into a zany realm that only someone on absinthe or opium could possibly have written. Caps off to Carroll! LOL!
    I thoroughly enjoyed your piece on absinthe and the tongue-in-cheek tales laced with dabs of humor made your post quite enjoyable. Glad to have stopped by. Happy Share-fest Saturday Jenn!
    Cheers,
    Eliz

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  7. Wow...I could totally see that drink becoming part of my weekend ritual...haha!

    Loved all the facts and info :)

    Thanks for having tea with me at my blog earlier...I'd love to include you in the Giveaway....did you become a Follower?

    Until next we meet,
    Cameron

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  8. Hi Jenn!
    I had a blast at your party, and thanks for the Absinthe lesson! I had Absinthe once in my life, and we totally drank it the wrong way! Let me just say that I have a video of us drinking it, and it was too dark to capture any of what was going on , but you can just hear us all choking and coughing in disgust, cuz we never actually diluted it with the sugar.... LOL.... but thank you for the lesson, and the cocktail recipe :-D


    Also, thanks for stopping by my party! The Hatter and I hope you had a great time and hope you decide to stop by again soon !
    -Justina
    La Boheme Magique

    http://labohememagique.blogspot.com/

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  9. Dear Jenn,
    Quite fascinating! The history of absinthe is very interesting and I think you make some thought-provoking points.

    Thank you so much for visiting my party and for your kind words!

    Wishing you a Happy Night of Parties!

    Betty

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  10. A great story that leads to a lovely drink... truly enjoyed my time spent with you.

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  11. Now this is Tea ... The Mad Hatter ~ a magical elixir ... a wonderful post.

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  12. Thanks ever so much for sharing your unusual and quite Mad Tea Party, with a history lesson all about the 'green fairy'. Very interesting. If you get the chance, please come and visit me for some more Mad Tea, in the Secret Enchanted Forest at:
    http://greenandwhitegarden.blogspot.com/2010/06/mad-tea-party.html
    ~Vicki.

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  13. Oh, how fascinating! I enjoyed reading this. While I knew a little about absinthe, what fun it was to learn more, particularly about how it related to my favorite group of artists.

    I've been to the Old Absinthe House Bar in New Orleans many moons ago when my sister's family was living in Louisiana, and it was in a charming old building. Had I known, I would have been sure to order oysters with my beer, oops... I mean my green fairy! ;-)

    Thank you for the research that went into this post, and to top it off with a cocktail recipe for absinthe was simply the cherry on top!

    Lovely to meet you...

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  14. oh, I love this post... I'm actually missing out on an Absinthe tasting night with my local SteamPunk group tonight... all that information was just FAB!
    *raising my Tea Cup in a toast*

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  15. Fabulous tale! Very Informative and I really enjoyed it! I would love to have that cocktail right now.

    Thanks for having me! Happy Tea Partying!

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  16. Ooooh!
    FABULOUS post!
    One of my favorite of the whole tea party links.

    Have you ever (I'm sure you have) seen those gorgeous multi-tiered absinthe dispensers? Servers? Not sure what the correct term is. They're often made of glass and have little tiered fountains and cups all the way around and little ledges or cups or spoons for sugars. They look a bit like a gorgeous drink serving chandelier.

    Anyway----I'm so glad you stopped by to say hi. I found you a long time ago and loved your blog, but forgot to bookmark it. I've got you now!!! Muwahahahah!!!!

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  17. Thank you for the Mad absinthe Party! I had a great time! Hiccup. OOps maybe a bit too much fun.
    I hope you can find the time to come visit my mad tea party at anaboocreationsbysylvia.blogspot.com
    Thank you,
    Sylvia

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  18. Gotta love a story with a cocktail at the end! That bad boy is wicked cool looking too :)

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  19. Excuse me for being so fashionably late...I hope you will not be irate. I enjoyed this so MUCH. Loved the history behind the infamous drink. If you have not already done so, I'd be honored if you would sit a spell with me~for tea...http://faeriemooncreations.blogspot.com/2010/06/its-mad-tea-party.html
    Sincerely, Theresa (aka The White Queen)

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  20. Thank you for the trip to Wonderland and the history lesson! It was very informative!

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  21. Wow! I know I am terribly late, but so glad I finally got here...I totally loved reading all about 'the Green Fairy'...I do believe the Hatter did indulge, surely! Thankyou for having me and indulging me in some wonderful history x

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  22. Hi Jenn, I thoroughly enjoyed your history of absinthe and look forward to trying out your elixir recipe soon :) Many thanks!

    Please stop by my blog if you fancy a cuppa and a slice of the Queen of Hearts’ Strawberry Tart…
    http://cosmicgoddessblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/were-all-mad-here.html

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  23. Pleased to find your yummy blog on the list I am trying to get through the list of Parties but am like the white Rabbit getting behind. You may wonder why then I am so far down the list it is because I started at the bottom :-D Maybe I am slightly Mad or I thought I would give those at the bottom a chance to be first. You are of course invited to come to tea and join my giveaway.

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  24. What a fascinating story, thank you so much!! :) ~Lauren

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  25. Jenn,
    Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful history at your party! I really enjoyed it.
    Thanks for your sweet words, and stopping by my tea party too!
    ~Shari

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