Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dance with the Green Fairy

Always looking for a great place to meet and eat in Salem, some friends and I stopped at La Capitale, a casual French bistro downtown. Aside from their fine food and drink,  La Capitale focuses on supporting local businesses ranging from craft beers, boutique wineries, and fresh local produce. 

The place has a good vib, very urban, but casual and unassuming.  A comfortable place to converse over a simple meal or cocktail.  
The wait-staff is friendly and very accommodating serving delicious French/American faire.    

They offer killer pomme frites, and one of the better things going for them is the bar and bartender Rob, who takes his profession seriously and is tops in preparing hand-crafted, innovative cocktails

Speaking of cocktails, La Capitale is one of the few places in town or within a 60 mile radius of town there you can actually “dance with the Green Fairy”.

No no - I'm not crazy, I'm referring to absinthe that notorious distilled herbal spirit made from wormwood, anise and other herbs. Its flavor is similar to licorice.  It is bottled at a high proof, and is intended to be tempered with iced water and taken as a cool, refreshing aperitif. 

The charm and mystic of the drink is in the ritual which is fairly simple. 

Absinthe Original  explains it this way, 

 "A perforated absinthe spoon is set upon the rim of a glass (sometimes very elaborately so) and on the spoon is placed a cube of sugar. Ice-cold water is ever so slowly dripped from a glass carafe designed specifically for that purpose, onto the cube. The sugar dissolves and you continue pouring until the ratio of absinthe to water is about two to five parts, depending upon your taste and fortitude. The emerald green absinthe releases a floral bouquet and clouds into a pale opalescent green or yellow right before your eyes, filling you with a sense of creation and mystery. Give the mix a spin with the spoon and drink like you dripped - slowly."   Properly made a glass of this mixture will be around the same strength as a glass of wine.

Now for the history lesson.  Absinthe has an alluring, notorious past whose popularity soared from 1880 on. In the cafes of Paris it became the drink of artists and writers commonly starting off the day with a glass and ending with l'heure verte (the late-afternoon "green hour"). It was exported to New Orleans and reached the same acclaim in the United States.
But, here comes the bad part (or the worst part), in 1905, Jean Lanfray, a Swiss farmer, who was very intoxicated, murdered his wife and family. He supposedly only had two glasses of absinthe and his trial became known as the "Absinthe Murder". Absinthe was designated as the offending culprit and became known as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. In 1912, the Department of Agriculture banned absinthe in America, and finally France followed in 1915.  It has since been redeemed and is considered no more dangerous than any other spirits.  Legalized in Europe in the 1990, the US finally reprieved the Green Fairy in 2007.  After 95 years of prohibition the dance resumes.

Needless to say we had a most convivial time sipping our absinthe and enjoying pomme frites and goat cheese.  Yummy.
Life is truly good - bye for now!  Evelyn


Anonymous said...

Well, how interesting, I had no idea. I shall have to try some sometime.

Evelyn said...

Thank you, There's a lot more to the story of Absinthe. If you are interested go to If you want to make it yourself try this link: Cheers! Evelyn