Hey, Mom, guess what? I’m going to an Absinthe tasting party!
Absinthe? Isn’t that the stuff that made all the French people crazy? Illegal isn’t it? If you get busted, don’t call me in the middle of the night.
Wow, I’d gone from cocktail party to jail cell, and had yet to shave my legs!
(FYI: Absinthe aka the Green Fairy is not illegal, and Esmeralda Distillery out of Lleida, Spain has been shipping it into the States for over a year.)
Fast forward to a suite at the Bellagio. The host of the event, Bryan Alexander Davis, looks like a cross between Prince Harry and Matt Damon. Although born in California, Bryan has embraced the continental lifestyle down to the strangely packaged cigarettes. He gives off a definite Rat Pack vibe, and is justifiably proud of his Obsello brand, which took down the Palms casino-backed Absinthe armed with nothing but guts, duct tape and spare change. The windows of the suite overlook the Palms. Coincidence? Hardly!
The bar was captained by the incomparable Alex Velez, holder of the top-bar-man title from The Tasting Panel Magazine. He commandeered the bottles and performed mixologist magic, dancing and shaking his jigger to the beat of the music. Shake that grove thing, Alex! He poured the contents into four glasses, and as our eager paws reached out to grab the drinks, he held up a hand in that universal signal for “keep your grubby mitts off.” We waited, jostling each other with impatient anxiety, all the while eying the glasses with proprietary greed. Alex held a lighter to a slice of orange peel and the flame flickered up the rind until one perfect drop of orange essence was emitted and fell into each drink. Once again Alex gave us the “hold” signal. To top off his creations, he whispered a prayer to the fairy of green and waved an eyedropper over each glass for a final touch of magic. This time there was no stopping the hands as we snatched and slurped. A tangy citrus flavor, melting into a cool mint before dissolving into licorice. Yum!
Bryan Davis, the master distiller and co-founder of the small Spanish liquor company, tells me that Absinthe got its bad rep when success encouraged a bunch of rip-off artists to try to copy the formula on the cheap. The posers used poisonous substances to get the right green color, copper sulfate and cupric acetate among others. Turns out, Mom was right, it did make some French people crazy. The feds chose to ban the entire industry, not just the skanks who poisoned people.
I’m so glad I don’t live in a country that over-reacts to situations. (You can only imagine what would happen if a common vegetable product used for a household item, say rope, was banned because some silly kids were using the flowers for cigarettes. An entire industry gone.) You don’t get that kind of crazy in the good ol’ US of A.
By far the best drink of the night was a root beer and Absinthe mix that tasted like barrel candy from an old-fashioned candy store. I think ice cream and a frosty mug would make for the perfect summer cocktail.
At the end of the night my not insignificant other and I floated off down the strip, the green fairy’s wings wafting us gently past the erupting water cannons of the Bellagio, the strains of the national anthem singing in our ears and the parting words of Bryan Davis echoing in our hearts. We’ll do lunch someday.
You can take the boy out of California . . . .