Absinthe from the Czech Republic is locally termed absinth and is renowned by party goers for that extra-powerful thujone kick.
What is thujone? Actually, thujone is a constituent of the herb wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) which – along with other herbs – causes the green colour of this famous drink. Czech thujone-rich absinth has developed a cult following all of its own and even a unique method of drinking. The so-called “Czech method” involves the following steps:
1. Place absinthe spoon over a glass containing water
2. Place sugar cube on spoon
3. Pour absinthe
4. Set fire to the absinthe-soaked cube and let the caramelised sugar drip into glass
This method was first observed by Western visitors to Prague in the early 1990s; the method has an uncertain provenance. (More on the Czech method and its origins will appear in a later post.) It may have been an eccentric Icelandic pop star who started this in the 90s, or it may date to another period altogether.
However, it would be fair to mention that this method has caused some upset amongst the self-proclaimed “online absinthe community” which decries the practice as “non-authentic”. The only real way to drink absinthe is the 19th century way, by adding chilled water, according to them. Isn’t this the 21st century? The Czechs are an independent lot these days and they’ll do as they please. It has actually been suggested that the Czech method was devised by the laissez faire, post-Communist Czechs as a means of intensifying the effect of the wormwood thujone by burning off some of the alcohol. Czech absinthe is already the market leader as far as thujone is concerned, so this theory may be true.
Controversy aside, the world of Czech absinthe is a fascinating one. Wander through the streets of the beautiful capital Prague and you will find absinth, and even absinthe, in many shop windows. Shops also sell absinthe paraphernalia like spoons, glasses and absinthe fountains. It is easy to buy absinthe in Prague! A recent newcomer to the scene is Toulouse Lautrec Absinthe, a brand made by the Czech distiller Cami and named after the famous belle epoque artist. Tolouse Lautrec is similar in style to the absinthes enjoyed at the turn of the 19th century. So for those that like to live in the past, the Czechs have that too. The feisty thujone-rich brews of modern Bohemia are my favourite and so I’ll be pouring a glass to celebrate the end of another week.
Czech word or phrase of the day: Na zdravi means cheers!
Absinthe quote :“Absinthe has a wonderful color, green. A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?” Oscar Wilde