Category Archives: absinthe ritual

Absinthe Ritual

The absinthe fire ritual in French with English subtitles:

Setting absinthe on fire? The interesting point about this video is that we are told that the addition of carmelised sugar, and not the burning of the absinthe, is the key to this ritual.

Absinthe Times?

Absinthe Time

The Plot to get Zagorova drunk on the Green Fairy

The drink of the 19th century bohemians, the infamous absinthe, often gets the label of something forbidden. It is no wonder that the singers of the musical “Jack the Ripper” approached it with some uncertainty.

Zdenek Podhursky, Roman Vojtek, Petr Vondracek and the ever so spirit-keen Richard Tesarik tried the bitterness of absinthe and the variety of ways to drink it while christening their new Jack the Ripper video-clip.

Even Jana Vaculikova and Hanka Zagorova — the cast members of the gentler sex — put on a brave face. Hanka doesn’t drink spirits at all, but she was interested to find out about the drink that inspired the artists of the 19th century:

“We all need inspiration, and we all have our ways to obtain it,” Hanka said, adding that she doesn’t intend to rely on absinthe for it. “I just took a sip, so that I knew what it tasted like. It’s a very interesting drink, but I doubt I’ll become a convert,” she laughed.

She apparently feels at home in her first musical. “I am very glad I did it. I feel good with the people that I’m working with, and that’s why I’m here with them today, out of the theater.”

Absinthe, the so-called “Green fairy”, is still forbidden in many countries because, in large quantity, it has the same effects as marijuana. It can be drunk with a burnt cube of sugar or with water poured over a sugar cube.

“The fire thing was really interesting, and it turned down the wormwood bitterness,” said Richard Tesarik with satisfaction. “I’ve tried absinthe before, but it’s not really possible to drink more the two shots, better to wash it down with beer after that.”

(Translated from the Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper)

Note: For those of you outside of the Czech Republic, Hana Zagorova is something of a pop-icon in this country (and a really nice girl too). During the events of November 1989, she used her appeal to support the overthrow of the rotten communist regime (famously documented in a tape smuggled out of a Party meeting where the then-Chairman complained bitterly about her involvement: “Why is she doing this to us? I had her income statements brought to me earlier… Doesn’t she have it good here? Now she turns against us...” A talented performer indeed, she was here with us before the wall came down, and she is still with us now (unlike so many others). Keep going Hanka, we wish you all the best!

The Great Absinthe Plot ?

Meanwhile, 5245 miles away in New Orleans, the new Chemise Verte (Green Shirt) stormtroopers continue their battle to conquer the Universe, but will they set the world alight with their new brands of USA safe absinthe?


Forbidden Photo

Update: Following a complaint we are no longer allowed to publish the private photograph of Ted Breaux at one of his absinthe ceremonies in New Orleans. If you wish to see the original photo you can see it here:

Who knows? Currently on overdrive in a fanatical campaign to create their twisted New Jerusalem, barely a day goes by without some hack publishing a glowing review for their new era absinthe, and of course a quick swipe at the Czechs! Perhaps they could take some lessons from the Communist old guard in propaganda? but I don’t think they need any!

Perhaps the first victim of this new wave of absinthe hysteria is a very nice little absinthe from South Africa called Doubs? It appears from this article : L’absinthe de Pontarlier victime de la contrefaçon that Doubs have withdrawn from the market following legal threats! I didn’t pay attention during French lessons, so that is what I can surmise from the article anyway.

On the same theme, if anyone knows what this disturbing image is about, perhaps they could get in touch? It was sent anonymously and is rather sinister, don’t you think?

New Order of Absinthe

Modern Absinth Drinkers

Absinth and Fire

Firey absinth fun – Czech style 🙂

Absinthe Ritual

Absinthe Fire

One subject that there is a lot of disagreement about is the ritual involving caramelised sugar. I was interested to read this intelligent, and well thought out piece at Absinthe Alchemist:

Concerning the claim that you are ruining the absinthe by burning it, we need to look at it both from a confectioner’s and a distiller’s vantage. We have the sugar cube and we have the alcohol. We know that sugar reacts to heat in precise ways depending upon the temperature. We also know that pure alcohol vaporizes at 173°F (78°C). Water boils at 212°F (100°C). So if we were to squirt pure alcohol on the sugar cube and ignite it, the flame would burn at about 173°F. If we dipped the sugar cube into the absinthe and then lit it, the melting point would be higher since the absinthe contains alcohol and water. The vapor point of a blend of alcohol and water would fall between 173°F and 212°F depending on the percentage of each in the blend. An absinthe with an alcohol content of 65% would vaporize around 187°F (86°C).
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So here’s the deal. As the alcohol or absinthe-soaked sugar cube combusts, the temperature rises as the alcohol burns off. Sugar goes through the following stages:sugar cube absinth fire ritual

Thread 230-234°F (110-112°C)
Soft ball 234-238°F (112-114°C)
Firm ball 244-248°F (118-120°C)
Hard ball 248-254°F (120-123°C)
Very hard ball 254-260°F (123-127°C)
Light crack 270-285°F (132-140°C)
Hard crack 290-300°F (143-149°C)
Caramelized sugar 310-338°F (154-170°C)

From my experience, a full dropper of pure alcohol from a four-ounce (120 ml) bottle can bring a sugar cube to an advanced stage of caramelization. This is too much, since the dark brown will give off bitter flavors. A very light brown, however, a hard crack or light caramelization perhaps, is quite tasty. One piece of advice is to pour water over the cube just as the flame goes out because once the sugar cools it becomes a piece of hard candy and it won’t dissolve into the drink.sugar cube Czech absinth fire ritual

But the argument that the Absinth Fire Ritual would disgust Belle Époque absintheurs gives me pause. Having read up on Alfred Jarry, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t be amused by “that which burns.” Likewise, would any other iconoclasts of the bellisima epoca Absinthe Era such as Verlaine, Rimbaud, Zola, Modigliani, or Picasso, really get bent over it? I just can’t bring myself to believe that they would act like panty-waisted crybabies and stomp their feet over flaming sugar cubes. I suspect they would think it was cool. Time marches onward, dear brothers and sisters! If you really want to bring absinthe into the 21st century, embrace the Absinth Fire Ritual.

Another point raised by our own DrAbsinthe was this discovery:

My French Grandmother used to make Absinthe when I was a wee child. She was an amazing woman Ma Mere’. She would pour a small glass and then would dip the spoon with sugar cube into the liquor and let it drain off some. Then she’d light the cube on fire, let it carmelize then stir it in. She’d then add a little bit of water and then point out the fairy (which was green/brown) dancing in the glass. We were in awe. ;-} She didn’t light the liquid on fire, but she WAS from France — and made it herself. We were allowed a tiny pony glass on special occasions/holidays and we never complained when we were sent to bed. lol!

We’ve tried to get in touch with the author of this very important observation, but have had no reply.

The idea that the absinthe ritual was borrowed from the Café Brûlot of New Orleans, might appeal to some bouffanted gent in a bottle green smoking jacket, but I think it is wrong. A former contributor was fond of mentioning Mary Poppins during his sojourn on this blog, and wasn’t it Mary who said “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down“?

Medicine! That is what absinthe was – long before it was commercialised as an aperitif – burning off the alcohol and adding sugar, to take away the bitter bite of the powerful wormwood in real absinthe, was probably the rite of the farmhouse kitchen. Sneering at this ritual – as many do – might be to sneer at absinthe’s earliest use.

Top 5 Sellers on a merchant site:

* La Bleue Clandestine
* TRUL 1792 Absinthium 🙂
* King of Spirits Absinth
* Abisinthe Lemercier AMER
* Versinthe La Blanche