32 New Things: Try Absinthe

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try.  Some of them are scary and difficult, some are shockingly boring.  You can read about other new things I’ve tried here



If you were one of the 8 gajillion girls who watched Moulin Rouge and wished you lived in turn-of-the-century Paris, you probably already know the absinthe fairy video clip I’m about to link to.See?  Kylie Minoque!  Tiny sparkly green outfit!  Inferred hallucinations!

Trying absinthe is appealing for many reasons – including, but not limited, to:

1) It was illegal in America for a long time (Ooooh!  Exciting!)
2) The preparation process is long, involved and includes fire, special spoons and sugar cubes (Ooooh!  Even more exciting!)

3) I suspect drinking it will turn me into a sparkly Parisian who sings on a swingMy ladies and I decided to hit up one of our favorite Wellington bars for our absinthe experience.  We cuddled down into a dark booth and tried to order our drink of choice.

And the waiter said:  “Absinthe?!  Oh God.  That is so tacky.  No, we do not do that.”

We stared, mouths gaping, and mentally cursed the fact that tipping isn’t part of Kiwi culture.  Because then we could avoid giving him one.

After a bit of finagling, an incredibly sweet bartender assured us that, yes, they actually did have absinthe.  And, yes, they were actually happy to engage in the entire three-glass-absinthe-spoon-sugarcube-fire debacle for us.

So we trundled up to the bar and watched wide-eyed as the bartender lit our drinks on fire.  Truthfully, I did feel slightly tacky drinking something so involved and attention-grabbing (and then documenting it all on flashing iphones) but then isn’t that what Friday nights are about: embarrassment and flaming alcohol?

No?  Awkward.

After all that hub bub, the drink itself was shockingly normal: weakly black licorice-y, like Ouzo or Sambuca’s second cousin.  I love anise-flavored liquor and would happily drink three shots of Sambuca over three pints of beer any day.

Which is totally not tacky.

Have you ever had absinthe?  Or any other strange alcoholic drinks? 
I witnessed (but never drank) snake-blood vodka shots while I was living in Taiwan!

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  1. Han

    Sounds actually really anticlimatic 🙁

    Vodka Red Bull is about as crazy as it gets for me (usually because the caffeine in it makes me very very hyper!). My normal poison is JD and coke or pear drops (pear flavoured vodka with lemonade).

  2. Melanie's Randomness

    A friend of mine went to Amsterdam and then brought back some absinthe. I actually for the second shot melted another sugar cube with it because the licorice was too strong. It does it hit ya fast! Good for you trying it!!

    Melanie's Randomness

  3. hadelicious

    I tried absinthe last year with a friend of mine at our favourite pub and I didn't like the licorice-y taste one bit! What made me want to have some was the movie Eurotrip and I was actually excited to see if I end up hallucinating (which never happened) but hey I was happy and tipsy by the end of the night 🙂

  4. LynnieBee

    Sorry it was anticlimactic, but I'm so glad you tried it!

  5. Danielle

    When you light it on fire, you're actually decreasing it's strength, as you're burning out most of the fun stuff! Lighting it on fire is the "movie" way to do absinthe. You're really supposed to put it in a dripper over a sugar cube…it takes about 5 minutes to get your drink as the drips are slow, but it's oh so worth it!

  6. Mishabelle

    Last summer, at a music festival, I was dressed as a pirate and had a water gun full of absinthe? But, I thought it tasted terrible (like mouthwash) so I just sprayed it in other people's mouths for fun. 🙂

  7. Kelsi

    I tried absinthe about a year ago. A friend had brought a bottle back from Slovakia, and while some of us were playing Scrabble in his apartment he said I could have the last bit of absinthe he had left. I was so excited! I didn't know how to drink it; I downed it like a shot, without any preparation or anything. It was so intense I grabbed my friend's beer to chase it (and I don't even like beer). I felt the same level of drunk on one "shot" of absinthe as I would on several martinis. Drunk Scrabble is really fun, by the way. =)

  8. Morag Lee

    I've tried store-bought absinthe (I live in Dundee, Scotland and my friend states only one off-licence sells it) and whilst it got me drunk very quickly I found the taste too much to handle. Though jelly absinthe was a softer alternative cause it's toned down. x

  9. Roxanne

    Delicious, right? The world is always horridly shocked by the fact that I can drink absinthe or sambucca but not tequila. Um? Two of those things taste AMAZING?

    I've had a shot before called a Prairie Fire, which is tequila with Tabasco… definitely one of the least pleasant things I've consumed in recent memory!

  10. Audi

    Hmmm, two comments. One, the fire part is bogus, and was never part of the classic absinthe preparation process. Two, the stuff that's bright neon green contains artificial coloring and is also not true to the original recipe (also avoid anything spelled "absynthe" — that isn't the real thing either). I'd say you need a do-over on this one, because real absinthe prepared correctly is DELICIOUS. My personal favorite is St. George, but I'm not sure if it's available outside the US; it's made in the bay area.

  11. Jenny

    I love it! I've bought it at the liquor store, and I'm pretty sure it's still not a traditional recipe, but it's delicious. I'd wanted to try it for years before it became available to us here in the US. Last night for my birthday I ordered one at a restaurant and they said they hadn't done one up in two years. I, too, felt silly as they brought over all this equipment to my table. I was surprised about the fire (and brulee torch!), but I did enjoy the flavor the caramelized sugar added to it. Too fussy, yes – I can drink it at home! 🙂

  12. Martina Lynne :: The Life Academic

    Oh, absinthe. I tried this for the first time at my junior prom. On a boat. In the San Fransisco Bay. In April. So I was trapped there, on the boat, and it was so freezing that we all had to stay below decks. And boy did the absinthe burn… as I threw up in the one tiny bathroom. I think I'll be skipping absinthe from here on out.

  13. Heidi Rose

    I genuinely enjoy seeing real pictures that you've taken during your adventures, so thank you for embarrassing yourself with the camera phone. It gives your posts a more substantial and realistic flavor.

  14. April in Autumn

    The most exciting drink I've had is habanero infused vodka (the creator of the concoction called it Chuck Norris). You could feel exactly where it was in your digestive track by the burn. Not something I'm planning on repeating.

    I'm headed to New Orleans next week and that's supposed to be a good place for absinthe so I'm going to try it out. it's gotta be fun even if it's not as fun as the movies make it out to be.

  15. Anonymous

    Hi, looks like a fun time! For me the most fun way to try absinthe is the traditional style with a really nice, naturally colored brand. See the wormwoodsociety org for reviews and recommendations. The fire thing is a kind of gimmicky, and spoils the flavor of the good stuff.

  16. Sarah Von Bargen

    Heidi Rose,
    Thanks so much! I really try to use 'real' photos for all of my New Things Posts.

    It sounds like I might have to try this again without the fire!

  17. iris

    As others have said, drinking it without the fire is really the way to go 🙂

  18. Samantha

    I had absinthe when I was in South Africa, but don't remember anything from the experience. I guess strep throat and food poisoning (neither of which I knew I had at the time) seems to be able to over ride any sparkly Parisian who sings on a swing effect and turned me into a pucking American trying to figure out how to get back to where I was staying. Maybe next time…

  19. Lovers, Saints & Sailors

    I just love these pictures of you guys! You can really feel the fun times.
    That last shot is priceless.

  20. Brittany

    Oh, I love absinthe! Glad to hear you crossing another thing off your list! Mmmmm…it's so yummy. :o)

  21. Anonymous

    I tried absinthe in Berlin, a particularly traditional recipe that had high amounts of something in it. My memories of the trip to the airport are a bit blurry, but that could've been sleep deprivation too. Still, delicious.

    There's a bar in Sydney devoted to the stuff, but I didn't go last time I was there. It's meant to be great though.

  22. Marie

    I went to a bar called Absinthe in San Francisco to try some absinthe. I thought it was rather gross and was a bit disappointed. Mine was also not set on fire.

    A drink that has been set on fire was the "Harry Potter" which pretty much tastes like a blue hawaiian but they set the top on fire and sprinkle cinnamon over it so it sparkles. Very exciting and obnoxious!

  23. Leena

    If you like aniseed/liquorice-flavoured drinks you should definitely try 'Salmari' or Salmiakki-Koskenkorva. It's a Finnish drink, basically vodka flavoured with special Finnish salty liquorice. It's the tastiest alcohol I've ever had, and everyone in the UK hates it 😀

  24. nova

    From what I remember I had a damn fun time drinking absinthe. But I mean…it was a lot and I'm pretty sure I didn't hallucinate or anything, just got very drunk and silly.

  25. Chelle Lynn

    Several years ago, some friends and I performed said Absinthe ritual at home…it was funny and messy and provided some fabulous photos. The downside was that one of my friends had a few too many and had to be taken to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.

    A terrible experience at the time, but makes for a high-larious "back in the day when we were young and crazy" story.

  26. Euforilla

    Oooh, I love absinthe!
    I confess, I tried it the first time with a friend just because of all the myths surrounding it.
    I enjoyed the taste, so I wanted to know more about this liquor (because it's all it is, a liquor just like wiskey or sambuca!) and discovered a culture and different types and distilleries and so on, I really enjoy it… maybe I should blog about it 😀
    (and you reminded me I have still some Montmartre left!)


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