No, we don’t serve absinthe here, nor do we ever intend to make it available. However, I do find it a fascinating drink. And yes I sampled it once while in Paris where you can find damn near anything you desire, particularly if it’s bad for you.
(We stock whisky, Irish whisky and poitin, brandy, and vodka. And we carry our own ales such as India Pales, Belgian, Imperial and Chocolate Stouts, along with our ciders, cysers and meads. Of the liquors, only the first three really sell though the vodka sold very well when the Finnish and Russian curling teams played here several winters back So we’re not exactly a full service pub but than we never claimed to be so.)
I’d heard of this nigh unto mythical drink decades before I actually decided to search it out a few years back. I’ll tell you my opinion of it after I talk about its history for a bit. You might have heard that it’s mildly or dangerously poisonous as it’s made in part with wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, which has minute amounts of thujone, but not enough to have any effect unless you drank really a lot of it. But its reputation was enough to get it banned in most countries over a century ago even in France. And though it was banned, it was more or less easily available in such cities as Amsterdam, New Orleans and of course Paris.
It was wildly popular among writers and artists alike with such folk as Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Wilde, Hemingway and Joyce all known to be absinthe drinkers, almost all because they spent time in Paris. Some historians believe that Toulouse-Lautrec died from excessive absinthe consumption but more likely he just drank himself to death and died of kidney failure.
Nonetheless it has entered popular culture to the extent that it shows up in a lot of literature including as wormwood brandy which is the favoured drink of detective John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. And pretty much any novel set in Paris that takes place in the seedier side of that city will mention it. Its reputation is based largely on its mythical story much more than on its realty.
So what does it taste like? It’s is, errr, quite sweet as sugar is one of its major components making it more of a liqueur than a spirit. The herbs in it give a bit of an edge but nothing like peated barley does in an aged single malt. The anise and other herbs gives it both a mild herbal taste and some bitterness but nothing objectionable. All in all a forgettable liqueur that I don’t regret trying but feel no need to drink again.