Encounters with the Green Fairy

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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Encounters with the Green Fairy

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joulukuu 31, 2010, 10:51 pm

Has anyone had the pleasure of drinking absinthe? Given its prevalence among the celebrities of the decadence movement, its intoxicating powers, and it being illegal in the US until recently, drinking absinthe provides another entree into the world of Wilde, Lautreamont, Huysmans, and the rest.

Recently purchased some absinthe and I'm enjoying bringing in the New Year. Immediate responses: It looks like Ecto-Cooler when poured out. (For those pop culture types who remember the Kool-Aid tie-in flavor associated with Ghostbusters) It smells and tastes a lot like licorice. Anise is a major component. The brand I have is 120 proof, so tread delicately when imbibing. This is not a drink to chug. A dandy is not a mead-swilling Viking. Besides, if you chug this stuff, you'll probably wake up blind.

Should make watching Coppola's film adaptation of Dracula a pleasure. Absinthe plays a major role in the film. Coppola likened the Green Fairy to Victorian LSD.

tammikuu 1, 2011, 12:33 am

I still yearn to try some authentic absinthe. I imbibed a cheap impostor, Absente, not long ago. Avoid at all costs. It is simply a high proof anise liquer. There a few bars downtown that stock it, but bottles are relatively expensive at the local candy store.

tammikuu 1, 2011, 10:07 am

There's a little thread on this topic in the Booze! group too.

tammikuu 2, 2011, 5:34 pm

Well, at gothic get togethers, there is usually an absinthe bar, where it is served with due decorum (special spoons, and a samovar-y thingy to let the water drip through the sugar. If this link works, you can see it in action: http://dr-whom.deviantart.com/gallery/24566433#/d2l5iur

There are various 'safe' brands around, including one, predictably, endorsed by Marilyn Manson. I find it rather underwhelming, but on the other hand, I like anise, so I never miss the booth.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2011, 11:42 am

re #1: As opposed to the enlightened and philosophically guided state of Los Angeles, the Old Dominion continues to oppose privatization of the sale of distilled spirits. It does so not only to retain every method at its disposal to pick our pockets, but to limit our choices and protect us from our ill-educated inclinations.

I cannot decide whether it is entertaining or depressing that I receive, upon inquiry into the possible shift of status of absinthe in the state of Virginia (static), a firm response that it will remain illegal (excepting constitutionally degraded counterfeits, like Absente) because it contains an hallucinogenic substance: wormwood. I do not like to bother busy government employees with unnecessary questions: is that the reason for the ban, then? Or is it the position of the Duke of Richmond that hallucination is a bad thing? Is a mote of exotic psychotropicana, thujone, the evil bogeyman or is it the fact that the fruity stuff is nearly 100% alcohol (like that other substance the state makes frat boys and amateur cuisinards hadj into the nation's capitol to harm themselves with, Grain alcohol)? Etc. After all, though they are VA government employees, these ABC spiritualists are, like ourselves, the products of a Virginia education. Can I expect them to have an any less flawed relationship with historical or scientific facts than anyone else in this pathologically conservative state?

I mean, it's not as if we're talking about marihuana....

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2011, 1:54 pm

5: Unfortunately, in these United States, the Ideal Man is a depraved combination of Henry Nordau, Babbitt, and Elmer Gantry If we aspire to be free market Stakhanovs, at home in our zirconium gerbil wheels, then we have truly created the New Jerusalem on Earth. Pathetic, really, considering the Declaration of Indepedence goes on about something called "the pursuit of happiness."

One can hope that a constitutionally degraded version will pave the way for a more pure version sometime in the future. To quote Bill Clinton, I feel your pain, since I live in the state that spawned the Volstead Act, a Lovecraftian abomination of condescension and govt intervention that did nothing but birth crime, murder, and death. Everyone know's that murder and death are the monopoly of the sovereign state, not that of enterprising individuals like Capone and free market pharmacists like Pablo Escobar.

tammikuu 4, 2011, 1:08 pm

To quote WF Buckley: "Get that man another drink."

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2011, 1:14 pm

Oh, my. I happen into the Chapel only to find kswolff feeling benwaugh's pair!

(In Clintonian allusion, no less!)

tammikuu 4, 2011, 1:14 pm

That's what a wayward keystroke will get you ...

tammikuu 4, 2011, 1:56 pm

Oops! Corrected. Well, sounds more Clintonite than I intended, since he was known to feel a few pairs during his enlightened regime. Then again, Bush II bore a resemblance to Charles II, what with his amoral religiosity and chronic ineptitude.

tammikuu 4, 2011, 2:18 pm

Pair? I'm sorry. We're still in 2010 here, if you get my meanin'.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 15, 2012, 1:46 pm

I went overboard on absinthe last night (my first time: Le Vieux Carre) - it was quite a pleasant and happy blow to the skull. I enjoyed the very rare cool evening breeze (Virginia summers are brutal) as I swilled my cocktails on the veranda (it was a deck, actually - but veranda falls more sweetly on the ear). Today, however, I have that same nauseous feeling I used to get when I had too much pastis - though I will say, the flavor of absinthe is much more interesting than that of pastis - which to me is purely anise. That said, as I have a small bit this afternoon to keep the tremens to a tolerable minimum, I am not a great fan.

heinäkuu 15, 2012, 1:38 pm

Go west, young man, your liver will thank you! ;-)

heinäkuu 15, 2012, 1:44 pm

I was wishing I had hashish connection. Alas.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 15, 2012, 7:19 pm

Even the sitcom How I Met Your Mother touches on what happens when you give Manhattanites absinthe:


I can only imagine Monsignor Waugh floating above the gravel on the property of his Southern Gothic fastness, communing with the spirits of Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner ... with Truman Capote traipsing about, dressed as a satyr, reciting prurient verse.

heinäkuu 16, 2012, 9:25 pm

My fastness is manifestly umoored. And you know, that image reminds me of the Coen brothers' Faulkner, from Barton Fink - stewed to the gills. But since I can't find that on youtube, here its rough equivalent:


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2012, 9:31 pm


Aleister Crowley


Keep always this dim corner for me, that I may sit while the Green Hour glides, a proud pavine of Time. For I am no longer in the city accursed, where Time is horsed on the white gelding Death, his spurs rusted with blood.
There is a corner of the United States which he has overlooked. It lies in New Orleans, between Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue; the Mississippi for its base. Thence it reaches northward to a most curious desert land, where is a cemetery lovely beyond dreams. Its walls low and whitewashed, within which straggles a wilderness of strange and fantastic tombs; and hard by is that great city of brothels which is so cynically mirthful a neighbor. As Felicien Rops wrote,--or was it Edmond d'Haraucourt?--"la Prostitution et la Mort sont frere et soeur--les fils de Dieu!" At least the poet of Le Legende des Sexes was right, and the psycho-analysts after him, in identifying the Mother with the Tomb. This, then, is only the beginning and end of things, this "quartier macabre" beyond the North Rampart with the Mississippi on the other side. It is like the space between, our life which flows, and fertilizes as it flows, muddy and malarious as it may be, to empty itself into the warm bosom of the Gulf Stream, which (in our allegory) we may call the Life of God.

But our business is with the heart of things; we must go beyond the crude phenomena of nature if we are to dwell in the spirit. Art is the soul of life and the Old Absinthe House is heart and soul of the old quarter of New Orleans.
For here was the headquarters of no common man--no less than a real pirate--of Captain Lafitte, who not only robbed his neighbors, but defended them against invasion. Here, too, sat Henry Clay, who lived and died to give his name to a cigar. Outside this house no man remembers much more of him than that; but here, authentic and, as I imagine, indignant, his ghost stalks grimly.

Here, too are marble basins hollowed--and hallowed!--by the drippings of the water which creates by baptism the new spirit of absinthe.

I am only sipping the second glass of that "fascinating, but subtle poison, whose ravages eat men's heart and brain" that I have ever tasted in my life; and as I am not an American anxious for quick action, I am not surprised and disappointed that I do not drop dead upon the spot. But I can taste souls without the aid of absinthe; and besides, this is magic of absinthe! The spirit of the house has entered into it; it is an elixir, the masterpiece of an old alchemist, no common wine.

And so, as I talk with the patron concerning the vanity of things, I perceive the secret of the heart of God himself; this, that everything, even the vilest thing, is so unutterably lovely that it is worthy of the devotion of a God for all eternity.

What other excuse could He give man for making him? In substance, that is my answer to King Solomon.


The barrier between divine and human things is frail but inviolable; the artist and the bourgeois are only divided by a point of view--"A hair divided the false and true."

I am watching the opalescence of my absinthe, and it leads me to ponder upon a certain very curious mystery, persistent in legend. We may call it the mystery of the rainbow.

Originally in the fantastic but significant legend of the Hebrews, the rainbow is mentioned as the sign of salvation. The world has been purified by water, and was ready for the revelation of Wine. God would never again destroy His work, but ultimately seal its perfection by a baptism of fire.

Now, in this analogue also falls the coat of many colors which was made for Joseph, a legend which was regarded as so important that it was subsequently borrowed for the romance of Jesus. The veil of the Temple, too, was of many colors. We find, further east, that the Manipura Cakkra--the Lotus of the City of Jewels--which is an important centre in Hindu anatomy, and apparently identical with the solar plexus, is the central point of the nervous system of the human body, dividing the sacred from the profane, or the lower from the higher.
In western Mysticism, once more we learn that the middle grade initiation is called Hodos Camelioniis, the Path of the Chameleon. There is here evidently an illusion to this same mystery. We also learn that the middle stage in Alchemy is when the liquor becomes opalescent.

Finally, we note among the visions of the Saints one called the Universal Peacock, in which the totality is perceived thus royally appareled.

Would it were possible to assemble in this place the cohorts of quotation; for indeed they are beautiful with banners, flashing their myriad rays from cothurn and habergeon, gay and gallant in the light of that Sun which knows no fall from Zenith of high noon!

Yet I must needs already have written so much to make clear one pitiful conceit: can it be that in the opalescence of absinthe is some occult link with this mystery of the Rainbow? For undoubtedly one does indefinably and subtly insinuate the drinker in the secret chamber of Beauty, does kindle his thoughts to rapture, adjust his point of view to that of the artists, at least to that degree of which he is originally capable, weave for his fancy a gala dress of stuff as many-colored as the mind of Aphrodite.

Oh Beauty! Long did I love thee, long did I pursue thee, thee elusive, thee intangible! And lo! thou enfoldest me by night and day in the arms of gracious, of luxurious, of shimmering silence.


The Prohibitionist must always be a person of no moral character; for he cannot even conceive of the possibility of a man capable of resisting temptation. Still more, he is so obsessed, like the savage, by the fear of the unknown, that he regards alcohol as a fetish, necessarily alluring and tyrannical.

With this ignorance of human nature goes an ever grosser ignorance of the divine nature. He does not understand that the universe has only one possible purpose; that, the business of life being happily completed by the production of the necessities and luxuries incidental to comfort, the residuum of human energy needs an outlet. The surplus of Will must find issue in the elevation of the individual towards the Godhead; and the method of such elevation is by religion, love, and art. These three things are indissolubly bound up with wine, for they are species of intoxication.

Yet against all these things we find the prohibitionist, logically enough. It is true that he usually pretends to admit religion as a proper pursuit for humanity; but what a religion! He has removed from it every element of ecstasy or even of devotion; in his hands it has become cold, fanatical, cruel, and stupid, a thing merciless and formal, without sympathy or humanity. Love and art he rejects altogether; for him the only meaning of love is a mechanical--hardly even physiological!--process necessary for the perpetuation of the human race. (But why perpetuate it?) Art is for him the parasite and pimp of love. He cannot distinguish between the Apollo Belvedere and the crude bestialities of certain Pompeian frescoes, or between Rabelais and Elenor Glyn.

What then is his ideal of human life? one cannot say. So crass a creature can have no true ideal. There have been ascetic philosophers; but the prohibitionist would be as offended by their doctrine as by ours, which, indeed, are not so dissimilar as appears. Wage-slavery and boredom seem to complete his outlook on the world.
There are species which survive because of the feeling of disgust inspired by them: one is reluctant to set the heel firmly upon them, however thick may be one's boots. But when they are recognized as utterly noxious to humanity--the more so that they ape its form--then courage must be found, or, rather, nausea must be swallowed. May God send us a Saint George!


It is notorious that all genius is accompanied by vice. Almost always this takes the form of sexual extravagance. It is to be observed that deficiency, as in the cases of Carlyle and Ruskin, is to be reckoned as extravagance. At least the word abnormalcy will fit all cases. Farther, we see that in a very large number of great men there has also been indulgence in drink or drugs. There are whole periods when practically every great man has been thus marked, and these periods are those during which the heroic spirit has died out of their nation, and the bourgeois is apparently triumphant.

In this case the cause is evidently the horror of life induced in the artist by the contemplation of his surroundings. He must find another world, no matter at what cost.

Consider the end of the eighteenth century. In France the men of genius are made, so to speak, possible, by the Revolution. In England, under Castlereagh, we find Blake lost to humanity in mysticism, Shelley and Byron exiles, Coleridge taking refuge in opium, Keats sinking under the weight of circumstance, Wordsworth forced to sell his soul, while the enemy, in the persons of Southey and Moore, triumphantly holds sway.
The poetically similar period in France is 1850 to 1870. Hugo is in exile, and all his brethren are given to absinthe or to hashish or to opium.

There is however another consideration more important. There are some men who possess the understanding of the City of God, and know not the keys; or, if they possess them, have not force to turn them in the wards. Such men often seek to win heaven by forged credentials. Just so a youth who desires love is too often deceived by simulacra, embraces Lydia thinking her to be Lalage.

But the greatest men of all suffer neither the limitations of the former class nor the illusions of the latter. Yet we find them equally given to what is apparently indulgence. Lombroso has foolishly sought to find the source of this in madness--as if insanity could scale the peaks of Progress while Reason recoiled from the bergschrund. The explanation is far otherwise. Imagine to yourself the mental state of him who inherits or attains the full consciousness of the artist, that is to say, the divine consciousness.

He finds himself unutterably lonely, and he must steel himself to endure it. All his peers are dead long since! Even if he find an equal upon earth, there can scarcely be companionship, hardly more than the far courtesy of king to king. There are no twin souls in genius.

Good--he can reconcile himself to the scorn of the world. But yet he feels with anguish his duty towards it. It is therefore essential to him to be human.

Now the divine consciousness is not full flowered in youth. The newness of the objective world preoccupies the soul for many years. It is only as each illusion vanishes before the magic of the master that he gains more and more the power to dwell in the world of Reality. And with this comes the terrible temptation--the desire to enter and enjoy rather than remain among men and suffer their illusions. Yet, since the sole purpose of the incarnation of such a Master was to help humanity, they must make the supreme renunciation. It is the problem of the dreadful bridge of Islam, Al Sirak--the razor-edge will cut the unwary foot, yet it must be trodden firmly, or the traveler will fall to the abyss. I dare not sit in the Old Absinthe House forever, wrapped in the ineffable delight of the Beatific Vision. I must write this essay, that men may thereby come at last to understand true things. But the operation of the creative godhead is not enough. Art is itself too near the reality which must be renounced for a season.
Therefore his work is also part of his temptation; the genius feels himself slipping constantly heavenward. The gravitation of eternity draws him. He is like a ship torn by the tempest from the harbor where the master must needs take on new passengers to the Happy Isles. So he must throw out anchors and the only holding is the mire! Thus in order to maintain the equilibrium of sanity, the artist is obliged to seek fellowship with the grossest of mankind. Like Lord Dunsany or Augustus John, today, or like Teniers or old, he may love to sit in taverns where sailors frequent; or he may wander the country with Gypsies, or he may form liaisons with the vilest men and women. Edward Fitzgerald would see an illiterate fisherman and spend weeks in his company. Verlaine made associates of Rimbaud and Bibi la Puree. Shakespeare consorted with the Earls of Pembroke and Southampton. Marlowe was actually killed during a brawl in a low tavern. And when we consider the sex-relation, it is hard to mention a genius who had a wife or mistress of even tolerable good character. If he had one, he would be sure to neglect her for a Vampire or a Shrew. A good woman is too near that heaven of Reality which he is sworn to renounce!

And this, I suppose, is why I am interested in the woman who has come to sit at the nearest table. Let us find out her story; let us try to see with the eyes of her soul!


She is a woman of no more than thirty years of age, though she looks older. She comes here at irregular intervals, once a week or once a month, but when she comes she sits down to get solidly drunk on that alternation of beer and gin which the best authorities in England deem so efficacious.

As to her story, it is simplicity itself. She was kept in luxury for some years by a wealthy cotton broker, crossed to Europe with him, and lived in London and Paris like a Queen. Then she got the idea of "respectability" and "settling down in life"; so she married a man who could keep her in mere comfort. Result: repentance, and a periodical need to forget her sorrows. She is still "respectable"; she never tires of repeating that she is not one of "those girls" but "a married woman living far uptown," and that she "never runs about with men."

It is not the failure of marriage; it is the failure of men to recognize what marriage was ordained to be. By a singular paradox it is the triumph of the bourgeois. Only the hero is capable of marriage as the church understands it; for the marriage oath is a compact of appalling solemnity, an alliance of two souls against the world and against fate, with invocation of the great blessing of the Most High. Death is not the most beautiful of adventures, as Frohman said, for death is unavoidable; marriage is a voluntary heroism. That marriage has today become a matter of convenience is the last word of the commercial spirit. It is as if one should take a vow of knighthood to combat dragons - until the dragons appeared.

So this poor woman, because she did not understand that respectability is a lie, that it is love that makes marriage sacred and not the sanction of church or state, because she took marriage as an asylum instead of as a crusade, has failed in life, and now seeks alcohol under the same fatal error.

Wine is the ripe gladness which accompanies valor and rewards toil; it is the plume on a man's lancehead, a fluttering gallantry--not good to lean upon. Therefore her eyes are glassed with horror as she gazes uncomprehending upon her fate. That which she did all to avoid confronts her: she does not realize that, had she faced it, it would have fled with all the other phantoms. For the sole reality of this universe is God.
The Old Absinthe House is not a place. It is not bounded by four walls. It is headquarters to an army of philosophies. From this dim corner let me range, wafting thought through every air, salient against every problem of mankind: for it will always return like Noah's dove to this ark, this strange little sanctuary of the Green Goddess which has been set down not upon Ararat, but by the banks of the "Father of Waters."


Ah! the Green Goddess! What is the fascination that makes her so adorable and so terrible? Do you know that French sonnet "La legende de l'absinthe?" He must have loved it well, that poet. Here are his witnesses.

Apollon, qui pleurait le trepas d'Hyacinthe,
Ne voulait pas ceder la victoire a la mort.
Il fallait que son ame, adepte de l'essor,
Trouvat pour la beaute une alchemie plus sainte.
Donc de sa main celeste il epuise, il ereinte
Les dons les plus subtils de la divine Flore.
Leurs corps brises souspirent une exhalaison d'or
Dont il nous recueillait la goutte de--l'Absinthe
Aux cavernes blotties, aux palis petillants,
Par un, par deux, buvez ce breuvage d'aimant!
Car c'est un sortilege, un propos de dictame,
Ce vin d'opale pale avortit la misere,
Ouvre de la beaute l'intime sanctuaire
--Ensorcelle mon coeur, extasie mort ame!

What is there in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? The effects of its abuse are totally distinct from those of other stimulants. Even in ruin and in degradation it remains a thing apart: its victims wear a ghastly aureole all their own, and in their peculiar hell yet gloat with a sinister perversion of pride that they are not as other men.
But we are not to reckon up the uses of a thing by contemplating the wreckage of its abuse. We do not curse the sea because of occasional disasters to our marines, or refuse axes to our woodsmen because we sympathize with Charles the First or Louis the Sixteenth. So therefore as special vices and dangers pertinent to absinthe, so also do graces and virtues that adorn no other liquor.

The word is from the Greek apsinthion. It means "undrinkable" or, according to some authorities, "undelightful." In either case, strange paradox! No: for the wormwood draught itself were bitter beyond human endurance; it must be aromatized and mellowed with other herbs.

Chief among these is the gracious Melissa, of which the great Paracelsus thought so highly that he incorporated it as the preparation of his Ens Melissa Vitae, which he expected to be an elixir of life and a cure for all diseases, but which in his hands never came to perfection.

Then also there are added mint, anise, fennel and hyssop, all holy herbs familiar to all from the Treasury of Hebrew Scripture. And there is even the sacred marjoram which renders man both chaste and passionate; the tender green angelica stalks also infused in this most mystic of concoctions; for like the artemisia absinthium itself it is a plant of Diana, and gives the purity and lucidity, with a touch of the madness, of the Moon; and above all there is the Dittany of Crete of which the eastern Sages say that one flower hath more puissance in high magic than all the other gifts of all the gardens of the world. It is as if the first diviner of absinthe had been indeed a magician intent upon a combination of sacred drugs which should cleanse, fortify and perfume the human soul.

And it is no doubt that in the due employment of this liquor such effects are easy to obtain. A single glass seems to render the breathing freer, the spirit lighter, the heart more ardent, soul and mind alike more capable of executing the great task of doing that particular work in the world which the Father may have sent them to perform. Food itself loses its gross qualities in the presence of absinthe and becomes even as manna, operating the sacrament of nutrition without bodily disturbance.

Let then the pilgrim enter reverently the shrine, and drink his absinthe as a stirrup-cup; for in the right conception of this life as an ordeal of chivalry lies the foundation of every perfection of philosophy. "Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God!" applies with singular force to the absintheur. So may he come victorious from the battle of life to be received with tender kisses by some green-robed archangel, and crowned with mystic vervain in the Emerald Gateway of the Golden City of God.


And now the cafe is beginning to fill up. This little room with its dark green woodwork, its boarded ceiling, its sanded floor, its old pictures, its whole air of sympathy with time, is beginning to exert its magic spell. Here comes a curious child, short and sturdy, with a long blonde pigtail, with a jolly little old man who looks as if he had stepped straight out of the pages of Balzac.

Handsome and diminutive, with a fierce mustache almost as big as the rest of him, like a regular little Spanish fighting cock--Frank, the waiter, in his long white apron, struts to them with the glasses of ice-cold pleasure, green as the glaciers themselves. He will stand up bravely with the musicians bye and bye, and sing us a jolly song of old Catalonia.

The door swings open again. A tall dark girl, exquisitely slim and snaky, with masses of black hair knotted about her head, comes in. On her arm is a plump woman with hungry eyes, and a mass of Titian red hair. They seem distracted from the outer world, absorbed in some subject of enthralling interest and they drink their aperitif as if in a dream. I ask the mulatto boy who waits at my table (the sleek and lithe black panther!) who they are; but he knows only that one is a cabaret dancer, the other the owner of a cotton plantation up river. At a round table in the middle of the room sits one of the proprietors with a group of friends; he is burly, rubicund, and jolly, the very type of the Shakespearean "Mine host." Now a party of a dozen merry boys and girls comes in. The old pianist begins to play a dance, and in a moment the whole cafe is caught up in the music of harmonious motion. Yet still the invisible line is drawn about each soul; the dance does not conflict with the absorption of the two strange women, or with my own mood of detachment.

Then there is a "little laughing lewd gamine" dressed all in black save for a square white collar. Her smile is broad and free as the sun and her gaze as clean and wholesome and inspiring. There is the big jolly blonde Irish girl in the black velvet beret and coat, and the white boots, chatting with two boys in khaki from the border. There is the Creole girl in pure white cap-a-pie, with her small piquant face and its round button of a nose, and its curious deep rose flush, and its red little mouth, impudently smiling. Around these islands seems to flow as a general tide the more stable life of the quarter. Here are honest good-wives seriously discussing their affairs, and heaven only knows if it be love or the price of sugar which engages them so wholly. There are but a few commonplace and uninteresting elements in the cafe; and these are without exception men. The giant Big Business is a great tyrant! He seizes all the men for slaves, and leaves the women to make shift as best they can for--all that makes life worth living. Candies and American Beauty Roses are of no use in an emergency. So, even in this most favored corner, there is dearth of the kind of men that women need.

At the table next to me sits an old, old man. He has done great things in his day, they tell me, an engineer, who first found it possible to dig Artesian wells in the Sahara desert. The Legion of Honor glows red in his shabby surtout. He comes here, one of the many wrecks of the Panama Canal, a piece of jetsam cast up by that tidal wave of speculation and corruption. He is of the old type, the thrifty peasantry; and he has his little income from the Rente. He says that he is too old to cross the ocean--and why should he, with the atmosphere of old France to be had a stone's throw from his little apartment in Bourbon Street? It is a curious type of house that one finds in this quarter in New Orleans; meagre without, but within one comes unexpectedly upon great spaces, carved wooden balconies on which the rooms open. So he dreams away his honored days in the Old Absinthe House. His rusty black, with its worn red button, is a noble wear.

Black, by the way, seems almost universal among the women: is it instinctive good taste? At least, it serves to bring up the general level of good looks. Most American women spoil what little beauty they may have by overdressing. Here there is nothing extravagant, nothing vulgar, none of the near-Paris-gown and the lust-off-Bond-Street hat. Nor is there a single dress to which a Quaker could object. There is neither the mediocrity nor the immodesty of the New York woman, who is tailored or millinered on a garish pattern, with the Eternal Chorus Girl as the Ideal--an ideal which she always attains, though (Heaven knows!) in "society" there are few "front row" types.

On the other side of me a splendid stalwart maid, modern in muscle, old only in the subtle and modest fascination of her manner, her face proud, cruel and amorous, shakes her wild tresses of gold in pagan laughter. Her mood is universal as the wind. What can her cavalier be doing to keep her waiting? It is a little mystery which I will not solve for the reader; on the contrary--


Yes, it was my own sweetheart (no! not all the magazines can vulgarize that loveliest of words) who was waiting for me to be done with my musings. She comes in silently and stealthily, preening and purring like a great cat, and sits down, and begins to Enjoy. She know I must never be disturbed until I close my pen. We shall go together to dine at a little Italian restaurant kept by an old navy man, who makes the best ravioli this side of Genoa; then we shall walk the wet and windy streets, rejoicing to feel the warm sub-tropical rain upon our faces. We shall go down to the Mississippi, and watch the lights of the ships, and listen to the tales of travel and adventure of the mariners. There is one tale that moves me greatly; it is like the story of the sentinel of Herculaneum. A cruiser of the U.S. Navy was detailed to Rio de Janeiro. (This was before the days of wireless telegraphy.) The port was in quarantine; the ship had to stand ten miles out to sea. Nevertheless, Yellow Jack managed to come aboard. The men died one by one. There was no way of getting word to Washington; and, as it turned out later, the Navy Department had completely forgotten the existence of the ship. No orders came; the captain stuck to his post for three months. Three months of solitude and death! At last a passing ship was signaled, and the cruiser was moved to happier waters. No doubt the story is a lie; but did that make it less splendid in the telling, as the old scoundrel sat and spat and chewed tobacco? No, we will certainly go down, and ruffle it on the wharves. There is really better fun in life than going to the movies, when you know how to sense Reality.

There is beauty in every incident of life; the true and the false, the wise and the foolish, are all one in the eye that beholds all without passion or prejudice: and the secret appears to lie not in the retirement from the world, but in keeping a part of oneself Vestal, sacred, intact, aloof from that self which makes contact with the external universe. In other words, in a separation of that which is and perceives from that which acts and suffers. And the art of doing this is really the art of being an artist. As a rule, it is a birthright; it may perhaps be attained by prayer and fasting; most surely, it can never be bought.

But if you have it not. This will be the best way to get it--or something like it. Give up your life completely to the task; sit daily for six hours in the Old Absinthe House, and sip the icy opal; endure till all things change insensibly before your eyes, you changing with them; till you become as gods, knowing good and evil, and that they are not two but one.

It may be a long time before the veil lifts; but a moment's experience of the point of view of the artist is worth a myriad martyrdoms. It solves every problem of life and death - which two also are one.
It translates this universe into intelligible terms, relating truly the ego with the non-ego, and recasting the prose of reason in the poetry of soul. Even as the eye of the sculptor beholds his masterpiece already existing in the shapeless mass of marble, needing only the loving kindness of the chisel to cut away the veils of Isis, so you may (perhaps) learn to behold the sum and summit of all grace and glory from this great observatory, the Old Absinthe House of New Orleans.

heinäkuu 17, 2012, 9:40 am

Just as I've come to grips that I did not receive my 50th birthday flight to Paris and bottle of absinthe, you make me weep.

kesäkuu 28, 2013, 10:00 pm

FWIW, the Wormwood Society:


heinäkuu 20, 2013, 4:47 pm

I did my duty to the free market economy and purchased a bottle of Lucid. Looks to be more promising than Absente. On the other hand, for as subpar as Absente was, now I know what to expect from the drinking experience. I've heard tasters refer to Lucid as a kind of "dead center" absinthe -- not too bad but not too good. Looks like a good introduction to the real stuff, not the anise flavor liqueurs and whatnot. I'm quietly reassured by the variety of absinthe and imitation absinthe available at ye olde liquor store. Now if we can just get more people to like Julien Gracq, JK Huysmans, Baudelaire, and other purveyors of Decadent literature ...

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2013, 5:02 pm

I had an absinthe unfamiliar to me last night. It was ... Swiss? Labeled in German, and I don't think it was Czech, although that's what I'd expect. It was on the sweet side, so I dispensed with the sugar cube ritual, but it louched well with cold water. I thought it was very comparable to Lucid.

heinäkuu 22, 2013, 2:37 pm

I have only tried Le Vieux Carre, which was quite nice (Philadelphia, PA). In Virginia, the government regulates liquor sales and does not hire scholars. Our ABC stores have employees who, if they have heard of absinthe at all, maintain that it is illegal and/or hallucinogenic. They do stock Absente, which I have never tried (vrai or faux, it doesn't matter: it contains food colorings, just like the awful pseudo-limoncello they stock).

Thank god for the underground couriers from DC. Anyone have any experience with Kübler?

heinäkuu 22, 2013, 11:04 pm

Not personally, but the Wormwood Society has some reviews:


helmikuu 10, 2014, 1:02 pm

helmikuu 12, 2014, 1:51 pm

Given the literary intent of this website, I'm surprised that there has been no mention of the beautifully illustrated introduction by Barnaby Conrad III -Absinthe: History in a Bottle.

Having sampled a few different brands in the years before my liver was invalided out of the fray - probably no direct connection! - I can attest that I found the experience particularly etherial, although I wasn't gifted with the strange dreams that pursued my drinking partner afterwards.

It's one of those drinks which commands your attention, and which it would be insulting to do more than sip in deep contemplation.

kesäkuu 13, 2014, 5:01 pm

Has anyone ever tried Chartreuse? I'm curious, since it is also a French liqueur made with several aromatics and a high alcohol content. In Brideshead Revisited one of the characters is drinking some Chartreuse and he likens it to "drinking a spectrum."

And what's the difference between absinthe and pastis? They seem really similar.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 13, 2014, 9:57 pm

Funny you asked - I put in a request for a bottle this morning at the local ABC store. If all goes well, I can let you know in a week. Chartreuse is made by monks, herbal. I can recall it being very bitter and potent (It was 1975... and I had quick swig when my pal's dad left the room).

To me, pastis tastes pretty much the same as an absinthe like "Absente". You add the cold water, same as with absinthe. It is less potent (I believe things like Ricard and Pernod are around 80 proof as opposed the the 120+ of absinthe), and a heavier anise flavor. It's sort of a declawed absinthe: less alcohol, likely little or no wormwood.

Speaking of absinthe, I had La Clandestine a month back and it was the only absinthe that made me think I had ingested something other than alcohol. It was strange and not entirely pleasant experience. I had three and it was 10 in the morning, but still.... Love to find a bottle.

kesäkuu 14, 2014, 9:03 am

I've had Chartreuse. I like its mystique, but it's rather sweet for my palate.

kesäkuu 14, 2014, 2:56 pm

27: It's sort of a declawed absinthe: less alcohol, likely little or no wormwood.

I did a little research on pastis and found out it was produced as a reaction to the absinthe craze. Once absinthe was banned, it became a legal substitute.

At the local liquor store in town, I saw that they carried a couple brands of absinthe and a whole mess of "absinthe liqueur." The two brands were Lucid and Sirene. I've tried Lucid and enjoyed it ... at least once I calibrated the correct ration of absinthe to water. The slightest variation in rations can make imbibing the spirit either sublime or ridiculous. Lucid seems like a good baseline absinthe, especially for newbies like myself. Then again, when sampling whiskeys, one doesn't jump immediately to a Balvenie 12 year Double Wood single malt. One has to begin the journey with more rudimentary examplars of the whiskey arts, like your standard utility in-fielder booze of Jack Daniels and Dewars. One needs to experience bottom shelf scotch before relishing aged single malts.

On a similar note, I recently acquired a bottle of Jack Daniels Unaged Rye. Looks very promising. Had a dram and it was surprisingly pleasant. A very fruity nose and no recognizable burn. Which is saying something for an unaged liquor. I may sample some more when reading my Faulkner and Tennessee Williams.

But back to anise flavored pastis and such. In Colombia there is a spirit called Aguardiente (literally "fiery water"). Like pastis, just add ice and it is a perfect drink for the humid mountainous Colombian landscape:


kesäkuu 20, 2014, 11:53 am

This certainly fits my idea of the place better than the the sportsbar television screens they have in there now.


Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2014, 5:04 pm

I can see Lafcadio Hearn hanging out at The Old Absinthe House on Bienville and
Bourbon, if it was around back then, waiting for his black, voodoo priestess.
I can't recall if Hearn ever mentions absinthe, opium, hash, etc.

heinäkuu 18, 2014, 6:51 pm

Purchased some Sirene absinthe at the local booze emporium. Sirene is from a domestic distiller, they are ensconced in Lake Bluff, IL. And much to my surprise, the aforementioned emporium also carried some Chartreuse. Oh well, one indulgence at a time ...

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 2014, 10:15 am

I have been in three states in as many days and nothing but Absente on the shelves. A good excuse not to squander upwards of $60.

heinäkuu 29, 2014, 2:03 pm

That was an old review and current labeling does shout about the inclusion of the herb - but only in the small print do you see the various artificial food colorings listed. Mata Hari is another horrible rip-off.

tammikuu 20, 2015, 7:44 pm

Also recommended: Galliano with water. No sugar necessary, since it is a sweet liqueur.

I still want to try chartreuse. As a dandy said in Brideshead Revisited, it is like "drinking a spectrum."

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 2015, 5:58 pm

If you want the real thing try to get your hands on

Second best is

Third would be

And last but not least

And then of course there are the mass products like


tammikuu 25, 2015, 2:24 pm

Presently I am recuperating from an encounter with a bottle of Kübler last night.

heinäkuu 7, 2015, 4:25 pm

Taking a distillery tour tomorrow. Great Lakes Distillery is one of the newer distilleries in Milwaukee, after the state changed its liquor licensing laws. Of note is that they make 2 varieties of absinthe:


I will have to see how it stacks up against the other brands I've tasted.

heinäkuu 7, 2015, 4:46 pm


heinäkuu 8, 2015, 11:57 am

41: saHa! (???) Not familiar with that term. Is that Klingon or Celt?

heinäkuu 22, 2015, 12:33 am

If Ive been partial to Pastis Prado for a year or so. At $20 for a liter it can't be beat, and it holds up in a Sazerac. On the other hand, I tried La Fee absinthe. Garbage. Green dye and everything.

heinäkuu 22, 2015, 9:07 am

Hm - I thought I had replied to 42: as it was Ramadan, I thought I would offer a seasonal "cheers!".

syyskuu 28, 2015, 3:31 pm


by Ernest Dowson

- from Decorations, (1899)

GREEN changed to white, emerald to an opal: nothing was changed.

The man let the water trickle gently into his glass, and as the green clouded, a mist fell from his mind.

Then he drank opaline.

Memories and terrors beset him. The past tore after him like a panther and through the blackness of the present he saw the luminous tiger eyes of the things to be.

But he drank opaline.

And that obscure night of the soul, and the valley of humiliation, through which he stumbled were forgotten. He saw blue vistas of undiscovered countries, high prospects and a quiet, caressing sea. The past shed its perfume over him, to-day held his hand as it were a little child, and to-morrow shone like a white star: nothing was changed.

He drank opaline.

The man had known the obscure night of the soul, and lay even now in the valley of humiliation; and the tiger menace of the things to be was red in the skies. But for a little while he had forgotten.

Green changed to white, emerald to an opal: nothing was changed.

kesäkuu 22, 2017, 11:15 am

In the hokey fox-chase countryside of Virginia, a state where liquor is controlled by the taste-setters of the Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control, there is this unlikely jewel:


The absinthe is worth the trip.

kesäkuu 23, 2017, 8:24 am

I've wanted to visit for their rum, but heavens!, time to move that trip up.

kesäkuu 23, 2017, 9:36 am

The rum was nice as well (as was the cassis and the vermouth, etc.), and I'm not overly fond of rum.

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