Title: Absinthe: The Exquisite Elixir
Author: Betina J. Wittles and T.A. Breaux
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Book Source: NetGalley
“Take an intimate look into the contemporary world of absinthe. International in scope, Absinthe: The Exquisite Elixir is a visually rich journey into an alluring subculture. Filled with color reproductions of classic and current lithographs, posters, cartoons, as well as photos of antiques, glassware, and other tools of the absinthe drinker, this new and comprehensive guide explains and illustrates the history, culture, and mystique of the drink known as the Green Fairy.
The authors provide insights into the controversy and effects of the Green Fairy through the stories of famous connoisseurs, including Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso. In addition to a rich history, this detailed new guide includes recipes, reviews of existing Absinthe brands, and absinthe’s contemporary culture and ritual. Confirmed absinthe drinkers, neophytes, the curious, and collectors will all find this book equally intriguing and seductive.” – Amazon
I wanted to read this book since I’m studying Herbalism (and there’s herbs in absinthe), and as a certified aromatherapist, I’m always interested in distilling processes (and good absinthe is distilled). Plus I’ve always wanted to try it, and thought reading up on it first would be good to see what might be in store for me if I were to drink it.
This book was laid out perfectly. You begin by getting more acquainted with famous people who imbibed, a lot, not only in absinthe, but other alcohol, drugs, and sex. They were rock ‘n roll cool, before that was even a thing.
The sexism ran rampant in regards to only men being writing about in regards to what they were doing, and the ladies were used in advertisements to sell the absinthe. But that is because of the times, and unfortunately, not a lot has changed in that regard. The other thing that really stood out was that almost all of the men died before they were in their fifties, due to their excessive lifestyles… I’m sure we would have found that to be the case with the ladies too, if history deemed them worthy of being written about.
After being introduced to the people, we get a lot of history about absinthe that was actually very interesting to read about. It was interspersed with photos, paintings and ads, which helped the history to read even smoother. The author shared that in the past absinthe was not set on fire, which is a great thing to know, so you don’t look like an ass and request it this way. It was also interesting, but not surprising, to see it was banned due to what basically comes down to money. The absinthe makers having it, and the winemakers wanting it.
If you are interested in collecting the bar war, there is a good section on the various pieces and the prices they have been known to go for. I really enjoyed seeing pictures of the items, and perhaps if I start drinking absinthe, I’ll look into getting some.
There is also a wonderful section with cocktail recipes and food recipes. It completely makes sense to me that absinthe was marketed as a stomach remedy since the herbs in it are still used today for that purpose. And if you are to look at what food recipes the absinthe is added to you can recognize how this would be bitters added to your food in order to help digestion. That part I really enjoyed, and I don’t usually make recipes out of books, but I might give some of these a try to increase my herbal education.
A bunch of reviews for absinthe are also included, and the way they are written are informative not only for a novice, but someone who has been drinking it for awhile. They are well detailed, and have some great descriptions.
The book ends discussing the various places that had absinthe banned and no longer do. Some of it because of the research and effort that T.A. Breaux has put into the cause. It also takes a look at the future of absinthe and what they hope becomes of it.
What started out as wanting to do more research for my herbal training, led me to discover a rich history of absinthe, not only in the U.S. but around the world. And with all the great reviews of various absinthe included in the book, it has given me more confidence to finally try it.
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