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Czech absinthe

I recently tried two Czech absinthes and noticed that they louched...that is turned a milky opal white when chilled water was added. According to http://czechabsinthe.wordpress.com there is a Bohemian way of drinking absinthe and a traditional way. The Bohemian way is based upon the use of fire to melt a sugar cube held on a absinthe spoon; the caremalised sugar drips into the drink...tasty. The traditional absinthe drinking ritual is by adding water - sometimes from an absinthe fountain - and letting the drink louche as it releases the herbal oils suspended in the alcohol. This is all quite theatrical and part of the fun of drinking the green fairy.

Any experiences with these two absinthe rituals?

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  1. I have had a number of Czech, German, Swiss and French absinthes, most of whom I acquire through Alandia.

    My favorite, however, is from Switzerland -- their Clandestine La Bleue.

    I love the ritual and always burn my sugar cubes. Adding water is a must...

    1. I've had it both ways... I'm not sure that it's theatrical so much as necessary to make it drinkable... Incidentally, the same can be done with anis (ouzo, anisette, chinchón, etc.) and other herbal types of herbal "fire water".

      1. I agree Butterfly - you cannot drink absinthe neat! The ritual of absinthe drinking is fun though...fire or water with that Sir? I think it depends on your mood :-)

        1. I was in Prague a few years ago and decided to try Absinthe for the first time. The bartender poured the absinthe into a glass, filled a teaspoon full of sugar and dipped some of it into the liquor. He then lit the spoon on fire and waited for the sugar to bubble a bit and turn light brown. At this point the whole spoon was dropped into the glass and stirred. I don't really know how to describe the taste other than gasoline mixed with listorine. There was an herbal characteristic to it, but it also caused my throat to close shut. This stuff was potent. You would think that would be enough to make me stop, but I had a second glass. We had met some women and were partying hard that night. Needless to say, I was a drunk dance machine and most of the night is a blur. I had a great time though.

          1. You young folks (please correct me if I'm wrong there) understand clearly (don't you?) that this burning sugar cube thing is a very recent fad -- from some movie, isn't it? -- unrelated to absinthe traditions. Even those recent absinthe connoissuers I mentioned in the posting below point this out. Tradition example: Raymond Chandler, in "Mandarin's Jade," about 1939, I'm quoting from the original: "It was the kind of room where people sit on floor cushions with their feet on their laps and sip absinthe through lumps of sugar ..." They didn't start playing with matches until very recently. Background info below.


            1 Reply
            1. re: eatzalot

              I don't really know if it's new or not. I've read some history on the drink in the past and found that sugar cubes are typically placed on a special spoon and water is poured over it to disolve the sugar into the drink. The burning of the sugar in Prague seemed kind of showy, but that's how this particular bar served the drink. In any case, I was pretty smashed after two (and several beers). Did not care for the taste, so I don't think it's something I'd seek out again, but never say never.

            2. It may be "new" to us - I just learnt that mad Icelandic popstar Bjork was involved in it's discovery - but the Czechs have been burning sugar for ages. They invented the sweet thing in 1843! There is also a rumour that the fire ritual intensifies the thujone in the wormwood (which may account for Ali G's comments ;-)

              I have tried both ways and find that you get two different drinks from the same bottle. Fine by me :-)

              1. Yes, the custom (in France and Switz., from where the drink became a mainstram vogue internationally) was to place a (flat) sugar cube on the perforated "absinthe spoon" and pour water through it into the liquor in the glass (the liquor was unsweetened, in the original product popularized by Pernod Fils in Pontarlier near the French-Swiss border from 1805 -- Pernod meant absinthe, of course, until the ban). Usually a distinctive stemmed, partly conical cylinder glass. The Old Absinthe House in New Orleans, for example, had drip spigots to provide water to drip on the sugar cubes.

                The glass and, often, spoon appear in artwork and photos of 19th-century France, Many are in Conrad's popular 1988 US absinthe book (mentioned in other postings here) and in 20th-c. popular depictions of the era, including movies. (Some of which the new absinthe hobbyists mention too.) And many mentions in general literature throughout the 20th century.

                No burning sugar cubes in any of that. Burning sugar cubes certainly were around, they have other gastronomic uses, outside the scope of this thread. In the US, popular connection of burning sugar to absinthe is extremely recent. (And it outrages the new absinthe hobbyists and collectors, who go on and on about it, whether or not they know about the rest of what I mentioned here.)

                1. Further to the point about making a different drink by using burning sugar: You can always do that if you like it. You can also add burnt sugar (elsewhere called caramel) to whisky, brandy, etc. Nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is confusing it with the much more standard absinthe tradition of sugar-cube-and-water.

                  The Prague bartender in the story here did something even more eccentric: He served the drink undiluted, if I read right. Absinthe (which began as a patent medicine, like many cordials and bitters of course) was made to be diluted: It traditionally ships at 65 -70% alcohol (130-140 "proof") and was almost always served very diluted with cold water, as a refreshing tall drink. (Generically that drink, with anise-flavored liquor which need not be absinthe, is a "pastis" and is said never better than when drunk in the warm breeze of the Mediterranean.)

                  Finally the Czech republic, like Spain, is known for a variety of absinthe products not all equally faithful or flavorful. It is much easier to make a salable green-colored strong herbal liquor than a quality one. That fact aided the notoriety of absinthe in the 19th century, as shortcut recipes, toxic inorganic coloration, and carelessly produced alcohol made quick profits and also sometimes made people seriously ill.

                  1. Becherovka, from the spa town Karlsbad (now called Karlovy Vary) in the Czech Republic, is one such "patent medicine" from the same period. It was wildly popular at one time too.

                    This may also interest you eatzalot:


                    1. sigh. the burning sugar cube and absinthe thing was invented in Prague in the 1990's. seriously.

                      oh, and there is no such thing as real Czech absinthe. the Czech stuff is always made by maceration (much cheaper)...real absinthe is distilled and doesn't use food coloring.

                      the real stuff can be obtained in Switzerland or from France (the Ted Breaux Jade series).

                      1. "it outrages the new absinthe hobbyists and collectors, who go on and on about it,"
                        eatzalot Feb 17, 2007

                        Yep :-)

                        Re: Czech Absinthe. Nathan07: With all due respect that is just your opinion. Do you know about maceration? It may be cheaper (I do not know) but does it not preserve the herbal constituents better than distillation? Seems logical to me :-)

                        1. except that mine is an educated opinion.

                          there's a reason why Czech absinthe costs $10 a bottle and Eduoard 72 $120 a bottle. one is macerated, one is distilled. one is absinthe, one is not. real absinthe was never macerated. real absinthe never used food coloring.

                          1. oh, and trust me, the difference in the taste is beyond dramatic.

                            all opinions are opinions, this is true. some opinions, however, happen to also be facts. others are not.

                            1. I have to side with Nathan on this one. I have had a number of absinthes (having tasted over 20 of them), from the cheap to the expensive, from the macerated to the distilled. Nathan is 100% correct and I have never tasted a Czech absinthe that can hold a candle to those from Switzerland or France (the best, in my opinion).

                              1. "except that mine is an educated opinion"

                                Thank you for the clarification...:-)

                                "some opinions, however, happen to also be facts. others are not"

                                Really? "the Czech stuff is always made by maceration (much cheaper)" Always...are you sure about that? I do not think you are. Prejudice isn't fact.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bluebeard

                                  I dare you to name one Czech "absinthe" that is distilled. Just one.

                                  (there is one Czech "absinthe" that is considered to be slightly better than the rest...it, however, is still made by maceration)

                                2. I really loved your use of the term "dare"! Reminds me of the schoolyard! How old are you? Do you mean Cami's Tolouse Lautrec Absinthe? That's not distilled according to you, then?

                                  I am here to learn :-)

                                  1. What is your opinion of this?

                                    "Today we have exceptional filtration technology that is able to process the macerate, remove the solid herbs and leave the herbal qualities in place in the alcohol."

                                    Kyle J. Bairnsfather
                                    Sdružení pro výrobu a odbyt likérů s.r.o

                                    "Reality Absinthe can boast that it is handmade from all natural ingredients, with a darker olive-green coloration" (Review)

                                    So no "food colouring"? This according to you is the standard of Czech Absinthe. Could you be wrong? Perish the thought!