4/26/2008

Absinthiana, Part One

It was four months ago, for New Year's celebrations, that some friends and I partook of some absinthe, a spirit that has only recently been made legal in the United States after nearly 100 years of absinthe-specific prohibition. (For background, I refer you to Wikipedia's characteristically too-long entry on absinthe.) We, meaning I, thought that this would be fun. However, as it turns out, absinthe does not taste good. If you have ever wondered what black licorice would taste like if rendered into a 125-proof alcohol, here is your answer.

We imbibed using the traditional French method, which is to pour a shot of absinthe into a glass and strain a half-cup of ice water over a sugar cube into it. This creates a milky louche that you can see in the photo, releasing odors of some of the essences of herbs that are part of the absinthe distillation process. At least, that's what they say on the label; in reality, it smells like black licorice.



Sadly, this tastes awful. In fact, with a group of 14, we drank less than a quarter of the bottle. And since the bottle cost $66, I was not interested in throwing it away. Hence, this blog post, which includes the fruits of my experimentation with absinthe cocktails.

Absinthe and Coke

I figured that absinthe would mix with Coke. Not sure why I thought this; perhaps I assumed that since licorice is junk food, it would go well with cola. Additionally, absinthe benefits from having something sweet added, and a cup of Coca-Cola has 99 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates.

First off, adding Coke to absinthe produces a similar louche effect as the sugar water. So you have what looks like a glass of cola with an Alka-Seltzer dumped in. Secondly, did I mention that the absinthe is 125 proof? That's 56 percent stronger than Jack Daniel's whiskey, which is what I usually mix with Coke. When you drink Jack straight, you absorb some the alcohol through your tongue and your mouth feels warm. When you drink absinthe straight, your tongue burns. So when you drink Absinthe-and-Coke, your tongue burns and the carbonation prickles unpleasantly.


Coca-Cola, before and after adding 0.75 oz. of absinthe.

It turns out this is all right if you only mix in about a half-shot of absinthe in a full glass of Coke. In that case, the absinthe does not overwhelm the cola, and you won't get too wasted. However, there will also be no hallucinations.

Two stars

Margarabsinthe

Mixing absinthe and triple sec seemed like a good idea, since triple sec is sweet and would therefore counter the absinthe's bitterness. However, again, since absinthe is so strong, mixing tripe sec 1-to-1 with absinthe only weakens the concoction to about 95 proof -- still stronger than just about any spirit you can buy in the United States. And the bitterness is still overwhelming.

So after I sipped my absinthe-triple sec, I threw it into a cocktail shaker with ice and margarita mix. This is not really ideal, since margarita mix is meant to be mixed with tequila alone (i.e., replacing the triple sec or cointreau or whatever liqueur you choose). Furthermore, the bottle of margarita mix I used said "Best Before August 2005" and "Refrigerate After Opening," neither of which had been heeded. Still, I soldiered on. I will find a use for this damn absinthe or I will go blind trying.

This drink was disgusting. It does not bear further comment. I will note, however, that I could not taste the salt on the rim of the glass. I assume this is because the sip of absinthe-triple sec burned up my taste buds. To make sure, I licked salt right off my hand and tasted nothing. I defy you to experience this.

0.5 stars

Orangesinthe

The theory behind this drink is that you can't go wrong mixing spirits with orange juice. Right? Right.

Much like the Absinthe-and-Coke, this drink is OK if you only use a half-dose of absinthe. The licorice flavor is a weird contrast to the sweet orange juice, but their differences do not go so far as to conflict. I suppose to get interesting, you could float a little Sambuca or Galliano on top, since these are anise-based liqueurs just like absinthe. I do not know what this tastes like, because I have not purchased additional booze just for the sake of determining that it does not improve the taste of absinthe.

Two stars

That is really the extent of my experimentation so far. I will take suggestions for future mash-ups; however, it will have to be something that I am likely to have on hand or that I can buy for less than a few bucks. Like ice cream, or toothpaste.

4/18/2008

Any Port In A Storm

Scene 1. A room in an army base outside of Baghdad. Two soldiers, ERIC and MARCEL, play cards at a folding table.

MARCEL
Yeah, I lived all over before I enlisted. Chicago, Atlanta, the Bronx. What about you?

ERIC
Strictly west coast, man. San Francisco, mostly.

MARCEL
Yeah? The Sucker Free City?

ERIC
Uh, nobody really calls it that in real life.

MARCEL
Well, excuse me. Gimme two.

He places two cards face down on the table, and ERIC deals him two more.

MARCEL
So tell me, Mr. West Coast, did you ever do time before you enlisted?

ERIC
Why do you ask?

MARCEL
I don’t know. Something about joining the army and having done time, they seem to go together.

ERIC lays down one card and draws one more.

ERIC
I suppose they do, in some ways, maybe. But you could list a lot of things that "go together" without really drawing a conclusion about somebody.

MARCEL
Yeah, you’re right. Show me yours.

ERIC
Pair of queens.

MARCEL
Man, you screwed me.

ERIC
We gotta get some other people in this game, so there’ll be some real money on the table.

MARCEL
Nah, it’s cool with just the two of us.

An explosion is heard in the distance. ERIC jumps up.

MARCEL
Whoa, cowboy, relax. It’s nothing. That was at least two clicks from here.

ERIC
Yeah, well ... sorry. I know it was far away. I just wasn’t ready for it.

MARCEL
Don’t worry about it. You’ll get used to it.

ERIC sits down again and deals another hand of cards.

ERIC
You know, I did spend a couple months in juvie a few years back.

MARCEL
Ha ha. I knew it.

ERIC
Actually, I kind of spotted you, too. I didn’t want to say anything at first, because people judge, you know.

MARCEL
Yeah, after you’ve spent the night on the floor at Cook County Jail, a cot in Baghdad isn’t so bad. I bet the juvenile facility in Frisco isn’t that great either, huh?

ERIC
Not really. And, uh, nobody really calls it that, either.

MARCEL
Whatever. One card, punk.

Another explosion is heard, closer this time. ERIC turns his head but does not get up.

MARCEL
So you’re like, what, 18 or 19?

ERIC
Nineteen.

MARCEL
You must have looked like a pretty attractive piece of ass to all those hormonal dudes back when you were in juvie.

ERIC
Uh, that wasn’t really—

MARCEL
Cuz I’ve been there, too, and I know the reality. People hear "youth corrections" and they think it’s all a bunch of little kids who got busted for stealing bubble gum or something. They don’t realize there’s guys still in juvenile facilities up to like 25 years old. Guys who don’t get visits from their girlfriends.

ERIC
Well, you know, I was only there for ten weeks. I never, I mean, I got in a fight once, but I always ran away from anyone who was bigger than me.

MARCEL
Uh-huh.

ERIC sets down two cards and takes two more from the deck.

ERIC
There was this one guy, total psycho, he always exposed himself to the female guards. Like, it was a compulsion or something. He didn’t even really seem like he liked doing it. They’d walk by his cell and he’d get all crazy, like, hey!

MARCEL
Doesn’t sound that crazy to me. Stuck in a place like that, just a bunch of dudes, no women. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

ERIC
I guess. It seems kind of desperate.

MARCEL
Desperate times call for desperate measures, you feel me? My cousin was on a sub in the navy, and you should hear some of the things he told me happened while they were out. I mean, he’s not gay, but ...

ERIC
Really?

MARCEL
Oh, yeah! In fact, he told me none of those guys are gay, like, in real life. They all got wives and girlfriends and shit. But, you know, stuff happens.

ERIC
Huh.

A long pause. ERIC studies his hand.

MARCEL
So, you going to show me what you got there, cowboy?

Another explosion is heard, still closer. ERIC does not flinch, but only stares straight ahead at MARCEL.

Edit: So this was a creative response I wrote for class. Not what I usually post on my blog, but I felt like doing something different. Also, this is actually less homoerotic than what I usually write. Go back and re-read my post about the Oakland Police Department and you'll see what I mean.

4/08/2008

Top Five Reasons Not To Update My Blog

5. Playing hard to get.
Mason, you have to write something! I'm so bored at work. I can't get through another day without your pointed wit, your withering dismissal of other human beings, your relentlessly optimistic take on life. Save me, oh, save me ...

Back off, doll. I'm an important guy. I have more important things to do than hold your hand via blogger.com. You're just going to have to get through this on your own. I know you can do it.

4. Too busy coming up with excuses for getting out of jury duty.

"Your honor, Normal Growth Syndrome may sound harmless, but for those of us who suffer day in and day out with NGS, let me assure you that life is no picnic."

3. Spending more time on other intellectual pursuits, such as Facebook.



2. Still trying to find correct keystroke for ñ to cause less embarrassment in Spanish-language chat rooms.

"Dude, why are they all LOLing at me? All I said was, 'Tengo 30 anos.'"

1. Intimidated by the thought of all the mean comments you people always write. So mean!