If you’re looking for a curious drink to whip out an impress at your next cocktail party then absinth, also known as the green fairy, may be your girl. Half of most people have never heard of it, and the other half of most people believe that it is A) a bizarre green liqueur B) illegal or C) a hallucinogen. So you see how it’s a conversation starter.
I found out about absinth while indulging in one of my distractions and reading a book on poisonous plants, (this interest and my study of forensics has my brother convinced I intend to kill him, he even dreamt about it). You see absinth is flavoured with the wormwood plant, a devious sprig of foliage which apparently sprung up in the tail of the devil as he left the garden of Eden. It was said to be a powerful hallucinogen and regularly knocked back by artistic types including Van Gough and Oscar Wilde, the latter saying he saw a load of tulips all over his trousers after partaking of the beverage.
In truth though, the mind altering effects-beyond drunkenness- of modern absinth are rather up for debate, and it is entirely possible that bartenders of the day were adding their own little something to the artistic patron’s tipple that caused Wilde’s trouser-Chelsea flower show.
So absinth is legal, and is classified as a spirit rather than a liquor, because it isn’t full of sugar. And what’s more, my brother bought me a bottle of it for my 18th, so I can tell you how it tastes.
I drank it with water, as recommended on the bottle, it is just about the highest alcohol volume you can get at 89.9%, so, yeah, you’re gonna to want some water in that. It has an aniseed-like taste, but with floral, earthy notes. If you’ve ever chewed on a bit of real liquorish root it’s a bit like that; perfumed and nice, but not sweet. I liked the taste in theory, but the drinking experience was not quite me. Normally my alcoholic taste is cider; cool, fizzy and refreshing, good for poor students and pig farmers, and about as far away from expensive, artistic, mythological absinth as you can get. I think it will grow on me though, I’ve since learnt that it is acceptable to drink it with sugar, so I might try that.
Anyway, in typical me style, I wondered if you could bake with it. Google mentioned absinth biscotti, but I had to dig a bit for a recipe, I decided just to find a strait biscotti recipe and add absinth.
300g plain flour
50g ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
3 tbsp absinth
Stir all the dry stuff together in a bowl, then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the absinth and bring together into a soft dough. Cling film and chill for about half an hour.
Roll the dough into four fat sausages and lay, two at a time, onto a baking tray. Bake at gas mark 4 for a few mins, until firm and pale, but not brown. Take out and cool, then slice at an angle with a bread knife and cook for another 12 mins, flipping halfway. Remember, biscotti is supposed to be hard and crunchy, good for dunking.
I decided I wanted a little green in them so dusted them with fairy sugar. Put a few tbsp of caster sugar into a jar with a couple of drops of green food colouring (just a little mind, these are sophisticated dunkers, not disco bickies) and a tea spoon of absinth. Shake well and tip onto a tray to dry. Then you can dust your biscotti. Enjoy, and tell me if you see and flowers.