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Absinthe Salon

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by Lesley Mitchell (subscribe)
Author/lecturer/Intuitive/Natural Therapist/Artist/Soap-Maker/Chef. WEBS: or Also find us under RenascentBathBody or RenascentCollege on eBay, Patreon, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram
Published February 24th 2011
Absinthe Salon is not your typical bar.

The distilled spirit stands out with its notoriously controversial reputation and well-known drinkers such as artist Vincent van Gogh and poet Oscar Wilde.

Tucked away in a discreet corner of Albion Street, the distinctive, almost antiseptic scent of anise greets us when we step in. The decor is tastefully done; black and white rattan chairs juxtaposed with brick walls and black printed wallpaper. The menu boasts a mind-boggling 24 types of absinthe, mainly from France, with a couple from Switzerland and Germany.

Owner Joop van Heusden explains that absinthes can be categorized into three levels- entry, mid and top. The latter usually involves higher alcohol content, with a stronger flavour. "Alcohol carries the herbs," he says.

Distilled with wormwood, green anise and fennel, the controversy surrounding the spirit lies in the wormwood. Thujone, a psychoactive substance is found in wormwood and is present in small and safe quantities in absinthe.

Being novice drinkers of absinthe, we decided to opt for the entry-level. van Heusden brings us our chosen Kübler (53 per cent) and Lemercier (45 per cent) and upon his advice, we proceed to smell it (very much like wine appreciation). Absinthe Salon adheres to the traditional method of preparation which includes placing a sugar cube on a slotted spoon, and allowing ice-cold water from the fountain to drip slowly, dissolving the sugar.

The result is a milky, semi-opaque liquid with pronounced herbal notes. Known as the "louche", the process of mixing water and sugar into absinthe allows essential oils from the herbs to emerge.

Immersed in the surreal ambience of the salon, we sip our absinthe slowly. My Kübler is smooth with a spicy aftertaste while the Lemercier embodies unexpected citrus notes.

Oscar Wilde once said of the effects of absinthe, "The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things."

With a suspiciously hallucinogenic profile and mystical talk of green fairies, Absinthe Salon imparts an interesting experience, almost reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.
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Why? Worth a visit for the novelty.
Where: 87 Albion Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Cost: $13-18 per drink
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