Friday, 18 October 2013

Absinthe Salon, Surry Hills

I and my friend, CC, were greeted from the iron gate by a gentleman in a period costume. With a flourish, we were permitted into the foyer, the air of which was perfumed by the pungent scent of liquorice. A younger gentleman took on the role of escort and led us through heavy black curtains into the salon. Ornately decorated like a French cafe, we could easily imagine how 19th Century artists might have spent their days sipping absinthe and musing about their next work.

Our waiter, Nathaniel, introduced himself with a monocle and accent, providing an overview of what absinthe is, and the rules of the Salon. He told us that absinthe is made out of 3 main ingredients - wormwood, anise and fennel - and dispelled any misconceptions we had about absinthe being a hallucinogenic.

Nathaniel explained that there is a 3 drink limit and that the first drink must be ordered from a selection of absinthe with lower alcohol proof (around 45% - the maximum on the menu was in the area of 70%). I selected the Lemercier, a French absinthe ($15.00 per glass), while CC ordered a Swiss absinthe, the Kubler (also $15.00 per glass).

2-tap fountain

Nathaniel returned with our respective bottles of absinthe and poured around a shot of absinthe into each glass. He explained that, at Absinthe Salon, they use the French ritual. This involves placing a perforated absinthe spoon on top of the glass, putting a cube of sugar on top, and dripping cold water on top of the sugar (which helps to develop the absinthe and balances out the bitterness of the wormwood). As the water drips into the absinthe, the absinthe beings to "louche", or turn cloudy. The taps are turned off once the glass is half full.

Ice and water was added

Absinthe in general has a strong liquorice flavour, although the Lemercier was a lot lighter (and possibly less developed) than the Kubler in both scent and taste. The sugar becomes a little too overpowering towards the end, so CC finished off the little I had left in my glass :) The strength of the liquorice flavour and high alcohol content makes it necessary to nurse the drink slowly over an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

A sugar cube is seated on top of the glass

We were lucky that we had the place to ourselves for a while, as it prolonged the immersive experience - and it is indeed an experience. We shall be back!

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