But perhaps we do need holes in our heads. If the human need for alcoholic intoxication, pot highs, coke flights, pain killer mini-vacations, and heroin escapes are any indication, we need to carve out those chunks of our brains that make us unhappy—metaphorically at least. I mean, nobody—least of all me—is advocating driving nails into our craniums. (Leave lobotomies to the experts—that’s my motto.) But I believe we should have the right to eliminate those portions of our brains that keep us in emotional squalor, send us into inexplicable crying jags, ruin our days and nights with pointless encounters with drab reality (feh!), and keep us miserable when we could be floating on a cloud of bliss, however temporary. Reality is overrated. Way.
Absinthe provides the perfect solution. It’s an herbal concoction—and nobody objects to herbs these days, judging by what they put in shampoos and organic deodorants—that the makers then improve greatly by storing it in wormwood. Spoilsports of the past, the usual array of fun-busters like temperance leagues and concerned scientists for the welfare of humans and similar groups of misguided meddlers succeeded in outlawing absinthe in the United States, forcing only the most renegade travelers to risk arrest and prosecution by buying it in what used to be known as Czechoslovakia and stuffing it in particularly stinky underwear and bringing in clandestinely through customs.
In 2007 absinthe was finally made legal again to import into the United States, and those of us who had waited for so long to sample the notorious brain-ruining substance were at last free to do so. Some of us wasted no time wasting our brain cells.
Absinthe can be used in cocktails such as the Sazerac, as in the accompanying story chapter, but it also has its own druggy ritual to give it that extra dose of either attraction or mortification, depending on your attraction or opposition to drugs—I’m specifically thinking of crack and heroin here, folks, so this does require taking a potentially very unpopular stand; none of that wishy-washy “grass is okay” bullshit here.
There are two main methods for turning absinthe into a druggy ritual. In the old fashioned method, known as la méthode française, a slotted spoon is placed on a glass in which a certain amount of absinthe has been poured, and a sugar cube is placed on the slotted spoon. You then drip ice water over the sugar cube until the glass contains approximately 1 part absinthe to 3 to 5 parts water. The absinthe clouds as the water mixes with it, just like the greatest drug ever invented, the now-impossible-to-procure-under-any-circumstances paregoric. (Note: If anyone has a source for paregoric, no matter how extra-legal, please find me on the internet and contact me at once!) It’s fussy and fun and you get to play with your drink—you and your absinthe-drinking pals sit hunched over your drinks as though you’re preparing crack balls or highballs or jimcracks or whatever they’re called—all of which lend a highly disreputable quality to the proceedings.
But a newer, even more faux-dangerous ritual has developed among absinthe connoisseurs. La méthode de bohème does la méthode française one better by involving fire. Now we’re really talking crackballs! Theoretically, if you’re not careful, it could blow up in your face; this adds a truly frightening element to the ritual—shades of Richard Pryor. We begin with the same slotted spoon bit, but this time the sugar cube is soaked in Absinthe and set on fire. Before the fire burns out the spoon is flipped over and hopefully the whole glass of Absinthe goes up in flames. You then dump in a bit of water to cloud the drink and extinguish the fire. Unfortunately, as dramatic as this method may be, most of the alcohol is burned away, so I say phooey.
For my money, the best way to enjoy boring a hole in your head with wormwood-based Absinthe is to drink it straight. It’s such a pretty color (the gay take on the subject), and if you get a little morose as one is prone to do having had too much Absinthe, just remember the immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara: tomorrow is another drink.