Your Wednesday Anachronism: The Absinthe Spoon


After enjoying enormous popularity for forty years, then being banned for eighty (or so), absinthe seems to be on the cusp of a comeback. Most of my life (okay, that’s really not a long time) I’d heard of it in ominous green whispers, probably a mark of my private Christian schooling and the lasting burdens of the temperance movement. I was quite surprised to find that the French banned this substance (la fée verte!) but the British didn’t. France even now has stricter regulations than the US, a curious thing considering the fact that…well, they’re French. I thought we Americans played the role of Killjoy Flagellants.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about spoons…and these are some very cool spoons. I have a habit of browsing auction catalogues (I suppose other women might look up shoes or purses they can’t afford…well this is it for me) and I’d seen a few absinthe spoons before, but Sothebys and Bonhams etc. in their typical taciturn ways don’t say much beyond “a lot of silver”. Part of the mystery of absinthe must surely lie in the ritual, sort of like how many relish the deliberate steps of a proper tea or espresso. Add some elegant (highly collectible, too) accoutrements and you have a cocktail that transcends trendy.

The original method for taking absinthe (called the French Ritual) used a perforated spoon (as in gorgeous one above–click on it!) laid across the absinthe glass. One placed a cube of sugar on the spoon and slowly, slowly dripped chill water over the sugar until the glass was filled and the sugar dissolved. I don’t know how long that would take, but I can see how it would endear itself to la vie boheme.

This is a rare instance of an old-fashioned habit coming to life again. When was the last time a century-old ritual was revived from the dead? I suppose it has to be made illegal first…

1896 absinthe poster by Privat-Livemont

1896 absinthe poster by Privat-Livemont


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