By Jeff Hoyt
I had heard the stories of absinthe causing delusions, but I did not believe them until now. True, I had never imbibed it in such great quantities before. Pernod, the creators of absinthe more than two centuries ago, had invited me out on the town to try the anise-flavored spirit in a number of different ways, and now that I had consumed it in such great quantity, “The Green Fairy” was playing tricks on me. But my hallucinations seemed so vivid: was I dreaming, or was it possible that I was actually riding a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of downtown Los Angeles?
I remember arriving at The Varnish, the small bar with a speakeasy vibe at the back of Cole’s, the oldest restaurant in L.A. General Manager Eric Alperin had set up an old-fashioned absinthe drip fountain—combining water, sugar, and the licorice-like absinthe—and prepared a number of interesting cocktails combining absinthe with other spirits including rye and gin. He explained that only a little absinthe was needed in each cocktail, and that one would be blind drunk before hallucinating. Taking his words to heart, I tried all of his cocktails, including one concocted by Ernest Hemingway called Death in the Afternoon. The writer’s recipe was simple: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” I followed the advice of the literary legend.
I thought dining on Cole’s sandwiches and french fries would help soak up the alcohol, but what was that clip-clop, clip-clop I kept hearing? As I hazily recall, three horse-drawn carriages took my group from 6th Street northwards to First and Hope, the new downtown supper club. Riding by Frank Gehry’s elaborate Walt Disney Concert Hall by horseback was a sobering experience, so under the guidance of mixologist Marcos Tello and Beverage Director Aidan Demarest, I ingested additional absinthe drinks, including more Death in the Afternoon and Doctor Funk, which combined the spirit with rum. In this beautiful new space, I fell under the spell of the 50’s-style singer crooning “Fever,” and felt like I was transported through time. Climbing into the horse-drawn carriage made me feel like I was transported back another century.
We clip-clopped our way to the Edison, which to me has always had an hallucinogenic, other-worldly feel, where we sipped absinthe punch until it was time to mosey on home. I’m not sure when I’ll employ equine transportation through downtown L.A., but plan on being transported by absinthe again soon.
Learn more about Absinthe.
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