With images of Bohemian poets and artists in mind, friends and I ventured to a bar in Sydney’s Surry Hills neighbourhood to experience absinthe, a toxic-looking beverage made with wormwood, fennel and green anise.
Absinthesalon, a Sydney small bar with only this mysterious spirit
on its drinks menu, is one of a kind in Australia. The bar is home to 24 green
and white absinthes of French or Swiss origin (where
the drink was created
in the late 18th Century), ranging from mild to strong (45 to 74% alcohol) –
perfect for both the absinthe enthusiast and the absinthe curious.
from the outside, the interior of Absinthesalon
seems to have travelled back in time, to a small bar in France during La Belle
Epoque period (the late 19th to early 20th Century). Up to 30 guests can be seated at the room's dozen tables, each
adorned with crystal glasses that circle the reproduction absinthe water
fountain at the centre.
A menu lists
the various styles, tastes and alcoholic levels of absinthe, but since it was
our first time, one of the owners, Joop van Heusden, gladly explained the lengthy
process. After being served a measure, we smelled. We placed the decorative absinthe
spoon on top of the glass, a sugar cube on top of that, and let the fountain
drip ice water over it for several minutes. We watched the drink become cloudy
as the cold water reacted with the herbal oils -- a process known as
"louching" -- then smelled the newly aromatic concoction again and
finally, took a sip.
policy is no more than three pours of absinthe in an evening, but the amount of
time it takes to prepare and drink the spirit, along with its high alcohol
content, means the limit is rarely an issue.
was opened as one of the first bars made possible by the
small bars bill which supports
an alternative night culture to bars with poker machines and televised sport,
and is the same bill that
has brought Sydney such unique hangouts as Island
Bar and Tio's
are recommended on weekends.
Schoenman is the Sydney Localite for BBC Travel