Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Tabu is no longer taboo

One of the famed Holland Shaker Boys with four varieties of Tabu Absinthe

The Tales of the Cocktail has proven to be a major mid-summer festival these last few days, but I must admit that it is not about bringing tourists to New Orleans. It is all about bringing the right kind of people to New Orleans. These are the fellows who can help report about the normalcy of the city and how it has returned to its former glory. These are the people who make New Orleans the treasured place it is in others' minds. It is through their efforts in the media and through international connections that others will heed the call and make the journey to what Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan refer as "The Land of Cocktails." For a city as renowned as it is for fine food and haute cuisine, New Orleans should also be renowned for spirits. The number of cocktails invented here is impressive. Aside from the well known Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz, there are hundreds of delightful concoctions like the Vieux Carre Cocktail or Orgeat Punch that got their starts here or were so identified with the city that they became institutions of themselves. It has been fascinating seeing how many in the spirits industry have been taken away with the old grandad himself, absinthe. Absinthe has been manufactured in Europe in recent years after being outlawed since the days of World War I. The U.S. outlawed the liquor partially made from Grand Wormwood in 1912 due to faulty information that it brought on insanity and, in some cases, death. Famous for its licorice or anise flavor, absinthe is now manufactured in Europe and about four or five varieties are available in this country since the ban was lifted about a year ago. Chef Andrea Apuzzo of Andrea's Restaurant now uses Lucid Absinthe to coat the glasses of his Sazerac cocktails instead of Herbsaint, which became the most favored substitute for absinthe following its ban in 1912. They are similar, but not the same. Tabu, a German company, manufactures four varieties of absinthe including a 146 proof variety of dark green shade. Others with various levels of anise and all at 110 proof are made in red, yellow and a slightly paler green than its stronger cousin. They are not yet available in this country, but were available at a tasting in the private suite of the Holland Shaker Boys. This famous group of mixologists from Amsterdam includes the three who made the journey to appear at the Tales of the Cocktail on behalf of Sonnema Vodka, distilled in the Netherlands. Besides being very knowlegable, they were all very entertaining and the drinks made with varying degrees and varieties of absinthe were quite tasty and refreshing.

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