From the Back of the Drawer: The Absinthe Grille


Emily Hallock (This article was first published in October 2012)

Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

This week, we found absinthe “grilles”!

It may seem surprising to call these objects spoons, seeing as there is a decided lack of the classic spoon shape. Technically, these particular absinthe spoons are called ‘grilles’ rather than spoons, but if you ask me, regular absinthe spoons do not invoke the image of a spoon either. Then how, you may ask, did absinthe spoons come to be called spoons at all?

What we have come to recognize as an absinthe spoon was not invented until 1875-1880. Absinthe culture, however, began in the 1840s and 50s. Early consumers used a spoon that closely resembled an iced tea spoon to prepare the perfect glass of absinthe. Often the sugar was added to the drink after the water had been poured or the water was poured over a teaspoon of sugar. When the culture surrounding absinthe began to grow, and more care was taken in preparing absinthe, the slotted spoons we’ve come to recognize were invented.

Although the design of most absinthe spoons has drifted toward the more recognized form, there are still a few lesser known variations. This includes the grille, which is a a three pronged round metal saucer, as well as Les Cuilleres, which resemble iced tea spoons with a perforated sugar holder built into the handle. With the design of absinthe spoons gravitating towards a common purpose, many businesses took advantage of the commonality of this item and stamped them with brand names or logos, using absinthe spoons as advertising paraphernalia. Sometimes even the shape of the spoon was slightly changed to parallel a specific business or event. Such was the case of the Eiffel Tower #7 spoon which was created for the inauguration of the building in 1889.

Due to a recent revival of absinthe culture, antique absinthe spoons can often sell for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. This revival has also spurred an industry for making modern absinthe spoons. Usually modeled on antiques, absinthe spoons today are made into almost jewelry worthy objects, often for display only.

Our rating: Save it. They are collectible, beautiful, and at times practical.
Design: Some are designed for practicality and some are intricately designed for display. Either way these spoons represent a culture of the past and are inherently interesting.
Originality: Excellent! Starting as a spoon and morphing into a strainer/pie server/Eiffel Tower design? Sounds pretty original.
Practicality: Rising. Although absinthe was banned from most countries in the early 1900’s, it is making quite the comeback where it is legal again. Absinthe spoons could be useful if one was to hold an absinthe party, if not, they’re really are unique items to have around the house!

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