EMILY HALLOCK (this article was published on December 5, 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 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 a Absinthe Fountain!
“After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.” (Oscar Wilde)
Absinthe, which is a distilled, highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit derived from botanicals, has been around in some form since the times of Ancient Egypt. At that time however, wormwood elixirs were used for medical purposes. The first arrival of Absinthe in its current form can be traced back to 18th century Switzerland. Although it was still marketed as a medical remedy, those in the area soon found more recreational purposes for the drink.
Throughout the 1800s, absinthe gained popularity world-wide especially among artists and writers, and designs of absinthiana, or the accoutrements surrounding absinthe and its preparation, became increasingly complex. This increasingly complex absinthe culture gave rise to absinthe fountains such as these. Originally modeled after public water fountains in France, this French Napoleanic style fountain was not initially associated with absinthe but rather was adopted for absinthe fountains due to a common purpose; the dispensing of water. Instead of using a carafe to slowly pour ice cold water into the absinthe, a fountain such as this allowed the bartender or party-goer to turn a knob and perfectly prepare his drink, drop by drop, while socializing simultaneously.
Any absinthe connoisseur will tell you, to achieve complete flavor the proper addition of water to your absinthe is essential. Because of absinthe’s high alcohol concentration, all of the herbs and spices used to produce absinthe are suspended in solution. When water is added, the alcohol concentration is diluted and the herbal oils start to precipitate out of solution. It is these oils that produce the most enjoyable drink. However, the rate at which the water is added has more than a small effect on the end product. How you choose to drip your absinthe is up to you! But remember to please enjoy responsibly
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Design: Perfectly designed for the preparation of Absinthe, while also giving a nod to French Absinthe culture.
Originality: Although the motif is taken directly from water fountains in France, the uniqueness of this artifact is all too apparent.
Practicality: Rising. Although absinthe was banned from most countries in the early 1900s, it is making quite the comeback.