Arts + Culture

Mind–Altering Vacations

by Barbara Cleveland


The buzz: Absinthe's Belle Époque heyday—and its popularity with dissolute artistes such as Baudelaire, Van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde—resulted in a bad-boy rep for hallucinations and bizarre behavior. Suspicions about the drink's potency led to a ban in France for nearly 100 years until its repeal in 2001. The truth is that absinthe won't make you see green fairies or cut off your ear—it just adds an up-tempo booze buzz that makes the world a little brighter.

Where to score: Since the repeal, the anise-flavored beverage has been mixed into overpriced cocktails in models-and-bottles territory. But there's only one way to do it right. Absinthe must be properly "louched"—that is, diluted with a slow drip of ice water, which changes its color and viscosity. An absinthe fountain is the easiest way to louche your drink, so pick one up at Vert d'Absinthe, an absinthe emporium in the City of Light.

Where to chill: The best places to drink absinthe are where it flows freely. Les Caves du Roy in Paris has an enormous selection as well as dark nooks in which to drink yourself silly. But since you can only sample so many kinds of absinthe before you fall flat on your face, try making a weekend of it. Each October, nearly a thousand tourists make the four-hour trek from Paris to Pontarlier in eastern France to attend the Absinthiades, a three-day absinthe booze-fest.

How to come down: With coffee, croissants, and more absinthe, suggests expert Brian Robinson, review editor for the Wormwood Society. If you can't bear that idea, head to the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz. Its namesake was an avid consumer of absinthe back in the Lost Generation days, but the bar's expertly shaken martini will ease you back to equilibrium much more gently.

Next: Ready to continue the bender?

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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