Ode to the Old School: Absinthe Service

It's always green hour somewhere.

August 6, 2015 ● 2 min read

Shouting out the campiest, ceremony-iest, pain-in-the-can-unless-you’re-watching-it-iest mainstays of old-school food and drink service—every week. Kicking it off with the hallucinogen that (probably) wasn’t: absinthe.

At Faith & Flower in DTLA, bar director Edwin Osegueda pours Pernod absinthe two ways: on fire, or with the help of a fountain. The flames are hard to pass up (the cocktail is called The Leap of Faith, and involves root beer), but at the end of the epoch, you know it’s all about that classy bubbler.

I love the fountain. I love what it does to the absinthe—it just adds water, and a little sweetness—and makes it more of a social thing. You drop a little bit of water, drop by drop by drop, along with the sugar, and you sit around and talk while you wait for it to be ready. In France, they call it the “green hour.”

L'heure verte is the undisputed predecessor of our cherished happy hour here in the States, one of many reasons to bow down to the subtle brilliance of essentially tapping a water jug with some fly hardware and calling it a day. 
We’re all about not screwing up a good thing, and for absinthe, that means the French method: a small measure of absinthe poured into a glass, with a single sugar cube perched above it on a slotted spoon. A few drips (or a bunch, your call) of ice water evenly distributes the sugar into the glass, until the absinthe is diluted to preference. This insanely luxurious and very slothy European process is referred to as louching, which stems from a fancy-ass French word for opaque; it makes sense once the absinthe begins to adjust to the water intake, kicking off swirling clouds in the glass. The absinthe fountain itself only came about as a result of the drink’s raging popularity in 19th century Paris, as a bit of a lazy man’s hack: spigots control the water drip while you watch. No more sweating over a carafe like a damn fool! The quiet ceremony of it still appeals to a modern bar crowd, and rightly so. It quite literally forces you to slow the heck down. 

Keeping the fountain around is extremely important to me. I’m a big fan of getting to the root of things, getting to the source of something. Knowing that absinthe came from France, or Switzerland, originally, I think it’s important to appreciate the way they do things. We should respect the way it was first done. It keeps it alive. If you’re claiming to do something the “right” way, you have to first define what's right, and then prove it. I think this industry revolves around that—it’s important to look back.

Is it a tradition worth keeping around? Spigot talk is real talk—does the process improve the drink?