Absinthe: The Green Hour at Morton's Los Angeles
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Fans of "The Green Fairy" gathered at Morton's downtown on Thursday evening to celebrate the recent legalization of a liquor that was banned in the U.S. and Paris almost one hundred years ago. Pernod Absinthe, the first to commercially distill the liquor back in France in 1805, sponsored the tasting in Morton's private boardroom, where bartenders mixed up three different cocktails including absinthe-tinged Sazeracs and a drink called the Monkey Gland, a combination of gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe.
A traditional absinthe fountain in the center of the room got ample attention, its tall, glass bowl supported by silver fairies, their backs bent under the weight like delicate descendants of Atlas. Ice water flowed from four different faucets over sugar cubes on slotted spoons, balanced over small absinthe glasses, louching the liquor into a cloudy alcoholic milk.
Drinkers took a break from their alcohol-inspired chatter for a brief overview of the spirit's history from a Pernod specialist. Derived from the leaves of the grand wormwood, absinthe was particularly popular amongst artists and writers in Paris and the U.S. but was banned back in 1912 due to a controversy over its potentially psychedelic effects. Recently reintroduced to American culture, absinthe is now legal, however when asked about the authenticity of the liquor, a Morton's bartender expressed skepticism over the actual potency of the legalized product and admits a cocktail typically only contains 1/4 of an ounce of absinthe.
Perhaps it wasn't reminiscent of company kept at The Old Absinthe House, a popular New Orleans joint frequented by Oscar Wilde back in the day, but the crowd was not nearly as stiff as the drinks. A blend of "Green Fairy" virgins, eager to taste the historical, anise-flavored liquor, as well as curious connoisseurs made the event more of an educational tasting than an event for buffs. Waiters circulated the room with elaborate platters of absinthe-laced Oysters Rockefeller, mini hamburgers and crab-stuffed mushrooms.
One drinker, an out-of-towner on spring break from Northern Illinois University, came to L.A. in hopes of getting onto his favorite show, "The Price is Right." After days of failed attempts, he embarked on an absinthe tour of L.A. "I went to the Edison bar last night and actually saw girls dressed up as fairies pushing around carts of absinthe," he said, reaching for a fresh glass from the fountain. Whether or not Morton's tasting provided hallucinatory effects is for the fairies to decide.
Morton's is located at 735 South Figueroa St., Suite 207, Los Angeles, Ca 90017