Hearing in paired: Absinthe

Over the span of two months, I’ve dedicated 10 blog posts (including this one) to pairing the first 10 sips of a drink to the perfect 10 songs. Today, this series culminates with 10 sips of the infamous, formerly-banned absinthe and it tastes like ambient music and electronic pulses.

From reading Hemingway, I learned many things, including how to drink absinthe:

     “Have another absinthe. Here, waiter! Another absinthe for this señor.”

     “I feel like hell,” I said.

     “Drink that,” said Bill. “Drink it slow.”

      – Jake and Bill from The Sun Also Rises.

The ‘Green Fairy,’ as it is often referred to, has been a bit of an enigma for me. I knew of it, but I never sought out to taste it. I preferred the romance of keeping it a mystery. Of keeping it as the drink of literary legends and master artists that simultaneously inspires the muse at the price of temporary madness and vivid hallucinations. And of keeping it off of my bar tab, for it could be ridiculously over-priced.

But, inevitably, my absinthe virgin-hood was willingly and consensually sacrificed in Las Vegas, as Oscar Wilde would have wanted it.

The Absinthe Drinker - Pablo Picasso
It’s either The Absinthe Drinker by Picasso or me in Vegas through an Instagram filter.

I could hardly contain my excitement. A drink cart was brought over. A selection was made. A sugar cube was set ablaze. An ice water IV drip loomed over the glass. An internal monologue that sounded like a safety checklist: Remember your room number. Your medical insurance card is in the front pocket of your bag. Think only positive thoughts. No gambling.

By the time I was done with my list, the absinthe had turned into a glowing green milkshake before my very eyes. I picked it up and brought it to my nose and the scent somehow made my ears pop. I should’ve taken than as a warning shot, because that first sip was filled with regret. “Exactly how many black jelly beans were murdered to make this drink?” I thought. But I kept going. I couldn’t stop. And I wasn’t going to stop. Not until I inspired the muse. Not until I saw something out of the ordinary.

I took ten sips. Ten slow, glorious sips. And I didn’t see a single thing. No traces. No melting faces. No bursts of colors.

Good thing too, because it would’ve taken away from my insanely perfect auditory experience. Every beat that laid over every track, was coutured to what I was tasting and feeling.

Here’s the kicker – I can’t remember a single song. But, I can remember staring down at my glass and wondering if in fact the music was making me like the absinthe or if the absinthe was making me like the music. As I finished my drink, I continued to ponder…and so was born the idea of creating this blog series. One that matches 10 sips to 10 songs.

Below, find my pairings for absinthe and you can click on these titles to read any pairings you may have missed: whiskeygin, vodkabeer, tequilawinebrandyaguardiente, and rum.

Sip 1 – Oh Well by Depeche Mode – From my poor recollection of that night, I remember being ridiculously excited about the theatrics involved in making my absinthe. From the unnecessary pyrotechnics involved when a burly man lit my sugar cube on fire to the patient droplets that turned off the flame a few seconds later. I can’t think of a better Depeche Mode song that is equal parts dramatic and ominous to match the first taste of absinthe on my lips.

Sip 2 – Birthday by The Sugarcubes – The second sip took me further down the Willy-Wonka-black-licorice-hole. The flavors exploded like Bjork’s screams.

Sip 3 – Blue Room by The Orb – I think it was at this point when my non-drinking partner suggested not to finish the drink if I didn’t like it. I assured her that my green color was a reflection of the drink on my skin and not my pigment acting out on its own to foreshadow how the night would end. The truth was I had lost control of my facial features and my body was sending out all sorts of warning signals to abort this mission. I imagine my brain overloaded with sounds like the brilliant cacophony in Blue Room.

Sip 4 – La Femme D’Argent by Air – I’m pretty sure it was at this point that things slowed down dramatically. Maybe because the absinthe was in my blood stream. Or maybe because my tongue had gone numb.

Sip 5 – Vienna by Ultravox – Yes, indeed. My tongue was numb. But, like this sweeping and hopeful track, I somehow kept my neurosis in check. Everything was going to be okay, I slurringly repeated in my head.

Sip 6 – The Golden Age by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – I remember laughing and laughing at a story she told. A burst of joy, similar to the big sound of this whimsy track, came over me as I gazed into her eyes.

Sip 7 – Flicker by Porter Robinson – Halfway through and I felt confident that I wasn’t going to be sick and I felt compelled to groove to the music playing, just the way Porter Robinson’s music forces you to sway.

Sip 8 – Born Slippy by Underworld – It was around this time that music came to the forefront of my experience. The music at the bar was amazing and the musings that I mentioned before started happening, as declarative and repetitive as the vocals in Born Slippy.

Sip 9 – Swoon by The Chemical Brothers – As I made it to the last bit of absinthe, I considered a second. I paired the ninth sip to Swoon for its repetitive beat.

Sip 10 – Take California by Propellerheads – The sugar or the absinthe or a combination of both gave me an incredible rush of energy. I was ready for anything and everything, a frequency best matched my this song’s BPM.

Unfortunately, what transpired after this sip is sketchy. So, cheers to the Green Fairy, for a completely forgettable night!

Published by Mari

I was born with a widow's peak and a thick accent. I majored in English as a second language. I work (marianeladearmas.com) and travel (alittlecubangoesalongway.com) and sometimes do both.

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