The Absinth Depot is a funky little shop in Berlin that offers over 100 different types of absinth. Stepping into the store felt like being transported into a different time and day, surrounded by old floral wall paper, antique furniture, and dusty, old glass bottles covering every inch of wall space.
Although wormwood, the ingredient in absinth that causes the hallucinations, is illegal– so you won’t find any wormwood in absinth bought in the states– this store sells the real deal, hallucinogens and all. Obviously, the amount of wormwood in the absinth is strictly regulated, so we weren’t about to go crazy and cut off our own ears due to hallucinations, like in the good old days, where wormwood and plenty of other random ingredients were freely added to the drink.
Interestingly, the American restrictions for sale and distribution of absinth require that —
- The product must be thujone-free (thujone is the natural occuring chemical in wormwood blamed for absyinth’s supposed hallucinogenic properties. It also has a similar chemical structure to THC, the active chemical in marijuana)
- The word “absinthe” can neither be the brand name nor stand alone on the label, and
- The packaging cannot “project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic or mind-altering effects.”
Well. All of these rules were broken at the Absinth Depot. Luckily, we are not in America.
No photos were allowed inside, unfortunately, but I did take some photos from outside the main window. (down below)
We went in and saw a customer trying a small shot glass of absinth at the front counter, so we asked to try a few different flavors, hoping to learn a little more about the different types of absinth, wormwood levels, etc.
Well, we weren’t taught much. Instead, the man behind the counter immediately grabbed two large, intimidatingly-green bottles of absinth and poured us each a very hefty drink…not the small shot glass we had seen the previous customer drinking, but a full goblet of absinth.
But when you are poured a drink, you finish it, especially when pretending to be a connoisseur in a fancy absinth shop, so we then struggled to sip our not-so-delicious drinks for over an hour in the store.
How did he make the drink?
He poured the absinth hall-full into a glass, set a cube of sugar onto a special slotted spoon on top of the glass, and then turned on the absinth fountain, which slowly trickled ice-cold water into the cup, melting the sugar as it dripped. This process “louches” the absinth– once the absinth spirit is in contact with water, it develops a certain subtle clouding that will slowly transform the drink’s color from deep emerald to an opalescent light green.
The resulting drink, prepared with this “French Method“, is 1 part absinth, 3-5 parts water. The components of the absinth spirit that have poor water solubility– anise, fennel, and star anise– are what come out during the process to cloud the drink and create the drink’s milky opalescence (“louche“).
The experience was fun and it was interesting to see him go through the ritual of making a drink for us, but I will definitely not be drinking absinth on a day-to-day basis. That stuff is too strong.
I did, however, buy a bottle of a nice, strong, wormwoody one for my guy friends. I’m going to enjoy seeing them try to drink it.
….And now that I think of it, I’m glad U.S. Customs didn’t find that bottle on me! It definitely broke all 3 rules.