Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drinking Lesson:

Absinthe can get you hammered

Marteau is French for "hammer." It's also Gwydion Stone's brand of Absinthe, Stone being the founding member of an association called the Wormwood Society whose purpose is to educate bartenders and drinkers about the magic green distillate. Not an easy task, since competitors (virtually the entire alcoholic beverage industry, not to mention zealous government bureaucrats) are more than eager to demonize absinthe, ascribing to it every evil and unfortunate medical condition known to the planet.

Never mind that real absinthe, properly made, is a thing of beauty, "like drinking an Alpine meadow," as Stone put it last week to a dozen curious imbibers on the penthouse terrace of the Sorrento Hotel. It was the final session of 2012 for the hotel's popular series of monthly "Drinking Lessons," which resume next year on the second Wednesday of every month with two sessions a night in the hotel's elegant Hunt Club bar. Champagne, rare wines, tequila, rye, even dozen classes for $35 each, which includes an opening lecture, drinks, and Hunt Club bites.

Back to the drinking lesson for a sec. To sweeten the absinthe, drip some icewater through a sugar cube suspended on a slotted spoon above the glass. Don't set fire to the sugar! That's a bar trick from eastern Europe designed to camouflage counterfeit absinthe; the real stuff turns milky when water is added. Absinthe used to be cheaper than wine; that's why it was so popular during the Belle Époque, at the end of the 19th century. In its early years, until craft distilleries were legalized in Washington, Stone's Marteau was distilled under contract in Switzerland. Remember, it's a distillate, not an infusion. Now close your eyes and taste the meadow.

Program details and reservations for 2013 are here.

Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., Seattle, 206-622-6400

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