Long before Willard Scott was terrifying small children as the first Ronald McDonald or Tony the Tiger and Spuds MacKenzie, the Green Fairy was luring consumers to indulge in her wares: absinthe. And just like with Happy Meals and Joe Camel, the fuddy duddies freaked out. They freaked out so much, in fact, that true absinthe was illegal in the U.S. until 2008.
This Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the Green Fairy returns to Vom Fass (7314 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-932-5262) to distribute samples as part of Maplewood's annual Let Them Eat Art festival. Such is the way of fairies: The first taste is always free.
In addition to the absinthe, there will be tastings of French red wines, spritzers made with French sparkling wines and Vom Fass liqueurs, absinthe cake and absinthe cookies. The Green Fairy will demonstrate the traditional method of enjoying absinthe by diluting it with water that's trickled over a sugar cube and down through an absinthe spoon. The method causes the bright green absinthe to turn a milky jade.
Customs difficulties delayed Vom Fass owner Anita von Ballmoos from importing absinthe for last year's art walk, but the store now carries three varieties: Absinthe Blanco, a white absinthe made without licorice root; Absinthe 55, with a more herbal flavor but a lighter alcohol content; and Absinthe Libertine, the classic, 72-proof variety. All three contain wormwood, the magic ingredient that panicked the temperance advocates.
Scientists no longer believe that absinthe causes hallucinations -- at least no more than overindulging in any other alcohol -- so the fuddy duddies can calm down. Bring the kids to pose with the fairy, and to enjoy an absinthe-laced treat at home, try von Ballmoos' recipe for absinthe cake.
Absinthe cake Cake 1 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds 1 1/4 cup cake flour 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pistachio or almond meal or 1/2 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1/4 cup whole milk 1/4 cup absinthe 1 orange
Glaze 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup absinthe
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a nine-inch loaf pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a mortar and pestle or spice mill, grind the anise seeds until relatively fine. Whisk together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and anise seeds. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, until they're completely incorporated.
Mix together the milk and absinthe with a few swipes of grated orange zest.
Stir half of the dry ingredients into the beaten butter, then the milk and absinthe mixture.
By hand, stir in the other half of the dry ingredients until just smooth. Smooth the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let cool 30 minutes.
To glaze the cake with absinthe, use a toothpick and poke 50 holes in the cake. In a small bowl, gently stir together the 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup absinthe until just mixed. (You can add a bit of orange zest here if you'd like too.) Be sure not to let the sugar dissolve too much.
Remove the cake from the loaf pan, peel off the parchment paper and set the cake on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.
Spoon the absinthe glaze over the top and sides of the cake, allowing it to soak the top and spill down the sides a bit.