I got a bottle of absinthe for my birthday. It’s now legal in the US, but I'd only ever had it once before in a bar. Absinthe is an overly freighted historical/hysterical drink, mostly outlawed during the beginning of the 20th century when prohibition flared around the western world; it’s reputation of burning out your brain evidently stems from the fiendishly high alcohol content (old absinthe’s were often 150 proof), the adulteration, with who knows what, and the excess of wormwood. This stuff, however, is kitten food. True, it’s 110 proof (Scotch, for instance is usually 80) so one should be cautious.
The bottle came with “the works,” a glass and spoon to hold the sugar cube. The works set up on a napkin, crawling with ants, which was also a birthday gift.
It's been decades since I last saw a sugar cube. How do they get them to stick together? We bought a box of them out in Brighton Beach, where we celebrated my birthday. They seem awfully tough; almost impervious even to total immersion. I think they're Russian. Not wimpy decadent Western sugar cube, tovarish! So I now pour the absinthe over the cube, to soften it up, before adding the cold, cold water.
You’re supposed to dilute the fee verte with water dripped through the sugar cube. The ratio recommended on the bottle is twice as much water as spirit. This sweetens the green devil, and the water louches it, making it cloudy (M. Verlaine, old boy, is that you in there?), something you also see with ouzo/raki. There's a modern addition of fire to the boozy cube, found in some pseudo-bars, but this is not authentic. On the other hand, authenticity is over-rated. I've had no hallucinations, alas.
Absinthe makes the heart fondue.