“The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.” – Oscar Wilde on drinking absinthe
The Green Muse, El Diablo Verde, the Green Curse of France, whatever you call it absinthe is a force to be reckoned with. This highly alcoholic liquor made of distilled herbs most notably wormwood, green anise, and fennel tastes like black licorice and looks like Scope.
Absinthe enjoyed widespread popularity during France’s Bell Epoque, or Beautiful Era. This was a time when bohemian lifestyle was glamorous and art was becoming more adventurous. Perhaps the absinthe’s effects played a
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901). Monsieur Boileau at the Café, 1893.
part in this revitalization in France’s Social history, perhaps it didn’t. What we do know is no artist or writer during this time went unaffected by the Green Fairy. Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe, Pablo Picasso, and Charles Baudelaire to name a few were enthusiastic absinthe indulgers. In fact, absinthe was so popular that many bars, cabarets, and cafes in France began referring to the 5 o’clock hour as l’heure verte (the green hour). But all good things must come to an end, and by 1915 it was banned in the U.S. and many European countries, including France. The government took it off the market because it was thought the wormwood in absinthe caused people to become insane. We now know that to be a myth, and absinthe is on the comeback.
To celebrate our latest exhibition, Gauguin: Paris, 1889, we are offering our own l’heure verte at the Cleveland Museum of Art on October 30 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Gauguin loved to drink absinthe so we thought it was fitting to offer some to our visitors and say TGIF (Thank Gauguin It’s Friday). Entrance to the event will be $15 for non-members, $10 for members and will include a ticket to the exhibition, snacks, music and a cash bar featuring signature beverages as well as wine and beer
We’ll be preparing absinthe in the traditional way. The first step is to pour the absinthe into a glass; you then place a slotted spoon on top followed by a sugar cube and then finally pour water over the sugar until the absinthe achieves a milky green color. The final step is to enjoy the liquor slowly and try not to let the Green Fairy carry you away.
We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it (or don’t like absinthe) we’re having two more TGIF events. On October 23 there will be a French wine and on November 6 a champagne.