Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Absinthe, and other Gothy beverages

Source: Tumblr
What is absinthe, and why is it so frequently associated with the Goth subculture? Absinthe is a narcotic drink first made in the 17th century, originally used as a medicinal. It was said to have been enjoyed by many famous artists and writers, including Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde and Baudelaire. Absinthe is also called ‘the green fairy’.

Absinthe is green in colour, smells of liquorice (and has a slightly liquorice-y taste) and has an extremely high alcohol content. The ingredient that made it narcotic was wormwood, which contains the neurotoxin thujone. Modern absinthes do not contain thujone. Other ingredients include the herbs juniper, hyssop, anjelica, anise and fennel, to name but a few.

Drinking absinthe requires more effort than simply unscrewing the bottle cap. A small amount is poured into a glass, then a special perforated absinthe spoon is set over the mouth of the glass. A sugar cube is placed in the 'bowl' of the spoon and water drizzled over it. The water dissolves the sugar into the glass, diluting and sweetening the bitter drink at the same time. Absinthe must be diluted as it can be anything from 75% alcohol upwards.

Absinthe was blamed for acts of violent or criminal behaviour, as well as many deaths. In fact its psychoactive properties have been greatly exaggerated, as it only ever contained thujone in very small quantities and is no more dangerous than any other spirits. However, it was banned in many countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and the United States. It has never been illegal in the UK but only began to be imported from the Czech Republic in the 1990s.

Today the main difficulty with obtaining absinthe is its price - in the UK, a bottle of Hapsburg Absinthe can be ordered from the internet for a mere £37. However since the drink must be greatly diluted, a single bottle would probably last quite a while. I am also informed that you can buy a lesser-quality bottle of absinthe for £16 in Asda, which I shall investigate immediately.

Random note: there is an absinthe bar called Sixtina at the Wave Gotik Treffen, and apparently 'absinthe breakfasts' are very popular amongst the visiting Goths.

The ultimate eldergoth tipple
Snakebite and black, also referred to as jungle juice or diesel, is a mix of lager, cider and blackcurrant squash. Some pubs will not serve snakebite and black as the combination of alcohol and sugar is apparently too much for some people to handle. Snakebite and black is a highly popular drink amongst Goths and even lends its name to a Goth night in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.

Chartreuse is a lesser-known Goth drink, whose popularity in the scene came about due to a mention in a Poppy Z. Brite novel, Lost Souls, where it is the favoured drink of the vampire protagonists. It is a French herbal liqueur which has been made by the Carthusian Monks since the 1740s. There are two types of chartreuse - green and yellow. Yellow has a milder, sweeter flavour than the 'assertive' flavour of the green.

Common Goth drinks
Despite everything one reads about the wonders of absinthe and snakebite, the most popular Goth drinks are (apparently) beer and wine. Red wine is usually favoured, although personally I am very partial to white (ssh!). Cider (flavoured or otherwise) is also very popular amongst the Goth community.

'Goth' beers:
  • Raven Beer
  • Dead Guy Ale
  • Rasputin
  • Gargoyle
  • Fin Du Monde (End of the World)
  • Ephemere (Ephemeral)
  • Maudit (Dammit! - what a seriously great name)
  • Rigor Mortis
  • l'Alchimist
  • Judas
  • La Mort Subite (Sudden Death)
  • La Biere du Demon (The Devil's Beer)
  • Trompe La Mort (Cheat Death)
The 'Real Gothic FAQ' mentions, "Goths always drink lots of vodka and cranberry juice. Also, drink red wine, or beer, or cider. Or you can get fizzy girl drinks, because if you're a real Goth you're probably a pussy anyway. We recommend anything with lots of umbrellas in it."

Thanks to the commentor who pulled me up for forgetting mead. Mead, aka honey wine, is a beverage created by fermenting a mix of honey and water. It may also be flavoured with spices, fruit or hops (which gives it a beer-like flavour). Mead is often the drink of choice at Ren Faires and medieval- or Viking-themed events, all of which are popular amongst a certain Goth crowd. Loupie said, "I don't know many Goths who would turn it down, a Gothy couple I know even used it instead of wine to toast their wedding."

"I don't drink alcohol, will I find it difficult to fit in with other Goths at the club?"
In her Goth Bible, Nancy Kilpatrick states, "A common wail from club owners is, 'Goths don't drink!' This is a subculture not afraid to order a Shirley Temple, or cranberry juice and Perrier."

So, in a word, no. In a subculture where nobody gives a crap about what anyone else thinks of them, there is not exactly going to be anything along the lines of peer pressure, and therefore no pressure to indulge in alcohol should you be teetotal. In short, the other Goths don't really care what you're drinking.

My coffee is black, like my soul...
Remember the Goth kids from South Park? "You can't be Goth if you don't drink coffee," or words to that effect, anyway. I wouldn't say that's true, but drinking coffee whilst reading Faust and looking moody is a highly cliche (read: 'popular') Gothy pasttime. Extra points for threadbare fingerless gloves and a clove cigarette.

As Emilie Autumn says, "I self-medicate with tea"
Tea, by far the most civilised of Gothy drinks, has always been exceptionally popular amongst those who are into Victoriana, neo-Victoriana, Lolita, and who generally like to appear elegant whilst sipping the wonderful brew from a china teacup. How can you host a tea party without tea?

Emilie Autumn, possibly the Queen of Goth Tea Parties, has recently begun selling her very own Asylum Tea, which for now is available on the merch stand at her concerts but will hopefully be available from her website soon.

I never drink... vine
For those who like their beverages with a side of vampire, True Blood currently has the market cornered with their TruBlood drink, mimicking the synthetic blood that well-behaved vampires drink in the Southern Vampire series of novels and the almost-pornographic True Blood TV series. Apparently it is very sweet and tastes of orange, according to a) my friend Rowenna and b) a review I read online. Angela of Lariats and Lavender says that it tastes good with vodka. I will be ordering a crateload for my vampire-themed birthday party (oi! stop laughing!).

Human Blood Caffeinated Energy Potion 'looks and feels like human blood' and comes in a resealable bag, which looks just like a transfusion bag you just pinched from the hospital (you deviant, you). It claims to taste of fruit punch and contains 80mg of caffeine. There is also a Zombie Blood potion available, which also comes in a transfusion bag and has a cheerful biohazard symbol slapped on it. Oh, and it's green and tastes of lime. (I need to find somewhere that ships these to the UK...)
Source: ThinkGeek
If you do drink... vine, Vampire Wine is made by the same people that market the energy drink VAMP at Hot Topic. The bottle comes packed in a rather gorgeous coffin box, and the manufacturer says, "I like to think we offer the beverages of choice for the Goth community."

NOTE: I have updated my Castle Party post because, like a plonker, I had already previously posted the video I used. So, new video! Also, I really must stop posting so many vids... a gothumentary that I posted (Goth Vampire Nation) inconveniently died and I had to delete the post... grrr.
Listening to: Greensward Grey - Cinema Strange


ZendayaRox said...

Thanks so much I love ur Goth guide it really helps for me to be a better goth

Sara said...

I like cider, kriek (Belgian cherry flavoured beer), Bailey's, cocktails, amaretto, batida de coco, malibu, (red) porto, white wine, ..
And coffee, tea and chocolate milk of course. I only started to drink coffe about 6 months ago, actually.
I don't like absint, it tastes gros.

OpiateVampire said...

There's actually a couple brands of Vampire wine out there, I've tried two, and they were both pretty good. Cheap too!
Absinthe here in the US isn't necessarily wormwood free, it just has to be below a certain (very low) level.

Emily Lynn G. said...

Yummy yummy red wine! And nobody loves cranberries or coffee more then me! Thy usually sell those hospital bag blood treats in Hot Topic, I'm afraid I'd look to cliched drinking it. My Jones sodas and Gir Energy drinks will do it for now.

The Green Fairy said...

Hehehe Absinthe <3 I don't always water mine down. Sometimes I shot it straight, or sip it on the rocks. However it also tastes good with apple juice and a pinch of mint.

I never leave the house without an Absinthe spoon ^_^

Also, I'm not an alcoholic, so don't worry :P The majority of the time I can be seen drinking tea. I have like..15 cups a day... >_>

I went to buy some of those zombie potion things, then I remembered I can't because I don't have a credit debit card any more because I was mugged on the weekend >_<

Book marked for later!

Ooo can't wait to see piccies from your party :D

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I once had the blood energy potion. The energy potion seemed to work but the texture was disappointing (make sure to shake well before drinking or else) and the taste was horrendous. However, that does not stop me from drinking them whenever I am gifted with them; which as it seems, is quite often. Oh well, novelties are novelties ;)

Ashlee said...

That Zombie Blood stuff smells really gross. I bought my boyfriend some for his birthday.

Loupie said...

In the UK you can buy cheap bottles of Absinthe for £16 from ASDA, though be warned it is not nearly as nice as the more expensive stuff. Though it does go nicely with lemonade.

Personally I find that I have to dilute not because of the alcohol content but otherwise the flavour of it is just too strong for me, though I do have friends who will drink it neat.

Also you forgot to mention mead, I don't know many goths who would turn it down, a gothy couple I know even used it instead of wine to toast their wedding.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Loupie - really?? Wow, I'm off to Asda then... also, d'oh, I forgot mead. I will go edit now.

Gothararium said...

You can buy the blood bags of both types from hope I helped!

Saphire Rainforest said...

Hey, Amy I know you are in the UK, but can you make a post about Gothy attractions in the U.S.? I'm I'm the DC/MD area, I've been trying to find some alternative shops, gothy clothing stores, book stores hang out spots, events and things like that to go to. I've found a couple of things like an awesome site called The Metro Underground, Goth Prom, and other events. I volunteered at Art festivals, art museums, etc. I'd just like to find some cool daytime things, I'm not much of a clubbed.
OAN: I've seen some male bellydancers on YouTube, and some can do it better than some women or just as good some to check out.
OMG I'm so glad I found this blog, I love it. I check it more than I do my facebook, which is one of my addictions.

Edna-X! said...

Even though I am turning 22 in March I cannot drink alcohol. I am glad to now bear the knowledge of "you can be goth and drink tea"!

Dani DeathBiscuit said...

Tea & Absinthe <3
(Of course not together!)

Absinthe is an amazing drink, I swear... it just lights up the soul [insert poetic crap here]
But honestly, amazing stuff!

I always find myself browsing the internet for Absinthiana!

Anonymous said...

Absinthe! I'm keen to taste it since last year, if I like it then I'll have it again. If I don't like it. I'll more likely not to have it sgain. I'm going to the pub tonight, so I'll try and ask if they have it. :)

Danica FitzHenry said...


I have just stumbled across this site and thought an update might be appreciated. In many countries Absinthe with Wormwood/thujone is now legal and increasing in availability. When the flawed research that was produced and promulgated around the beginning of the 20th century concerning absinthe, "la fée verte" (the green fairy). I imagine that some of it's more controversial, and famous absinthe imbibing figures, such as: Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, and Alfred Jerry, contributed to the ban.

Due to the ban on the use of Wormwood, one of the most famous distillers of Absinthe, Pernod, changed its recipe at that time to remove the thujone but otherwise retaining the taste and strength of the original. So if you have ever drunk Pernod you will have a pretty good idea of what absinthe tastes like, and how strong it is. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that each distillery has its own recipe and guards it assiduously. One thing to watch for if you wish to become an absinthe connoisseur is to find a brand that preforms the full distillation process, including the herbs, rather than substituting essential oils for the herbs. That is a shortcut, usually tastes bitter, and not really true absinthe.

In the late 20th century the absinthe/thujone content research was reviewed and found to be badly flawed and inaccurate. As a result of this, absinthe slowly became legal again in many countries. My personal favorite brand of absinthe comes from a small, fairly new brewery and distillery in Wisconsin USA. On top of excellent absinthe (created from an original historical recipe). offer the traditional "green" absinthe as well as a "red" absinthe which contains hibiscus. I absolutely LOVE their absinthe fountains, and the glasses are designed specifically for it are great as well. No, I have no connection with the company other than buying their products. 😉

One thing I have found to be absolutely fascinating in my research is the conflicting accounts of how absinthe was properly imbibed. If you read about absinthe consumption among say, Toulouse-Lautrec, and his circle they apparently used the traditional absinthe spoons (some of the originals are true works of art in themselves) to hold a burning sugar cube over the alcohol, so that it drips through the spoon into the beverage below. Current thought on the matter seems to contradict this and adhere to the practice of pouring very cold water over ice through a spoon or strainer to give the absinthe its traditional cloudy appearance and dilute it to preference.

However you choose to drink absinthe, find your own taste and go with it. Drink it for pleasure, since that is what makes it a worthwhile beverage.


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