Posted by: Jessie | January 6, 2010

My Absinthe Experience in New Orleans


The Old Absinthe House in New Orleans

So after visiting the Absinthe Museum, we went looking for the Old Absinthe House.  It had been the hang-out of many famous people, including Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Enrico Caruso, General Robert E Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra.  It is still located on Bourbon St.  This was the place that the Absinthe Frappe was invented. 

The original Old Absinthe House bar had decorative marble fountains that were used to drip cool water over sugar cubes into glasses of Absinthe.  It was going to be destroyed at the start of Prohibition.  Fortunately, the bar was moved under cover of darkness to a warehouse on Bourbon street in order to save it. It was returned to the building in 2004, but it is in a different part of the building, in Tony Moran’s restaurant.  The Old Absinthe House bar is now a dumpy little sports bar.  It did not hold the ambiance I expected.

Dumpy sports bar or not, I had to try an Absinthe Frappe in the very room where it was invented.  Eric ordered a Ramos Fizz.  Then a guy sat down at the bar next to me and ordered an Absinthe the traditional way.  The bartender put an absinthe spoon across the top of the glass, put a sugar cube on it, poured absinthe over the sugar cube and set it on fire.  When the sugar cube became bubbly she put it out with enough water to dissolve the sugar cube. 

According to the staff at the Absinthe Museum, this is an abuse of good absinthe.  She even had a t-shirt that said “Friends don’t let friends burn absinthe.”  The staff at the museum said that setting absinthe on fire is not traditional.  She said that the Czechoslovakian habit of setting drinks on fire had contaminated absinthe culture.  But of course, now at the bar, once I saw the pretty flame I wanted one too.  So I finished my Absinthe Frappe and ordered the “Traditional Absinthe.”

After two absinthe drinks,  I suddenly noticed that even though I was drinking the same drink in the same place as many famous historical people, I, myself, was not yet famous.  In the whole hour and a half I had been there I had not written any poetry, books, nor plays.  I had not created any masterpiece paintings, and I still could not sing.  How very disappointing.  I mentioned this to the bartender, and she laughed and told me that I had to drink a lot more of it for a lot longer time.  She wished me luck.

I thanked her and then got up to go to the ladies’ room.  At this point I realized that I was a little wobbly.  I had just had two very powerful drinks and did not feel it in my head, but I did feel it in my body.  Very mysterious.

The original bar from The Old Absinthe House, now located at Tony Moran's Restaurant in another part of the same building.

Original water fountain, (now located in Tony Moran's restaurant) used for dripping water over the sugar cube into the absinthe

The current bar at the Old Absinthe House, now a sports bar

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Responses

  1. I’m really shocked that the Old Absinthe House does the Bohemian (fire) ritual. They should know better. No serious absinthe drinker would even consider this. First, you are burning off the alcohol. But more importantly, this will ruin the flavor of a good absinthe. The Bohemian ritual was invented by the Czechs in the 1990’s. It was NEVER used in the old days. The thing is, Czech absinthe is of such poor quality that you really can’t hurt it. Stick with the traditional ritual of water over the sugar cube – NO FIRE!

    • I was surprised too! Unfortunately the bartender was really not an absinthe drinker, and it really has turned into a sports bar. All the TVs were showing games. (Football, I think.) Everyone there was watching the game. There was sports paraphernalia on the walls. Lots of jerseys and balls, etc. In my last picture you can see the football helmets over the bar. I imagine the type of people who go there regularly are more interested in flaming drinks then they are in history or mystique.


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