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"People come in here all the time asking questions
about absinthe," said Mike, the dark-haired, black-clad bartender.
"They want to know -- 'Is it legal?' 'Does it really make you
go crazy?' "
"Wait, it makes you go crazy?" I asked. (Besides, after a certain
amount, doesn't all liquor?)
"People think that drinking absinthe caused Vincent van Gogh to cut
off his own ear, but that's all myth," Mike said exasperatedly.
"Do an internet search." (A later Google search revealed that
absinthe was indeed thought to have psychotropic effects.)
"But is it really made out of trees?" I pried.
"No -- it's wormwood, and the process to make it is very
specific," he said.
"So... it's not illegal?"
According to Mike, absinthe has been legal in Florida for seven years.
It's prepared by a superspecial method that uses sugar and oddly
shaped spoons, the sort of which were artistically arranged in a giant
frame on one of Absinthe Lounge's cream-yellow walls. Jazzy, wordless
music played sweetly through the bar, which seemed to attract mostly
young and attractive businessmen, travelers, and retired couples.
Wispy red curtains hung from large windows; bottles of booze sat
gleaming on glass shelves; comfy armchairs were gathered around small
round tables. An old absinthe poster hung at the far right, depicting
a flame-haired lady carrying a long, elegant, green glass.
"My dad made me wear a skirt all the time," a beautiful blond at
the end of the bar, who was wearing her sunglasses indoors and mostly
complaining about her own kids, was saying loudly.
"My parents hated my music," Mike commiserated. "I'm glad I
didn't have any kids."
"Have you ever seen that show Teen Mom?" she asked.
"That's disgusting," interjected a lady wearing glasses and a
striped shirt, leaning over her balding husband.
"It could always be worse," said the blond.
Before the judgmental old folks and hot, disgruntled housewives got to
me, I turned to the cocktail menu.
The Key Lime Pie martini, Sex in the City, and Rum Punch all looked
"What's your most popular drink?" I called over to Mike.
"Our pomegranate and peach pomegranate martinis do well," he said.
"I tell people they're healthy since they have pomegranate, which
"That's a stretch."
Mike also relayed that they have different seasonal cocktails (like
the "French Kiss" in February and a candy-cane martini in the
winter). He held up a container of sprinkles from somewhere under the
bar and shook it vigorously. "Once we even had a birthday-cake
martini. Sprinkles on the rim."
"But what about the absinthe?" I asked.
"Oh, it's expensive, but people are curious," said Mike. "They
come in all the time wanting to try it."
"And what does it taste like?" I asked.
"Like licorice," he said. "Very, very strong licorice. Most
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people don't like it."
But guess what? I learned that I do.
And I even still have both my ears. Bottoms up!