You know the expression forearms is forewarned? Well, master distiller Ted Breaux, the mastermind behind Lucid Absinthe, welcomed us with open arms to answer some questions about the resurgence of the spirit in the United States, the role it played in the 2008 elections, why he's got more in common with Bristol Palin then Al Capone, where Britney Spears failed as a mixologist and how David Mamet never would have covered Belle Epoque Paris in carmelized sugar. After the jump, an interview 95 years in the making.
It's a happy coincidence almost everyone I interview works with what they're named for. I bet you get this all the time, but do you think being Ted Breaux meant you were destined to work with brews?
That’s interesting. It has been suggested that my name is rooted in the German word “brauer” (brewer), but I’m more of a distiller than a brewer. I poured drinks throughout my college days, and while I did view wine and spirits from a chemist’s viewpoint back then, the thought of actually producing a spirit commercially is something that I didn’t consider until after I had studied absinthe for some years.
Well I'm glad you stuck with absinthe instead of spirits, ghosts are the worst. But you don't seem to scare easily or you wouldn't have gone aiding and abetting outlaw fairies in your own country.
Ah, but I didn’t wait for the U.S. I began distilling absinthe commercially in France in the beginning of 2004, after investing nine years of small scale research. I just couldn’t get my own products into my own country until 2007 thanks to my partnership with Viridian Spirits who negotiated the end of the U.S. ban. That was like having an itch one cannot scratch.
I know what you mean, I couldn't imagine Itchy without Scrachy either. And speaking of outlaws, most people think Prohibition began and ended back in the 1930s by the Untouchables, but when Lucid was introduced into the US market last year your slogan was "Prohibition is Finally Over!" and it turns out absinthe was banned long before that movie was ever made. Are you the Al Capone of absinthe? How did Lucid beat the system?
Well, unlike Al, I’ve paid my taxes and we stopped short of resorting to drive-by shootings to make it happen. The Lucid team beat the system simply by challenging the obsolete thinking that supported it. This is just one instance whereby the government is urged evolve its regulatory position as science reveals new facts.
Of course, I am greatly simplifying an expensive, laborious process that went on for over a year,. These days, maybe we could have gotten it done much quicker if we’d have just waltzed into the joint and threatened to hijack their Twitter accounts...
That would be pretty gangster!
The “Green Monster” reminds me of a cocktail I developed shortly after a minor surgical procedure that I coined “Vicapolitan”, but I digress. Genuine absinthe is a distilled concentrate of medicinal herbs that came about in a time when most medicines were herbal preparations. And like herbal bitters, absinthe was originally claimed as a medicinal digestive tonic. In that capacity, I suppose some would say it really works well, and this is one aspect of a quality absinthe. Now, where Britney’s issues are concerned, absinthe is probably contraindicated. For the rest of us, a couple of ounces is usually enough to do the trick.
Cool, you know so much about it! You make it all seem so "lucid!" It's "clear" absinthe education is very important to you. And you're not the only one. In the last few months Bristol Palin has preached absinthe education to make sure teenagers don't make the same mistakes she did in the past. Do you think absinthe education is important for teenagers so they know to wait until they're older and more responsible?
We support teaching “absinthetinence” to teenagers (with appropriate credit to Mr. Stephen Colbert for coining that as his “word” of the day in reference to Lucid in October 2007). And since David Letterman holds a monopoly on the Palin jokes these days, we’ll just emphasize the importance of absinthe education for consumers of all ages and backgrounds. Be advised that there is no shortage of profiteers who aim to exploit consumer misconceptions, especially those of younger persons, for the purpose of misguiding them into purchasing inferior products that are claimed to carry with them the effects of illicit drugs. This sorry state of affairs has existed for years in Europe. It does nothing to serve the interests of the consumer and undermines the credibility of the entire category.
I first learned about absinthe myself as a teenager in art history class. Not to keep referencing The Untouchables, but we were shown David Manet's "The Absinthe Drinker." The teacher explained back in the 1850s if the average drinker set their absinthe on fire all of Paris would have burned down. But last time I checked, absinthe and Paris were both still flammable. So when did this become okay to do? Is this how it fuels the fires of creativity?
The ‘fire ritual’ is purely a recent invention (1990s), and was popularized to distract consumers from the fact that cheap Czech ‘absinth’ doesn’t resemble the absinthe of Manet’s time, and is useless for the traditional preparation ritual. If one would have attempted the fire ritual in Belle Époque France, they would have thought him an idiot. After all, what would one think if an individual walked into a bar and set fire to a glass of Macallan 18 and/or dumped carmelized sugar into it? This bit of theatrics may be amusing, but all it ever did is ruin a good absinthe or aim to disguise a poor one.
Well Lucid fuels my creativity. Keep up the good work going green and keep in touch. Remember "absence" makes the heart grow fonder!
Lucid absinthe is available for $59.99 in store and online at Astor Wines & Spirits.