This book is truly a delight to own for both the modern day absinthe connoisseur or those merely interested in late 17th-18th century styles and trends. "Absinthe: Sip of Seduction" by Betina J. Wittels was edited by leading American Absinthe scholar, T.A. Breaux.
One of the greatest aspects about this book is the fact that it has a number of beautiful pictures concerning Absinthe. From early pictures and posters to modern day Absinthe shots, this book has it all. Most impressive are full or near-full page shots of 18th century Absinthe posters and paintings, many of which are designed by some of the most famous names in history.
Perhaps second to the art and yet of great value to those interested in Absinthe is how the book discusses both the history of the drink as well as how it is now. While the mysterious drink's history is perhaps better detailed in Barnaby Conrad III's "Absinthe: History in a Bottle," Wittels offers the drinks history in a compact, reader friendly fashion that's both full of information as well as a pleasure to read.
Unlike historical works (such as "History in a Bottle"), "Sip of Seduction" manages to cut through a lot of bland history and present us with information regarding modern day absinthe drinkers. From a decent listing of some of the more famous brands of Absinthe to places in Europe the reader can find Absinthe collectibles and actually buy Absinthe legally across the globe, Wittels does well to call her book a "contemporary guide." Whether or not you plan on using the contemporary information found within the text to find a bar in Europe or simply want it as a reference, the information found within is well worth the read.
There are two aspects of the book which are slightly disappointing. Absinthe enthusiasts would have liked a lot more coverage of the blown out of proportion chemical compound known as Thujone (a compound which was rumored to cause madness mainly to further the goals of the Prohibition). This book very quickly covers the topic in a small section entitled, "Thujone, Madness or Myth?" in which it concludes, based on a 1960s study, that one would need to consume quite a bit of Absinthe (far more than is humanly tolerable given the high alcohol content typically found in most Absinthes) in order to feel any ill side effects of Thujone, should any exist.
This topic of Thujone is discussed more properly online via Absinthe forums, websites, and retailer websites. However this topic is also mentioned quite nicely in "Absinthe: A Myth Always Green" by Benoit Noel - this last reference is terrific, highly recommended, contains a lot information that "Sip of Seduction" should have had as well as more contemporary nods to Absinthe (Amazon France, Amazon.fr, has the book to buy). The sections of importance regarding Thujone in "A Myth Always Green" are, "T.A. Breaux: Interview with a Chemist" and Ian Hutton's piece on "Absinthe - Separating Myth from Reality" which can be found online.
The other aspect of "Sip of Seduction" which was slightly important was that it tried too hard to provide an unbiased listing of different brands of modern Absinthe. Much better lists with reviews exist online and yet it would have been kinder to quality Absinthe producers to include a few reviews for each of the mentioned products (after all, there are brands of modern Absinthe almost all connoisseurs would agree are horrible). "A Myth Always Green" tackles this by expanding the list considerably.
Despite some obvious shortcomings, "Absinthe: Sip of Seduction" is a must own for anyone remotely interested in the subject! Despite having a very soft cover my copy has lasted through quite a bit, the construction as well is simply quite beautiful. A must buy!