Absinthe: Sip of Seduction - A Contemporary Guide Paperback – 11 Dec 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
Absinthe: Sip of Seduction gets the balance of facts and fun just right - it features a detailed history of the drink, from its invention to its part in bohemian culture, from villification to contemporary resurgence in popularity. There is a lot of information contained within but it's never made boring.
It's broken up into clear chapters and features recipes and colour photographs and illustrations and is visually one of the better adult non-fiction guides to anything I've seen. I was not a total novice to the drink before I read this book, but it taught me a lot of things I didn't know while reinforcing the things I did. It also dispells a lot of the legends that circulate this mysterious substance. Essentially, it does exaclty what a guide is supposed to do.
The only criticsim I had is that some of the information is a little dated. This is referring to a section in the book featuring some known Absinthe bars throughout the world. I have since visited some of the places mentioned but found they either were no longer stocking Absinthe or have changed names or been turned into a cafe or nightclub. But the pub and bar trade is constantly changing so you can't really fault the book too much.
So basically this is an excellent guide to Absinthe for both beginners and fans. Five stars all round.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While `Sip of Seduction' may not be as erudite as Conrad's work, I would venture to guess that such wasn't Wittel's aim.
`Sip of Seduction,' while serving as an engaging introduction to the fairy, provides information (i.e., culinary delicacies to accompany the ritual, reviews of currently available absinthes, lists of modern suppliers) that other publications on the subject do not. Add to that the myriad engaging reprints of classic absinthe advertisements, related paintings, photography of absinthiana (spoons, fountains, bonques) modern absinthes (and reviews), as well as an enthusiastic and breezy writing style, and you have a book that is a welcome addition to any absintheur's library.
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!
Like a finely crafted Suisse Bleue louched in a crystal swirling glass, this book can be sipped and savored alone or among friends.
For the "uninitiated", there's enough eye candy to draw their attention to this virtually censored chapter of the Belle Epoche age. Everybody I know has heard of Prohibition, but pretty much nobody in my circle ever heard of Absinthe (which was banned in the USA several years before Prohibition). More than one of the people to whom I've shown this book has immediately started Googling for European purveyors of this mystical elixir.
For those already familiar with the Green Fairy, prepare to be transported back to another world through beautiful photographs and recollections of the history and personalities of an era seemingly ancient to our modern imaginations, but that was yet less than 100 years ago. Make sure you have a bottle of your favorite brand poured and louched before delving in.
Having first flown on the wings of la Fee Verte only recently, the only knowledge I had about its lineage was what I was able to piece together on the Internet. Of course, much of what I read concerned the virtues of the various brands purveyed by the sites I visited, but I did find a lot of information about its history and allure in various places. So by the time I first spotted this book on the shelf I had some context and was immediately drawn to browse it.
When I opened it up to a random page I was immediately captivated. Betina Wittels has succeeded in creating in me the same feeling I had when I had my first sip. It was a sense of revelation! In accordance with the title I was immediately seduced. I suddenly discovered I was a compadre of Hemingway, Picasso and Oscar Wilde. I saw a whole category of art devoted to the elixir, and a wealth of paraphernalia I had never imagined.
This book is both informative and concise, perfect for the modern reader. One is not bored with erudition, however the eclectic array of information attests to the author's authoritative stature.
I don't believe anybody has ever considered building a cult around whiskey or gin. But Absinthe definitely has all the trappings of a cult: a sense of the mysterious, a sense of belonging to an elite group, there is the ceremony and the symbols of fire and water used with the sugar and spoon.
I would heartily recommend this book to all those who seek initiation into the Cult of the Green Fairy. For those already under her auspices, it's great to keep on the coffee table for the purpose of evangelizing and making converts.