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The Fée Verte Absinthe Forum - The Oldest, Largest, Most Authoritative Absinthe Forum. > Absinthe & Absinthiana > The Absinthe Library
L'Assommoir
So “The Mayor of MacDougal Street.” has a few pages telling how Van Ronk tried to bootleg Japanese Absinthe and make a few bucks, in 1958.

The problem was nobody wanted any.

http://www.shaunrichman.org/?p=249

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013…-the-movie.html

https://books.google.com/books?id=bUMPAAAAQ…%22&f=false




Artemis
I like Dave, always have. I was picking "Cocaine Blues" not two days ago. However, if it smells like bullshit, it's more than likely bullshit.

QUOTE
In the collection of anecdotes from NYC’s late-fifties folk scene, Van Ronk tells of some sailor friends who smuggled several dozen cases of absinthe out of Japan on the even (sic) of its prohibition there, hoping to make an underground score back home.


I've never seen a reliable reference to the fact of absinthe being prohibited in Japan. Didn't have to be, because it was almost certainly never a thing in Japan.
Possibly some people bought something on the eve of the U.S. Navy's prohibition of sailors possessing absinthe. I used to know when that happened, but I've forgotten - it may have been in the 50s.
There was, maybe still is, some absinthe-type crap in Japan under the name of Hermes, but it wasn't absinthe, and it's no surprise nobody wanted any.

http://www.feeverte.net/forum/index.php?sh...&#entry9317
Artemis
If the theater of operations had been Spain, the story would have been believable, and the absinthe would have been drinkable.
A few years ago a member here obtained a bottle of Tarragona that had a U.S. Navy stores stamp on it. It was from a Navy mess in Spain, at Rota, in fact. It was from the 50s.
L'Assommoir
The section you put in the quote box does raise a flag. So that does make the whole thing a little suspicious.

A post on FB mentions a Japanese "Morozoff" absinthe. 50's or60's
https://www.facebook.com/groups/absintheoriginals/
(that post led me to this story)

I think this story is plausible, but..?
And if I was going to totally fabricate a story I would choose Spain, or other country.
Yet, if the story is true, I think the tale would have been told before this book was published.



Artemis
Never heard of the Morozof.
I don't think Dave made it up, I just think he was going on memory of something he believed to be true, but he either misremembered some details, or had bought into some outright bullshit in the first place (for example, Japanese prohibition) and was merely ignorant about other details (such as that they had actually obtained absinthe). Ignorance about absinthe in the 1950s in the U.S. was so complete that it's safe to say that almost nobody knew anything about it. There's a very good chance they had something they thought was absinthe, but it wasn't really, especially if it didn't come from Europe.
I read a story about somebody seeing a flyer on the street for guitar lessons in NYC, and the person followed up on it, showed up at the address and was shocked to meet the teacher - Dave Van Ronk. This was well after Dave's heyday; apparently he was just down on his luck and trying to make a living. What a stroke of luck (maybe not for Dave, but ...)!!
I first heard Dave in the early 70s; never lost my appreciation for his amazing talent.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qzPjztRAoY
Artemis
Here's the discussion about the Navy stores bottle of absinthe. I came up with 1972 as the date of the Navy regulation forbidding absinthe to sailors, but where I found that information, I don't remember.

http://www.museeabsinthe.com/forums/index....amp;#entry45137
Artemis
But what the hell do I know?

http://www.ebay.it/itm/Miniature-Extrait-D...F-/191501774911

http://bar-tram-trench.blogspot.com/2011/0...s-absinthe.html

It would seem from the second link that GIs in Japan could have bought Tarragona there in the 50s.
Sorry Dave. RIP. If you were here, you could show me some picking, and I could let you taste something worth tasting.


L'Assommoir
Fuzzy details makes sense. (And the tale is told via the author, Elijah Wald)

And as for absinthe knowledge in the 50's, I think the East Village boho culture would have associated absinthe as an 'old fogey' drink. Something for the grey haired hipsters.
Bruno Rygseck
Hermes was discussed here long ago:

http://www.feeverte.net/forum/index.php?s=…ost&p=97362

I remember Hartsmar posting something about it also elsewhere, maybe later, but could not find it.

Edit: He has a review on his site, absinthe.se under Vintage absinthe (scroll down a bit there).
Artemis
From what I remember of Jack Kerouac's accounts, none of them were exactly liquor connoisseurs. Any cheap red wine was good enough, or more to the point, as good as they could afford.
Artemis
I've removed my comment about Hermes being complete shit because whatever I tasted may not have been the same as what Hartsmar tasted, much less anything older than that (50s).
Hartsmar's review makes it sound like Henri Bardouin pastis - brown, herbal, licoricey.
The website I linked appears to belong to the same person from whom Hartsmar got the stuff.
As noted in the thread that Bruno linked, there was discussion of Hermes here before said thread. Don Walsh had either sought out Hermes in Japan or was already familiar with it - I do remember him talking about it, but like almost all of us, he was of a later generation than Van Ronk and a lot can change in a generation. Those old threads are archived and won't come up using a normal search.
So it appears to be at least possible Van Ronk and his friends had sourced absinthe made in Japan.
Hillbilly
QUOTE
I don't know if there is a possibility of producing absinthe in Japan again.If there is, it would only be high quality absinthe produced by small distilleries.

So say they all.
L'Assommoir
At least this fellow is searching in the right places. (VDT not Prague)_
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/09/0…r/#.VOUkli4mmBc

Now what would a giant like Suntory do? Probably look at what P-R does. I bet the idea of bringing back Hermes has got some table time in the board room.
delirium
QUOTE("Artemis")
From what I remember of Jack Kerouac's accounts, none of them were exactly liquor connoisseurs. Any cheap red wine was good enough, or more to the point, as good as they could afford.


I remember they drank pastis in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (early Kerouac & Burroughs collaboration). Maybe they would have drunk absinthe if it would have been legal, it was notorious enough. Weren't they big fans of Rimbaud?

Artemis
I never read the Hippos. I was thinking of On the Road and Dharma Bums.
Rimbaud, I don't remember him being mentioned either, but I'd be surprised if they were not familiar with him.
Indeed, if they had encountered absinthe, why not try it?
The thing that bothered me about the article was the writer's uncritical acceptance of ALL the details of the story and his lack of diligence - he could have done a little bit of research. Like a lot of people even to this day, he might have been completely ignorant about the stuff and just repeated what he heard, having no reason to disbelieve it.
On one hand, it's hard to blame a writer for not torpedoing his own story before it hits print.
On the other, a headline about a (moderately) well-known artist being an "absinthe bootlegger" sets the bar a little high for what was delivered below, in my opinion.
delirium
Sorry forr off-topic but…

IPB Image

(Wow the pic became smaller.. but you can recognize the framed face behind him.)
Artemis
Is that Jack?

http://www.ameriquests.org/ojs/index.php/a...nload/3887/1923
L'Assommoir
QUOTE(delirium @ Feb 19 2015, 01:43 AM) *

I remember they drank pastis in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (early Kerouac & Burroughs collaboration). Maybe they would have drunk absinthe if it would have been legal, it was notorious enough. Weren't they big fans of Rimbaud?


They (the Beats) were fans of Rimbaud, and that may be why they were drinking pastis. Pastis was probably regarded as a fringe enough drink in the 50's.

The Beats may well have encountered absinthe while abroad. But I don't know of anything written.


delirium
QUOTE("Artemis")
Is that Jack?


Allen.
Absomphe
QUOTE(delirium @ Feb 19 2015, 01:43 AM) *


Maybe they would have drunk absinthe if it would have been legal, it was notorious enough.


I really doubt they would have worried about absinthe's legality, especially when one considers their acknowledged attraction to, say, benzedrine. I'm guessing it was more a case of their unfamiliarity with absinthe.
Artemis
I don't think he meant that they would shy away from something because it was illegal; just that it was not available because it was not legal. Neal Cassady stole most of the cars that he drove in On the Road ....
Absomphe
I tookl classes taught by a couple of professors who were well acquainted with Neal, and they would have absolutely agreed with you. abs-cheers.gif
Artemis
So today I was unclutterizing a cupboard and found a bottle of brandy.
Sugar, Bitter Truth, and Blues Cat were already in the vicinity.
So I mixed up a Sazerac. Very small amount of absinthe, which was of course, NOT sinked.
It had the right color, and smelled very nice. After the addition of cold water to make it less flammatory in the gullet, it tasted like it smelled.
But here's the thing - it didn't smell nor taste any better than fine absinthe does. The bitters added a certain bookay, but you could just put a drop or three of those in the absinthe if that's your thing.
In short, if absinthe doesn't deliver to your mouth, everything that a Sazerac could, you don't have the right absinthe.
Hillbilly
Every time I make one I end up putting a couple small ice cubes in it. Then, usually end up adding more ice and ginger ale as well. I've really tried to enjoy it as prescribed, but, it usually just seems too overwhelming.
G&C
Stir it longer.
The ice is in there for a reason.

And get rid of the GA.
Artemis
I stirred it up good, but I didn't have any ice. I don't drink anything with ice, don't even keep it in the house.
Ginger ale, yeah, that would change it completely.
G&C
I meant it to be stirred with ice then strained off the ice for consumption. The water helps to blend the flavors.
Artemis
I get it. That would work, but very cold water works just as well, and faster. It's too "hot" without one or the other, at least for me.
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