The Cocktail: Absinthe
I’m not sure absinthe is considered a cocktail, in fact I know it’s not. Absinthe is a highly alcoholic French spirit distilled from anise, fennel, wormwood, and other botanicals. It’s famously called The Green Fairy for its natural green color and because of its hallucinogenic qualities. Most Americans know absinthe from the movie Eurotrip back in 2004. And like most other things in that movie, absinthe was poorly and inappropriately represented. Absinthe is fancy shit. The reason I chose it for this week is because it looks like poison or potion and in Hamlet, most everyone dies of poison whether it be consume or inserted by sword. Other deaths include hiding behind tapestries and “falling” into a pond and drowning because the love of your life has gone “mad”. We’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk about the proper way to drink absinthe. Now if you don’t have access to the authentic 19th century French drink wear, that’s fine, any plastic cup will do. I will be drinking mine from a Red Solo cup because I am a classy broad. Now, because I have little to no knowledge of my own about absinthe, I brought it the pros. Cheers to learning new things together!
What you’ll need:
- A bottle of your favorite absinthe, of course.
- The Pontarlier glass – named for the French town, home to the first absinthe distillery – is recommended due to the special bubble or “well” reserve at the bottom of the glass which indicates exactly how much absinthe is needed. The well at the bottom of a Pontarlier glass indicates a perfect pour, but absinthe can be enjoyed just as well out of a paper cup if necessary.
- We highly recommend you use a traditional absinthe spoon for your absinthe pour. You’ll see why when we go through the process of the traditional absinthe ritual. However, just as absinthe can be prepared in any kind of cup, so too can it be prepared using any kind of filleted or fork-like utensil. A spork won’t nostalgically transport you to the benches of the Moulin Rouge, but it’ll get the job done.
- A decanter of pure ice cold water (or Absinthe Fountain). The traditional absinthe recipe calls for 3 parts water to 1 part absinthe.
- Sugar cubes. Organic sugar cubes are often recommended as they are less compact and are more easily dissolved in water.
The Basic Absinthe Blend
All you really need to know about serving and enjoying absinthe can be summed up in a fraction, and the ratio will depend on your taste. We recommend three parts water to one part absinthe, so a 30ml (1oz) shot of absinthe will be mixed with 90ml (3oz) of water. However, you can experiment with this recipe and add or subtract water to your taste;. Sugar is a good addition for any absinthe blend, generally one teaspoon per mixed absinthe drink.
Ok I’m taking over again. I did an absinthe tasting once, so I got this. Pour the 1oz of absinthe into your glass. Set your fork or absinthe spoon over the glass and place your sugar cubes on top. Carefully pour your 3oz of ice cold water over the sugar cubes so they may dissolve fall into the the absinthe. The concoction will become milky due to science things and the way herbs react to water. and Tada! Absinthe for your enjoyment! Now sip on that for a while because we’re gonna tackle some Shakespeare.
The Book: Hamlet Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
This weeks selection was random. In fact, I chose it today about an hour ago after I got done shoveling snow. So no reason, I just love Hamlet and here’s hoping you do too.
Shakespeare is on the list of scariest words you can say to a high school student. It’s right up there with SAT prep and college applications. I was introduced to Shakespeare’s work in middle school and like the raging bag of nerd I am, I loved it! So when I got to high school and everyone else shivered at the thought of Romeo and Juliet, I was ready. Most students don’t like reading Shakespeare because he wrote in verse. Not just any verse though. Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter focuses on stressed and unstressed syllables in words. The words are placed in groups so their sound is rhythmic. There’s more to it but it gets really boring really fast. Cut to every highschooler writing tiny letters above lines of Shakespearean sonnets to show they understand the concept of which syllables are long and which are short. Reading iambic pentameter can be difficult because it’s not a style any of us are used to.
Once you get past the style of Shakespeare, it’s probably some of the funniest literature out there. Before we get started I’d like to share some secrets of Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote three major genres of theater: Comedies, Tragedies, and Histories he also wrote 154 sonnets but that’s just because he was a freak. Hamlet is a Tragedy. You can tell because all of Shakespeare’s tragedies are titled for the character who dies or falls from grace. Another tidbit about the man with puffy sleeves; Shakespeare is responsible for inventing many of the words we use today. For example: lackluster, excitement, impartial, lonely, majestic, worthless, grovel, blanket, bloodstained, eyeball, and over 1700 more. So the next time you cringe when you hear Shakespeare, just remember, he’s the reason you say bedroom instead of sleeping chambers. Now! On with the show!
We begin on dark eerie night at Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Two guards and Horatio, a scholar, claim they see the ghost of the recently late King Hamlet. Prince Hamlet’s dad died and the King’s gross brother Claudius inherited the throne and the King’s wife, Gertrude. When Horatio and the guards take Hamlet to see his dead dad, the ghost speaks to Hamlet. Just like Mufasa in the sky, Hamlet’s dad tells him that Claudius killed him and stole the crown! *collective gasp* So Prince Hamlet decides to avenge his father’s murder! And herein starts the madness.
Hamlet is a nice man. He was raised to be a contemplative and thoughtful scholar. Others would describe him as amicable but also brooding like the sexy mysterious, but also sort of weird guy in your poetry 302 class. Because he’s so thoughtful, he has a hard time actually following through with the vengeance his father deserves. In class, I remember thinking ‘just stab him!’ but imagine if your dead father came to you and asked you to kill your uncle. I think we’d all be a little hesitant and concerned about our mental health.
So, of course like any good story there’s a subplot. The asshole Polonius is Lord Chamberlain and doesn’t know when to shut up. One of my favorite quotes in this play is “Brevity is the soul of wit” (2:2) and the best part about the quote is that Polonius says it. Irony at its finest. Well Polonius is convinced that Prince Hamlet is head over heals for his daughter (who was probably like 14) Ophelia. Of course Claudius is giddy with that idea and the two idiots running Denmark decide to spy on their children/nephew. Hamlet decides he will begin to act like a madman in order to throw off those around him. He begins acting crazy and goes into Ophelia’s chambers with his shirt undone and all disheveled. In turn, Ophelia gets all hot and bothered but since she doesn’t know what that feeling is, because she’s a child, she becomes frightened and runs to Polonius. The King and Queen start to worry about the prince.
Hamlet’s favorite group of traveling actors comes to Elsinore and Hamlet asks them to act out scene where one brother poisons the other and takes his crown in a similar way to which Claudius murdered his own brother. Hamlet thinks that if Claudius truly killed his father, Claudius will react to the play and not be able to hide his guilt. Before the night of the big play, Hamlet is roaming the halls brooding and talking to himself. The famous ‘to be, or not to be’ speech is given to the castle floor. Of course,Ophelia finds him in all his madness and she begins to talk of marriage. Hamlet ‘can’t even’ with her so he tells her to “get thee to a nunnery!” Ophelia gets mad that he would say such a thing and leaves.
Just as Hamlet suspected, Claudius panics and leaves the room during the scene of the murder. Hamlet follows him out with all intents to kill him but alas, he finds his uncle praying and apparently if you kill a murderer while they pray, they go to heaven and Hamlet wants his uncle to go to hell so Hamlet leaves. Plan B is to confront his mother. So he seeks her out. During their heated and slightly cryptic conversation, Hamlet hears something behind a hanging tapestry. Thinking it’s the King, Hamlet draws his sword and stabs! Hamlet ends up killing Polonius who was spying on Hamlet in hopes that he loved Ophelia.
Hamlet is promptly sent to England for his crime and in Hamlet’s absence and her father’s death Ophelia goes full on nut case. She makes flower crowns for everyone and then runs out the pond and supposedly falls in and drowns. It is widely believed that Gertrude killed Ophelia. Just before Ophelia dies she and the Queen get into a little tiff and Ophelia insults the Queen. And no one insults Queen Gertrude! Gertrude was also the first to report Ophelia’s death to Laertes, Ophelia’s brother who has come from France to avenge his own father’s death. Gertrude is able to give a great deal of detail about Ophelia’s death. She must have been there, and if she didn’t push Ophelia and then fabricate a story than she witnessed the drowning and did nothing. Either way she’s a terrible person.
While all that’s going on, Hamlet is on a ship with his two friends Rozencrants and Guildenstern who have orders from Claudius to kill Hamlet. So Hamlet devises a plan to return to Denmark and sends Rozencrants and Guildenstern to their own deaths. Upon the announcement of Hamlet’s return, Claudius is shocked and must come up with a new way to kill his kin and blood.
Claudius decides to use Laertes rage and convinces Laertes to challenge Hamlet to a duel, ya know, just for fun! Laertes agrees, but only for sport. Claudius dips Laertes sword in poison so that should his sword all but cut Hamlet, he will die. And just in case he fails twice, Claudius has set a third plan in motion. The King poisons a goblet of hydrating liquids so that if Hamlet gets thirsty, he’ll die.
Claudius is sure he’ll get what he wants this time. But before anyone else should die, Ophelia must be buried. Hamlet returns just as her funeral begins and naturally, he attacks Laertes and claims that he always loved Ophelia. back at the castle, Hamlet rages with anger and indicates that someone will die that night. *collective gasp*. In perfect and misguided timing, a messenger approaches Hamlet to announce the fencing match. Hamlet agrees and prepares to fight.
The fighting begins and Hamlet wins the first round but he refuses to drink from the King’s goblet. Instead, Gertrude decides to take a sip for her son and immediately dies. But the fight must go on so they leave her on the floor. Laertes stabs Hamlet with the poison sword but Hamlet doesn’t die just yet. Laertes is then cut with his own sword and falls to the ground outing the King for putting poison in the goblet. Fighting through the poison, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisonous sword and forces him to drink the rest of the goblet. The King dies. Hamlet dies. But is the play over? No of course not.
Just as Hamlet hits the floor, a man Named Fortinbras enters. He intended to pass through during a military mission for he has news that Rozencrants and Guildenstern are dead. A bit confused as to why everyone is dead, Fortinbras decides he’ll take over Denmark. Horatio tells Fortinbras the story and they give Hamlet the funeral he so deserves. One fit for a King.
# of deaths: 8
Long and confusing, but just as humorous and absurd.