Czech absinthe is terrible.
There, I said it.
Despite Prague being one of the most popular places in the world to buy and drink absinthe, it’s one of the worst places to do it.
Most bars and restaurants around here have absinthe on the menu, but for god’s sake, don’t get it. Most likely it’ll be served as a shot and possibly lit on fire first (just a show,) and it’ll taste like burned gasoline.
Loads of people come here and say “We’re in Prague, let’s get absinthe!” So they go to the bar, say “Absinthe Please!” and are served a shot of flaming green liquid. They down it, nearly vomit, make a funny face for a few seconds, chase it with a beer, and move on, never to drink absinthe again.
A little Absinthe Background
I won’t get into too much detail here, but a quick overview:
Absinthe, commonly referred to as the “Green Fairy” has both a good and bad reputation. Many people see movies like Eurotrip or From Hell and think if they have a drink they’ll go crazy or start hallucinating. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
While an absinthe drunk is quite different than a “regular” drunk, I wouldn’t recommend getting drunk on it anyway – it ruins the experience. After a glass or three, you start feeling a bit…different. That feeling is often referred to as a “lucid drunk” – you’re clearly not sober, but you don’t feel drunk, you just feel alive and awake and social and friendly. It’s also known to keep people up to unreasonable hours…like me.
Different Types of Absinthe
Now you’ll see the difference between Czech absinthe and…well…real absinthe.
You’ll find this style in mostly French and Swiss Absinthes.
This is the real absinthe. It’s the one you want to drink. The way distilled absinthe is made is with anise and herbs, and when you prepare it (I’ll get into that below,) it “louches”, which means that when mixed with the water, the herbs react to make the drink a pleasant cloudy green or white.
You sip it, like wine. Don’t shoot absinthe unless you’ll just looking to get fucked up fast. It should be a calm, pleasant drink over conversation, yuppie-style, circa 19th century.
This is what you’ll find in Czech Republic
Czech, I love you. You’re one of my favorite places to be, but your absinthe sucks. Sorry.
Often you’ll see this type spelled “absinth” (note the lack of an ‘e’). There is no anise, no herbs, and it’s often just mixed alcohol with flavors, colors, and thujone (that’s the stuff that gives the “absinthe effect”).
It’s terrible. If you come to Prague and say “absinthe please” this is what you’ll get. Then you’ll never try absinthe again.
So what should I do?
If you’re out at a bar, check out the absinthe they’re serving and be sure it’s a Swiss or French brand. A dedicated Absinthe bar such as Absintherie (there are two of them in central Prague) is a bit more expensive but worth the cost for the atmosphere and proper drink. Just be sure to ask for recommendations on a good Swiss or French version and make sure they prepare it the proper way (with a spoon, sugar, and fountain.)
Amer (French), and Butterfly (Swiss). Both of these are great examples of a good starter absinthe.
If you’ve ever tried Absinthe in Prague (or anywhere for that matter) let me know in the comments. If you’ve been to Prague and tried some that made you sick, now you know why.
Give it another shot, eh?