Anise by any other name

A taste of absinthe would go a long way right now. Alas, I’m away from home for a couple of days, and while my gracious hosts have provided me with some tasty stew and crusty garlic bread for dinner, they don’t share my affinity for the green fairy. As a point of fact, I have very few friends or acquaintances who enjoy absinthe at all, a reality which seems all the more strange  to me given how wildly popular absinthe was 100 years ago. Even given humankind’s fickle nature, and the cyclical nature of which types of liquors and liqueurs are popular in any given generation, absinthe has fallen so far that it’s barely on anyone’s radar as anything more than a novelty (and a foul-tasting one at that, if they have been conned into thinking those “strong thujone” fake absinthes are the real thing).

I sometimes think that folks who enjoy Indian food, and particularly a spoonful of mukhwas afterward, are missing out on a great beverage opportunity. Mukhwas is that mixture of anise and fennel seeds, usually coated with sugar or containing some sort of candy-coated bits and perhaps some sesame seeds, which is often offered in a small bowl as you are exiting an Indian restaurant. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure if I liked this exotic and strange substitute for after-dinner mints the first time or two I tried it, but I soon acquired a taste for the pleasantly peppermint-meets-fennel concoction, which is remarkably similar to my learning curve for appreciating absinthe. And just as with absinthe itself, mukhwas is considered to be an aid to digestion and have some health benefits when taken in moderation.

A glass of absinthe, some chicken tikka masala, a cup of milky chai with cardamom, and a spoonful of mukhwas to finish… somebody with culinary skills greater than mine needs to make this happen, and then give me a reservation for two at least once a week. I tip very well!



  1. kissthewookiee said,

    March 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I resemble this post. I thoroughly enjoy Indian food but actually take an extra avoiding step around the table with the bowl of mukhwas, or anything with anise or similar-tasting liquorice; though I do like your baby steps idea, so at the next Sunday Indian buffet I’ll start my regimen of anise… maybe it will lead to an appreciation of absinthe!

    • March 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      It is interesting how our tastes can change over the years. Incidentally, I recently used some Montreal Steak Seasoning as given to me by a friend (thanks Ms. F!), and was surprised to discover that it had fennel seed in it. Ten years ago, I may have wrinkled my nose in distaste, but this time I only cocked my eyebrow in surprise and I have to say, the seasoning was quite tasty. Still, I would never suggest that anyone TRY to develop a taste for absinthe; otherwise, they would blame me for how much lighter their wallet became each time they bought a bottle.

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