Once upon a time, while on holiday to Ayia Napa with Ma Hog (of all the places), I came across a cheapo bottle of Russian absinthe. It was just under a litre of clear 55% proof alcohol, and I bought it for seven quid – a bargain, considering there was probably enough there to floor a deck of sailors (and you never know when that might come in handy, eh Ogglers?).
I had grand ideas for this absinthe (flooring sailors excluded) – I could picture myself in a polo neck, taking sips to see inside my soul; penning poems in the style of Kubla Khan; connecting with a whole new level of reality.
In actual fact, on the rare occasions I plucked up the courage to drink it neat, all I got was a burning throat and a headache. Still, I enjoyed my fast-track to drunkenness on the whole, until one miserable evening when I drank five shots before a house party – and felt so sick I was back at home before ten. Never again, I said to myself as I stopped the taxi to vom. Actually, I’m not sure I had the strength to speak or think that clearly, but still, I gave the remainder away as soon as I could.
At that point, I thought my relationship with absinthe was well and truly over. Though I still liked the aniseed taste in theory, my sickening binge had removed all the pleasure, and every time I took a whiff I felt the urge to wretch. Nevertheless, the thought of it continued to appeal…
Fast forward to just a few days ago. It was Man Ma’s birthday, and what should appear in the kitchen but a Seggiano Absinthe Chocolate Cake. I’d seen it around in the shops before, and been drawn to it every time – the only problem was that, after my nasty experience, I was far too afraid to take the plunge.
Now was my chance to test the water.
Lest we forget, Seggiano is the company that sells those awesome White Chocolate Figs I mooned about in March. Specialists in importing ‘the most delicious, genuine and naturally produced Italian regional specialities’ (or so their website tells me), I felt I was probably in safe hands. Still, the question remained: would my bad associations kick in? Would I throw up all over the dinner table?
Thankfully, the answer was no. Far from it. In fact, the cake was delicious: a gorgeous crispy crust underneath which lurked a gooey seam of booze-spiked chocolate. Unlike the filthy 55% proof stomach-stripper I’d bought from Ayia Napa, it soothed my tongue rather than burning it. The best of the flavour was in there too: a definite liquorice kick. Pretty darn exciting, for a cake that looked so plain.
From first bite to last, it was a pleasure. But like its liquid counterpart, probably best consumed in moderation. You heard it here first, folks: five hefty portions of anything is probably going to make you queasy.
Four, on the other hand…