Oscar Wilde once said “a glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world.” It’s getting your hands on it that’s the problem.
Outlawed in much of the world, its heady affects so maligned that it was banned in 1915 in the United States and much of Europe, it’s now having a come-back.
So news that Oxford’s first absinthe bar The Parlour is open in the basement of Lynrace in Jericho is an exciting development.
And you can relax because it’s since been proved that absinthe’s supposedly ‘hallucinatory’ affects have been exaggerated and it’s no more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
The brainchild of Paul Southouse, the Oxford architect who opened Lynrace cocktail bar on Walton Street last year, and its sister premises Popina over the road which specialises win wine and charcuterie, it’s a welcome addition to Oxford’s cocktail scene.
But an absinthe bar had always been Paul’s intention, and having opened The Parlour last weekend, complete with absinthe fountains, it’s already a great success.
The absinthe cocktail menu isn’t available for another few weeks, in the meantime an appreciative crowd can enjoy the dimly lit, louche late night space on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It means we can accommodate bigger groups and larger tables. We don’t like turning anyone away and there is always a waiting list for our tables at the weekend,” Paul says.
So what was his vision for The Parlour?: “We loved the decay of the arch outside, so I sat down and did a sketch three weeks ago.
“Essentially the space needed to be authentic and old, so we revealed the beams in the ceiling, put down a hard floor which we have covered in rugs, relevant work from local artists, handpainted the lightbulbs the same colour, and delivered it in time for the weekend. We wanted it to be fun, relaxed, entertaining and private.”
As for its taste, absinthe is derived from derived from the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (grand wormwood), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs, its colour earning it the name the ‘green fairy’.
The process, involves placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon, placed on a glass filled with a measure of absinthe. Iced water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube to mix the water into the absinthe.
And of course Lynrace has gone to great lengths to ensure the purest most authentic absinthe, the water coming from Tuscany.
So how does Paul feel now that it’s open? “We love it. everyone loves it. we have already had private functions in The Parlour and everyone has been wowed by it. But it has also enhanced Lynrace as a venue by giving it that extra depth.”
Future plans include installing a stand alone bar in The Parlour and a double bar upstairs to cope with the increase capacity for mixology and of course absinthe.
But take it from us, little can prepare you for the atmospheric bar downstairs, complete with aged sofas, pert tables, dingy lighting, original beams and a generally decadent air.
So we’d pay The Parlour a visit and book in. Who knows you might see the green fairy for yourselves!
Lynrace is at 103 WALTON STREET, OXFORD. https://lynrace.com/spirit/