Cafe writing, Vicious Circles & Absinthe Time

Waking up was mighty rough today. After a pleasant interview for a part-time copy editing position, I decided to stay in the centre as the working day was pretty much over. I bought a cheap notebook and did something I haven’t done for something like a dog’s year ’ I wrote in a caf??. Everything came out in rhymes, mos’ def -initely because I’ve been gorging on hip-hop these days. I reckon I’ll just do the automatic writing thang for a while, jot things down during the week and clean them all up at the weekend. The results don’t matter as much as they used to ’ it just felt real good to write on paper with a good pen.

I used to do this all the time, was kind of manic about it, especially when I first moved to Prague from Brno back in ‘98. Whenever and wherever inspiration struck I’d jot things down, especially during long bus rides into town from Hotel Dum, way out in Modrany, Prague 4. Somewhere in the cellar is a box stuffed with little notebooks chock full of lesson plans, poetry, story ideas, dialogues, sketches, thoughts, credos, etc. Souvenirs from a far more frantic and desperate time, when, after having moved out of Dum, all I wanted was to be left alone in a shitty little room on one of Prague’s (literally) shittiest little streets (somewhere in the older part of Vrsovice) with a bottle of wine, a hefty supply of top-shelf chronic and a bunch of Bics and papers (for rolling and writing).

Sure it’s a bit cliche, and I’ve never bought into that ‘Prague is the New Left Bank/Paris of the (insert era here) ’ bullshit, but goddamnit, writing poetry, fiction, journal entries, or whatever in a cafe, whether in Prague or anywhere else in the world, feels fantastic! I may sound like some kind of born-again illuminating the obvious, but I’d really forgotten just how conducive a cafe or bar can be to writing. Must be all the surrounding activity that gets the juices flowing.

Anyway, this rediscovery took place at Cafe Indigo (Platnerska 11, Prague 1), a cafe whose greatest asset is the fact that its front is all window. Great for people-watching.

After a spell of scribbling, a couple of excellent Gambrinus, and a lackluster Mexican soup, I went to Tulip to catch up with my mate Chris Parsons. Chris’ band, Vicious Circles, has got a neat little website with a few mp3s that are worth a listen or two.

Following a few too many beers at Tulip (for which we were undercharged ’ somewhat of an anomaly as far as Prague bars go), we decided to check out Absinthe Time, a newish bar that specializes in, surprise surprise, absinthe, on Kremencova, a few doors up from U Fleku, across from Nebe. Seeing that it was practically empty, we were about to move on, but were lured in by an extremely attractive redhead in some kind of Peter Pan get-up (all green, natch). The waitresses in this place really are like sirens ’ babe-tastic and singing tourists to shipwreck in terms of both drunkenness and finances. But the presentation is well worth the coin.

The cheapest absinthes are CZK 90 for a 0.04 l shot. Their alcoholic content ranges from 55 to 72%, and their thujon content runs from 4 to 35 mg/l. The priciest shot was somewhere around CZK 200; Chris and I decided to settle for a shot of Absinthe 35, which set us each back CZK 120.

Now, the presentation. The green fairy serving you brings a tray laden with a glass of water, the shot, a thick glass mug (the kind used for, say, Viennese coffee), two cubes of sugar, small tongs, and a perforated spoon with a ridge that enables it to rest on the rim of the mug (I have no idea what you call it, sorry for the crap description). She pours the absinthe into the mug, dips one cube of sugar into it and puts it on a saucer, then soaks the second cube in the shot, places it on the perforated spoon above the absinthe and lights the sugar. After the sugar has finished caramelizing and dripping into the absinthe, your server stirs up the mixture, not with a spoon but by swirling the glass for a minute or two, then pours the concoction back into the shot glass. Then you just sip and let the alcohol and thujon work their voodoo. The water certainly comes in handy, and that first absinthe-soaked cube of sugar makes for a potent little bonbon.

The beer at Absinthe Time is also rather pricey ’ I can’t remember the brand name, but it’s something independent, and quite nice, though it’s not quite worth the CZK 50 the bar charges for a half litre.

With its classy decor, excellent service and good selection Absinthe Time is definitely a welcome addition to Prague’s bar scene. While its prices verge on those of a tourist trap, it’s worth checking out if you’re feeling a bit posh. But be warned, it is definitely not a place for a spot of power drinking.

Apr 25, 10:27 (Filed under: , Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

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  1. Ah. That item would be an absinthe spoon. There’s really no other term, or any other reason to have something in just that configuration. Must check out the joint in question one of these days. Seems a summer thingy to do.

    Bishop    Apr 25, 13:26    #
  2. Hehe… absinthe spoon ... of course, I should have known it would be that simple.

    Certainly a summer thing to do, but I’d recommend it as a nighttime thing – not the kind of buzz you want to get on in the middle of a blazing hot day, IMO. Also, I can’t imagine it having the same cool, dusky ambience during the day.

    Mind you, it’s also a good winter thing to do, as it’s a sassy, brassy alternative to svarak.

    Patrick    Apr 25, 15:03    #