Fakers and Fools

Crapsinthe and fauxsinthe. These two slang terms in the absinthe community often confuse newcomers. Which one is which? What do they exactly mean?

Over the years absintheurs haven’t made this any easier by using either term interchangeably, as in our minds, we wouldn’t drink either. This is a solipsistic point of view from the community. There are plenty of people out there who would benefit from a more exact use of these words among aficionados and newbies alike.

I’ve always been literal with these words, and use the following definitions:

Crapsinthe is crappy absinthe. That is, it is still absinthe by the most basic standards and even tastes somewhat like absinthe. Often these absinthes are of lower quality and are not fully distilled from herbs but rather compound absinthes from essential oils distilled in to a mix. Another que is that many of these producers, already cutting corners, use artificial coloring to achieve a result that they believe the consumer wants. If you taste some of these crappy absinthes and can drink them down, then you may actually like real absinthe.

Fauxsinthe is fake (faux) absinthe. This stuff isn’t absinthe at all but takes advantage of the fact that no country other than Switzerland defines the category. The label says absinthe (or absinth) and that’s where the similarity to the real thing stops. Many of these aren’t distilled at all but are really just flavored vodkas with artificial dye. Some are high priced industrial alcohol with a gimmick such as a plant or insect floating in the bottle. Popular examples are “bohemian” style, and those “make absinthe at home” kits. If you hate this stuff don’t worry, it tastes nothing like real absinthe.

The producers of both crapsinthe and fauxsinthe are also responsible for a lot of the myth peddling, misinformation, and of course the stupid bohemian fire ritual. It was always about conning people and attracting attention to their overpriced swill. It was never about absinthe. Instead it was about suckering consumers, especially tourists.

What brands can I give examples of? I’d love to, but the producers of these types of products are always rebranding, changing names, and coming out with a new marketing effort to take advantage of those who are wary of a specific name, not a process. The best advice I can give is that if a brand uses artificial colors, or used to, it’s probably crapsinthe at best. If you see anyone hyping thujone myths, treating absinthe like a drug instead of a drink, or being overly gimmicky (ie: wormwood in a bottle), chances are you’re better off not wasting any money on them.

You might be wondering why something that would fit one of these categories carries an award, or several. Or maybe even an endorsement by some winner of a bartending competition. The sad fact is that those awards and endorsements are misleading as the spirits industry seems to care less about absinthe than anything else. I’ve repeated, over and over, that I don’t trust any award given to absinthe. Instead I favor consumer and expert reviews as they are written by people who at least drink absinthe, if not obsess over it.

Let’s face it. Alcohol isn’t the healthiest substance for your body. So I hold to the idea that if I’m going to “poison” myself with ethanol, then I might as well do it with the good stuff. Life is too short to waste on con artists and crap. So do a bit of research to save your tastebuds and liver the trouble. Let the fakers and the fools sit on their inventory of overpriced flavored vodka and perish as they should.

Until next time, Sante!


4 thoughts on “Fakers and Fools

  1. Once again a fine rant laced with some good information. But I gotta tell you that, in my opinion, I don’t think that attempts to clarify the terms “crapsinthe” and “fauxsinthe” are going to be met with much success in terms of standardizing their meanings. There’s just too few people reading the absinthe related informations, and there’s always someone new who missed school that day.

    So personally, I would rather see them drop out of usage. And the reason is the one that you state in your first paragraph… they are confusing. And it’s not only newcomers that are confused by them. Most of the time when the term “crapsinthe” is used at the Wormwood Society (a group with an above average education in absinthe), it is used to mean what your definition of “fauxsinthe” is.

    Of course everyone over there knows I am somewhat of a numbers geek. I just ran a quick search on the term “fauxsinthe” on WS. There are 57 posts since May 2011 when you used the term in a post for the first time. Before that there are only 10 other posts in which the term appears, going back to June 2008. So as you can see the term was never in any widespread use. Since that first post of yours in May 2011, of the 57 posts, 28 of them are your posts, or posts by others containing quotes from your posts that use the term. And of the remaining posts, many are responses to your posts where someone else uses the term for the sake of continuity in conversation with you. Independent of responses to your posts, there are less than 5 others there who are using that term.

    It’s funny that you should touch on this in this post at this time. I was just thinking about putting up a post at WS along the lines of these comments just a few days ago. We both know that there have been a number of times where we have been thinking the same thoughts, however this time we are thinking about the same subject, just differently. These comments are offered with all due respect, and I hope you think about and reconsider your part in driving this confusing usage.

    What would be my suggestion for alternate terms for “fauxsinthe” and “crapsinthe”? “Inauthentic” and “Low Quality”. There’s no confusion there.

    I know. Some days I’m no fun.

    1. “Inauthentic” and “Low Quality” would be good replacements. They aren’t slang at that point but descriptors instead. I like the idea of moving away from slang and specialized language since often slang requires some explanation, such as this post.

  2. You write “What brands can I give examples of? I’d love to, but the producers of these types of products are always rebranding, changing names …” I’m not sure that this is correct, especially for the vast majority of those buying in the US. Given the work and expense to register a recipe, label and trademark, it is not in anyone’s interest to change a brand’s name. Pernod may have changed from “Aux Extraits” to “Qualité supérieure,” but the main brand name hasn’t changed. What other examples of “re-branding, changing names” are there?

    1. There are other reasons I’m not naming names here. New brands pop up constantly, unnamed “absinthe” appears at festivals, and of course those silly home vodka macerate kits. This makes a specific list of brands not worth as much as a set of standards.

      I also had some notorious fauxsinthe producers in mind. For example, KOSG has been under two or three other names that I can think of by now. It’s the same industrial booze with a wormwood sprig in the bottle gimmick but the name and label shifts every few years it seems. They always seem to have Van Gogh on the bottle somehow.

      KOSG also isn’t registered in the US. Yet I’ve seen a lot of people fall prey to it over here, as well as many other fauxsinthes not registered in the US. You know as well as anyone that people are still bringing it home in luggage and obtaining it through means other than the local booze store. American consumption isn’t limited to the products formally registered by our TTB. People buy what they can, how they can. My hope is that if consumers are going to go through that much trouble, that they bring home a good bottle, and not a bad one, in their luggage.

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