The Spirit of Liberty
The Launch of La Fée Absinthe
The launching of La Fée Absinthe would have been unthinkable without the French lady who helped create it. Therefore at the request of George Rowley I travelled to London to attend the official press party at the Groucho Club.
Monday 24th July 2000
I left Paris on the morning of Monday 24th July and thanks to Eurostar arrived in London three hours later to be met by George. As it was still early we went on a whistle stop tour of London in George's beautiful little 1970's MG. As we passed through the streets of London I thought back to 1981 when I found my first Absinthe spoon in a Parisian flea market which was the whole reason I was here today.
We had lunch with George's wife, Jane, in a fantastic club. I have to say that all the criticism of English cooking is unfounded; the meal was absolutely delicious.
In the afternoon George took me to Tom and Gavin's office (fellow directors of Green Utopia) who I'd already meet on a previous trip to Paris. They were all there surrounded by computers, magazines and piles of paperwork. I spent part of the afternoon working on the press release with Gavin.
John Moore walked in and I finally met the last member of the Green Utopia team. At last I could see together the four men who had created an international stir by launching Absinthe back to the UK market. Four good looking young men with their minds firmly focussed on their objectives. I greatly appreciated their kindness and their respectful friendship.
Later on George and John drove me to the PR Agency, Savage & Savidge for a look around their offices. In the evening we picked up Jane from her office and then walked around London, stopping at the American Bar at the Savoy for a cocktail. Fortified we walked back to Regent Street to visit the Café Royal, whose painting by Sir William Orpen hangs in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The Café Royal used to serve Absinthe and we saw pictures of famous French writers such as Verlaine and Rimbaud on the walls. Unfortunately the old bar has been turned into an American style diner and nothing remains of the Belle Epoque grandeur.
We had dinner in an excellent Fish Restaurant in Soho. Afterwards he took us to a bar, Lab, where I couldn't help but notice the English love of explosive cocktails. I did ask myself whether La Fée drunk in the simple French style with iced water, was not too plain for their tastes. George reassured me that the French ritual using the Absinthe spoon was novel enough to spark interest.
After this eventful evening we went back to George and Jane's house in the country where peacocks wander in the garden and Molly, a bouncy Springer Spaniel puppy, was there to greet us.
Tuesday 25th July 2000 — The Big Day!
Jane went off to work and George and I had a quiet breakfast on the deck surrounded by greenery. George even made the coffee!
I had a quick tour of George's office: five co-workers, computers and a huge range of files - all neatly shelved. Once again I saw that this was no amateur business. Back in the garden we walked into the courtyard and before my eyes was the wonderful Absinthe Bus. A beautiful sight with its Absinthe green paint and little bar on the top deck.
5.30pm We all climbed aboard the bus and headed off for London! Driving through Soho we did not go unobserved! With heads turning every way we looked I realised that the boys had got the marketing right!
7.00pm Over 150 people gathered at the Groucho Club sipping champagne apéritifs.
8.00pm George made a brief speech about Green Utopia and then introduced me to the waiting crowds I gave a quick talk on Absinthe in French, translated by Jane, followed by a demonstration on how to serve a proper French Absinthe.
The crowd appeared to enjoy La Fée. Finally the English were experiencing the true flavours of a genuine French Absinthe; flavours which have been forgotten in France as a result of the ban.
The Absinthe bus was parked up outside the Groucho and took many happy revellers on brief mystery tours of London followed by the eyes of curious passers by.
It was a great party.