Ladies and gentlemen, the curtain rises today on Absinthe + Meringues, an ice cream inspired by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and BalletMet‘s 100th anniversary performances of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The performances—March 22 to 24 in the Ohio Theatre—will honor the groundbreaking work with a world-premier ballet by internationally renowned choreographer James Kudelka.
Absinthe + Meringues will send you right back to the debut of The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913, in Paris. Its foundation is grass-grazed Snowville cream and milk softly scented with absinthe, the once-outlawed libation and anise-based botanical spirit known as the Green Fairy in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Throughout the clean, crisp, and refreshing ice cream are tiny little crisp, sweet, and airy meringues.
The absinthe-laced cream—green like spring foliage and grass—represents the wild side, the artists, the bohemians—enthusiastic imbibers of the Green Fairy at the time. Matcha—finely powdered green tea—gives the ice cream its lovely pale green, spring-like hue, and crisp finish.
The precisely-made meringues represent the traditions of the prim and proper and intolerant-to-change upper class audience of 1913 Paris. The meringues are hand-piped sugared egg whites dried in the oven until they are crispy and cloud-like white, and under the weight of the absinthe ice cream they are crushed and morphed into new forms.
In 1913, The Rite of Spring was a story of life as never told before through music and dance. The work—with envelope-pushing choreography by dancer Vaslav Nijinsky—dealt not with the usual “swans and tutus and elevation,” but “ugly earthbound lurching and stomping.” The result: fist fights and jeers in the hall, a dent in Stravinsky’s reputation, and the world of traditional music and dance turned on its head.
Absinthe + Meringues won’t likely inspire near riots in the halls and streets, but it definitely will take you back to an exciting era when seismic cultural shifts were afoot.
And now, here’s how we make Absinthe + Meringues:
First, the meringues. We mix egg whites and sugar, slowly beating together, hand-pipe them onto baking sheets, and bake them at a very low temperature until they’re white, crispy, and delicate:
Baked meringues, which later will be added to anise-, matcha-, and absinthe-laced ice cream:
All-natural anise (left) and matcha—powdered green tea for color as well as a clean, crisp finish (right):
Anise and matcha being mixed with a small amount of Absente absinthe—the first legal absinthe in the U.S. since 1912. France banned absinthe in 1914, a year after the debut of The Rite of Spring in Paris. The U.S. banned absinthe in 1912 and lifted the ban in 2007.
Absinthe, a spirit made with wormwood, anise, fennel and other herbs, in its purest form has a high alcohol content. But in our ice cream the alcohol content is .5%:
Snowville’s grass-grazed cream is added the the mixture of anise, matcha, and absinthe (left), and stirred (right):
Left: A mixture of absinthe, anise, matcha, and cream coming out of the machine. Once everything is evenly blended, the cream overpowers the dark green matcha powder, leaving the final ice cream a lovely and light pale green. Right: meringues being stirred into the ice cream. Most will crumble under the weight of the ice cream and when the ice cream is scooped: