Last June, when we spent a month in Antibes, the covered area known as Le Marché Provençal, was my happy place for many reasons; its location close to our apartment, the daily produce market, the bustling restaurants that serve lunch and dinner there, and the Absinthe Bar. Yes, the Absinthe Bar: a bar dedicated to all things absinthe, and here are the top three reasons to check this place out.
It's Absinthe! Absintheis a seriously high alcohol liquor; packing an alcohol level up to 70%, and it's full of anise, fennel and black licorice flavors. Absinthe's name comes from one if its key ingredients, wormwood, an herb scientifically known as artemisia absinthium. Wormwood casted a greenish tint to the liquor, earning Absinthe the fun nickname green fairy.
Absinthe has been around for quite a while and has a lot of history behind its name; in the early 1900s, it was crazy popular among writers and artists, Édouard Manet being one of them. Manet painted The Absinthe Drinker in 1914.
There is a bit of a ritual involved with drinking absinthe. Because of its high alcohol level and bitterness from the herbs used to make it, its best to cut the absinthe with cold water and add a little sugar to sweeten the taste. Sounds simple enough, but no, a lot goes into it, making drinking absinthe a bit of a production.
When you get to your table at the Absinthe Bar, you'll find a glass fountain filled with ice water waiting for you, actually waiting for your absinthe, and when you order, your liquor is going to come with a spoon and a sugar cube. No worries though, your server will explain how everything works together.
Hats! At the corner of a side street running perpendicular to the Le Marché Provençal, you will find the entrance to the Absinthe bar; if there's a line waiting to get in, you'll know you are at the right place. The bar is actually found down a flight of stone stairs that lead to an old stone cellar. There's different types of absinthe behind the bar, vintage signs all over the place, and the room is filled with tables, and chairs, and hats.
Hats can be found sitting on shelves, sitting on ledges, sitting on coat racks; and, by the end of the evening, juts about every one of those hats will have probably been sitting on at least one person's head, too. It's just part of the craziness. You come in, order your absinthe and pick out your hat.
If you're lucky, the owner will come over and snap a picture of you sporting whatever hat you decided on. The pics makes for great souvenirs. In the event you overindulge, they also help you remember just how good you looked wearing your chapeau (that's French for hat).
It's a Sing Along Bar! On weekend nights, a brilliant musician comes in to play a couple of sets for the crowd, working his magic on an old upright piano. The acoustics in the cellar are playful and the tunes just start rolling. It doesn't get much better than singing American Pie, Country Roads, or Piano Man, at the top of your lungs with a bar full of locals, while buzzing from absinthe, and sporting a stylish hat. It's a perfect trifecta!
Get there early. The Absinthe Bar is definitely a local favorite and it gets packed. If you get there after a line has started, you'll have to wait and you'll probably get squeezed into a crazy, tiny spot. You've been forewarned.
You can find this happy place at:
25 court MassenaPrès du marché provençal à Antibes06600 Antibes