Corks+Forks: The Hunt Club’s Oysters and Absinthe

Learn how to drink better and drink smarter with the sorrento hotel’s drinking lessons.

Roosted against a cool stone ledge of the penthouse balcony at Seattle’s historic Sorrento Hotel, I channeled my inner Oscar Wilde — gazing toward my city with twilight looming and clutching a goblet of wormwood to my chest. “A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world,” said the 19th century poet. “What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset.”

Not much of a difference, it seems. The hazy aftereffects of the warming sentiment and a harbinger of good night are what bring Wilde’s two kindred spirits together. This hangover was brought to me by the Sorrento Hotel and their “Drinking Lessons” cocktail program.

The second Wednesday of each month brings this series to the hotel, dedicated to drink education and preparation. Presented by the knowledgeable staff of the Sorrento Hotel and its Hunt Club restaurant,  they strive to feature “drinking lessons” on anything and everything from Champagne to Sangria, rum, infusions and beer. The powers that be bring in the city’s elite in the libation world with leading cocktail historians, craft distillers, guest bartenders and their own house mixologists who play their A game to show guests how to use the beverage to its greatest potential and what to pair it with.

Tickets are $35 for a 90 minute class that includes the lesson itself, drinks and bites from the Hunt Club. The classes are limited to 12 participants per session with two nightly seating, advanced reservations required with information on their website.

Gwydion Stone, a proud presenter in a Sorrento’s “Drinking Lesson” class, is also an individual akin to absinthe, the wormwood spirit. Stone helped to restart “the geekdom of absinthe” by founding the Wormwood Society, a national group of absinthe enthusiasts who sought to clear the disillusion of the drink. Stone believed an absinthe revolution was needed and the faux styles of the previously “illegal” drink should be discarded.

“There were only bogus brands,” Stone says. “I wanted to make (absinthe) that tasted good. It should taste like you distilled a mountain meadow, with wonderful herbal nuances.”

With that ideology, Stone took to the streets to research the beverage more and recreate the historic and traditional absinthe formulas on his own. He contacted a Swiss distillery and commissioned them to make and distribute his brand, titled “Marteau.” Two years later, absinthe was  re-approved for sale and production in the U.S. and Stone was able to produce Marteau domestically, now contracting with Captive Spirits in Ballard.

“Absinthe is nothing poisonous, it’s not a drug and it doesn’t make you hallucinate,” Stone declares to null and void the stereotypes and falsities of the spirit. Although, when properly prepared, a 750ml bottle of absinthe is comparable to the alcohol per volume and percentage of six bottles of wine, says Stone. His Hunt Club “Drinking Lesson” was focused on the moderate use and positive exposure of his beloved spirit.

The Dish: Oysters & Absinthe ($18) — Lightly tossed in bread crumbs with scallions and spiked wth Pacifique Absinthe, this typically briney bite takes an herbal twist with fennel and sweet spice bursting through the breading.

The Variety: Absinthe — A distilled spirit that is derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (also know as grande wormwood). With the addition of florence fennel and green anise, the three make up the main components and are referred to as “the holy trinity.” Flavors are anise-heavy and often diluted with water and pour simultaneously over a solid cube of sugar. Known by some as the Green Fairy, the Green Muse and the Green Goddess.

Why It Works: It helps that the bite of oyster is spiked with absinthe, the herbal qualities naturally connect and the breading and light-fry of the bivalve provides a buttery base to match the richness of the savory spirit.

The Recommended Match: “Death in the Afternoon” — Not only the name of an Ernest Hemingway book, it’s also the author’s name of a drink he contributed to compilation of celebrity cocktail recipes in 1935. Hemmingway inscribed: “Pour 1 jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Gotta love his tolerance. Challenge him at your own risk.

The Hunt Club at the Sorrento Hotel |900 Madison Street, Seattle | (206) 622-6400