Croque Monsieur: NW1’s secret subterranean absinthe bar

Low-lit and cosy, the diminutive den exudes a house-party atmosphere – with 9 types of absinthe

“Pete loves them, plus it’s a catchy name,” says expert mixologist Jenny Griffiths with a laugh – when we ask about this hidden Eversholt Street bar’s unlikely name.

Low-lit and cosy, the diminutive den (underneath hip pizza joint Lost Boys) exudes a house-party atmosphere. An array of hats ranging from sombrero to cowboy hang on the maroon walls: as the evening wears on, tipsy guests pluck them off to wear.

There are currently nine types of absinthe to choose from, each served in measures of twenty-five millilitres. First-up we sample Fontaine Verte (£8), a traditional variety and a whopping 55% ABV.

A piece of apparatus with taps attached (known as a fountain) sits on each table: filled with ice-cold water, it’s used to perform the ritual associated with the spirit. Dribbling a few drops of aqua in, a chemical reaction known as louching occurs; swill a little and the clear liquid transforms to a cloudy lime. Taking a sip the prominent flavour is mouth-numbing liquorice, followed by herbal notes.

Next, it’s avant-garde Jade Terminus Oxygénée (£12), even stronger at 68% abv. Aniseed-heavy but more aromatic and with hints of sweetness, this one gets our vote. Hic.

If imbibing the potent drink in its purest form doesn’t appeal, choose from a host of other offerings, from sazerac to Death in the Afternoon.

“Sure, absinthe can be intimidating,” says Jenny, “we’re trying to get past that reputation.” Well, you know what? They might have just done exactly that.

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Croque Monsieur is open Fridays and Saturdays at 245 Eversholt Street, but for latest info see here

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