I met Jack while on holiday in Prague a few years back. I had been staying at a hostel for a few days with one of the finest assemblages of random strangers to ever come together under one roof, and we had quickly formed a very fun party brigade that went out drinking every night. And why not, Prague has arguably the best beer in the world, and it literally cost less than water at the time.
Anyway, as the pre-gaming in the hostel started that evening, Jack and two of his travel buddies arrived, put their bags down and quickly and seamlessly became part of the group. The fact that they had, between the three of them, crushed 30 liters of beer on their train ride down from Germany probably helped.
Not long after their arrival, we all headed out to what had become our favorite drinking place, the Acropolis, just up the hill from our hostel. On the way there I told Jack that everyone on their first night in Prague has to take a shot of absinthe, the green, “hallucinogenic” liquor Prague was famous for. Jack was well-up for it and no sooner had we arrived at the bar than four shots of the green stuff was on the table: one for me and one each for Jack and his two buddies.
Now, for all you that don’t know, there is a very special way absinthe is supposed to be drunken in Prague. The extra-large shot is put in a shooter glass, you then place a sugar cube on a spoon and dip it down into the absinthe. Once the sugar is covered in absinthe, you remove it, light it on fire and give the sugar a few seconds to caramelize before stirring it into the drink which sets the whole thing on fire.
So far, so good!
The final three steps of taking an absinthe shot are placing your hand over the glass to snuff out the flame. You’re then supposed to huff the fumes left behind from the extinguished fire and take the shot. Sounds easy, right? Well, not necessarily as Jack learned. If you don’t place your hand over the shooter glass just right, the flame won’t go out because air is still getting in. If that happens, the flames will go towards any opening it can find and burn the hell out of you. It happened to me the first time I did it, and I’m here to tell you it hurts.
When Jack placed his hand on the shooter glass, you could see the flame leap out of his glass through a small gap he left between his hand and the glass. Jack recoiled when this happened and knocked over the glass. The flaming absinthe got all over his hand and all over his friend’s crotch. All of the sudden there were now two guys at my table on fire. Having my own flaming drink to deal with, I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to offer much assistance. Jack, on the other hand, who I am guessing didn’t realize his hand was on fire, frantically starting “helping” his friend by smacking his crotch in an attempt to put the fire out and winged his friend’s family jewels which caused him to hunch over and fall back into the seat he had just jumped out of. While this was happening, the glass with the absinthe in it had hit the floor and there is now a puddle of burning liquid on the ground. Jack see’s this and focuses his attention on trying to put it out by stomping the liquid which then caused his shoe and pants leg to catch fire. At some point while he’s “stomping the fire out,” he kicked the glass causing it to go flying across the floor with a trail of blue-green fire right behind it before hitting a wall and breaking.
While all this is going on, I take a look at the bartenders who are just a few feet away. They barely lift their heads to see what’s going on and then go right back to work on their cross-word puzzle. Apparently they had seen this kind of thing before.
After 10-20 seconds of pure chaos, and despite what would turn out to be second-degree burns on his hand, Jack went right back up to the bar to order another shot.