Drink in Montreal: Absinthe at Bily Kun

Posted on May 26th, 2009 by .

After an incredible four-hour meal on Mount-Royal at the lovely Au Cinquième Péché, a culinary marathon featuring a seal appetizer and smoked pork served still smoking, it was clear that no ordinary after-dinner drink would suffice.

Only a round of absinthe at Bily Kun was up to the task…

One of my favourite places to go on busy Mount-Royal is Billy Kun, an always-packed place that exudes the type of relaxed cool that Montréal specializes in. During the 5-a-7 hours, there’s live jazz and classical music, then as the bar darkens, some of Montréal’s best DJs take over. A short walk from St-Denis, Bily Kun’s clientele is made up of all sorts, but often skews a bit older than some of Montréal’s other popular destinations. In fact, it was my (very cool) aunt and uncle who first introduced me to their absinthe.

Absinthe is, of course, is the legendary elixir that caused Van Gogh to cut off his ear. Thankfully, the absinthe that Bily Kun serves is a diluted version of that devil drink, so you will leave with your ears intact. That said, it is not a liquid to be taken lightly. It’s also a drink that comes with its own serving ritual: a sugar cube is dipped into the absinthe, lit on fire until it caramelizes, then doused with water and stirred into the absinthe. What comes out is a magical emerald-coloured, head-clearing and night-expanding drink that you should try at least once in your life.

Though other places in Montréal serve absinthe, I have to recommend Bily Kun, because the décor and atmosphere is as Czech-centric as the drink menu– besides the absinthe, their becherovka shot is another must-try.

Finally, if you do go there and sample their absinthe only to turn around and see a series of stuffed ostrich heads on the wall, don’t worry, it’s not the absinth talking, they’re really there. The one wearing the hat is supposedly named Maurice.

Bily Kun 354 Mont-Royal Avenue East 514-845-5392

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