Absinthe, a potent concoction strong enough to make writers and artists mad with insanity.
There were many claims of hallucination filled nights. Dancing images spiraling around the heads of those who sipped the poison. It has even been reported to have driven artist’s to the brink of their sanity. Some say it even drove Van Gogh to cut the lower part of his earlobe off with a straight razor. Was it the alcohol or something more menacing…the worm wood.
I say count me in. I like to try new things. Actually absinthe isn’t a new thing at all, it has been around for thousands of years in various forms. Absinthe is a beverage that I have been fascinated with for a while. When my brother Josh told me that on March 5th that it was National Absinthe Day, I thought it would be a perfect time to investigate further the rumors of this ancient elixir.
The reason that March 5th is National Absinthe Day is because on that date in 2007 absinthe was made legal again in the United States after a 95-year-old policy banning the use the worm wood, more specifically the active ingredient in worwood the thujone. Thujone is now considered legal in the United states if it’s strength is less than ten parts per million. The thujone that the worn wood contains is considered harmful in high doses but safe is lower doses and certainly not hallucinogenic.
Absinthe is a strong alcoholic beverage made from herbal essential oils and ethanol or (common drinking alcohol). It is usually 60-85% alcohol. So it is quite a bit stronger than most alcohols. Thujone is absinthes second active ingredient. Thujone is considered by scientists to be a psychoactive convulsant. It is said by some to have a pain killing effect. Thujone is considered dangerous in high levels and can build up in the systems of chronic abusers, but because of the alcohols strength you will become very drunk before the over ingesting of thujone can occur. When thujone build’s up in its users it could possibly validate the rumor of producing extreme and unusual intoxicating effects. In reality, most of the reports of the side effects of absinthe come from earlier periods of time when medicine and science weren’t what they are today. People of that time were plagued by many issues such as being over worked, malnourished, victims of alcoholism, and many other undiagnosed conditions.
Many great figures throughout history are reported to have used and abused absinthe. In the 1870′s absinthe started to be made with grain alcohol. This process made it less expensive and the bohemian lifestyle embraced it. Absinthe was thought to improve health, stimulate creativity, and also used as an aphrodisiac. Absinthe was the a favored drink of Edgar Allen Poe, Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemmingway, Edward Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, and many other notable painter,writers, and thinkers. Van Gogh’s drinking of absinthe played a large role in his many illnesses.
Ok, so I think its safe to say that absinthe is like so many other things, that it is only good in moderation. Please use responsibly. I like your ear lobes just fine where they are.
On March 5th I went to the store and bought a bottle of absinthe called Vieux Carre. Its name pays homage to the long and colorful history that absinthe has had in New Orleans. The bottle was a beautiful glass rectangle filled with a day glow green liquid. I could even see particals of herbal matter floating around inside of it which excited me even more. I try to support products that are local and artisanally produced whenever possible. This absinthe was made in Philadelphia Pa. by Philadelphia distillers. When I opened the bottle I found the fragrance super heady.
So you’ve got the bottle of absinthe, now what? Absinthe has a strong aromatic fennel flavor. It is certainally not a drink for everybody. It’s for those of you that enjoyed the black jelly beans as a kid. Absinthe is used in cocktails as a strong main flavor, a secondary flavor to rinse your glass with, a aperitif, a digestif, and some even say as a strong tonic to start your day with. I am going through a big Burbon and Rye phase recently so the drink Sazerac really appeals to me.
1 cube Raw sugar or 1/2 teaspoon regular sugar
4 dashes Peychaud Bitters or Angostura Bitters
Splash water, about 1/2 teaspoon
2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 teaspoon the absinthe of your liking
Lemon Strip de-pithed
1.5 cups Ice
In an old-fashioned glass, add ice to chill. In another glass, Add sugar, bitters, and water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add rye, fill with ice, and slowly stir, for about 15 seconds. Discard ice from the first glass, then swirl absinthe around so that it completely coats the interior. Pour off any excess. Strain rye mixture into chilled glass. Twist lemon strip over glass to release its essence. Drink, Enjoy.
My Brother Josh said that his favorite Absinthe drink is called The Root Of All Evil. It is simply root beer, absinthe, and ice. I love the aromatic properties of a good root beer, so I gave it a try. It was Delicious!
Root Of All Evil Recipe
1 part Absinthe
3 parts quality Root Beer
Fill cocktail glass with ice. Add absinthe. Top with root beer. Stir and Enjoy.
My brother Josh enjoys this drink as 1 part absinthe to 2 parts root beer. He likes this drink like he likes his women : tan, strong, hairy, and knocks you on your ass!
The reason that the nick name the green fairy was given to absinthe is because of the opalescent milky green hue that it gives off when mixed with sugar and water. The green fairy is also a metaphorical concept believed to be induced by drinking absinthe: artistic exploration, free thinking, poetic inspiration, and a catalyst for new ideas. Try it and find out for yourself. Drink responsibly.