I recently learned that absinthe, the alluring Swiss spirit of the Belle Epoque in Paris, known for its popularity with artists including Picasso, Oscar Wilde, and Vincent Van Gogh, had returned to the U.S. after a 95-year ban. Outlawed in 1912 because of its supposed hallucinogenic effects (which are reportedly untrue), absinthe is finally legal again.
Absinthe was originally banned because it contains wormwood and the chemical compound thujone, large amounts of which can cause people to hallucinate. According to a recent USA Today article , absinthe historian T.A. Breaux, who created Lucid (one of only four absinthe brands legal in the U.S.- the others are Green Moon and two from Kübler), says that neither Lucid, nor the other three brands contain a significant amount of thujone.
Lucky for me, New York City ’s Waverly Inn offers an absinthe martini. I heard tales about sipping the forbidden liquor in Europe . At last I had a chance to ‘see’ for myself. Several nights ago, I ventured downtown to find out what this spirit could do for me.
I asked to see the dark, slender bottle of Lucid that the bartender poured into my drink. Its creepy celadon eyes seemed to be stalking me. Excited and nervous, I tried the drink. The verdict: quite intense (note to self: next time, sip don’t gulp). Powerful licorice flavor. Citrus balances it nicely. I finished it and sent the fairy on its way. I don’t think I’d be up for more than one absinthe cocktail- one’s enough.
The good (and bad) news: no hallucinations. Sorry guys!
There's been a lot written on this subject lately... For more info on absinthe see Dosenation , Gayot , and Fashion Week Daily .
The Return of the Green Fairy
- Blog comment by Absintheur, Oct 28, 2007.
The story is a very complex one beacuse of the issue of thujone. The European Union states that up to 35mg/l is allowed, the USA bans thujone in absinthe. I understand someone discovered that the TTB thujone test registers zero in the 0-10mg/l range and is therefore thujone free accoriding to FDA rules. What was the thujone level of pre ban absinthe from the past? According to the distiller of Lucid it was very low - I note you call him an historian, sometimes he is styled as a scientist in the many newspaper articles he is quoted in.
Luicd absinthe has less anise than traditional absinthe to suit American tastes. Some serious people in the absinthe world claim that thujone and anise (which contains anethole) work together to produce the famed secondary effects of absinthe.
“Horka Lihovina”,“Amer aux Plantes d’Absinthe” or “Bitterspirituose” are the European designations for absinthe with high thujone levels and more of the traditional complex bitterness of real wormwood (not a non thujone bearing chemo-type of Artemisia absinthium)
There is a review of Lucid absinthe discussed here:
- Blog comment by natalya, Nov 12, 2007.
I like this quote about Absinthe from Oscar Wilde: Wilde “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.” It appeared in today's Absinthe article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/12/a...