The charm of absinthe is its history; the allure is its pour. The enigma of the emerald absinthe comes from the infamous rumors about the effect it has on those who drink it. The nickname given to absinthe, La Fee verte (The Green Lady), comes from the “love affair” many drinkers had with absinthe, granting the drink the status of a muse. The nickname, however, changed as the mental effects of absinthe were exaggerated and blamed for madness, sloth, and even murder. The Green Lady became the Green Curse, and when absinthe was outlawed in much of the Western world, the reputation of absinthe as a powerful hallucinogenic grew along with popular curiosity about the psychoactive ingredients in the drink.
So how true are the rumors? How does absinthe compare to other spirits?
Absinthe does contain a psychoactive ingredient, thujone, which is a byproduct of wormwood. The laws governing absinthe worldwidehave less to do with the drink itself and more to do with the thujone contained therein. However, the levels of thujone in absinthe are relatively low, and it would take you a dangerous amount of drinks to be chemically effected by thujone.
We strongly recommend that you do not drink absinthe in excess, as the alcohol content is so high.Absinthe is one of the more potent alcoholic drinks available. Most absinthes are bottled at or above 70% alcohol by volume. The effects of this high alcohol content, even when diluted in water, as the classic French absinthe pour goes, would have more to do with any physical or mental effects you’ll feel in absinthe.
However, there is a case to be made for the pure enjoyment of absinthe as a calming, revelatory experience in itself. The manner by which absinthe is poured will prepare you for a relaxing, enjoyable experience. The blend of absinthe and water releases many of the herby extracts contained in the drink. This mellowing, milky louche heightens your senses of smell, sight, and eventually, taste.
Compared to other spirits, absinthe is as unique as they come. Absinthe may not have the same effects as certain illegal drugs, but it definitely awakens the senses in a way that no other alcohol truly can. As you sip your absinthe, try listening to a favorite song, or looking through a photo-book. We suspect that the increased sensory awareness – the only true and common effect of absinthe we know of – is what made the drink a hit with artists such as Van Gogh, Hemingway, Rimbaud, and many others (though we don’t believe Van Gogh lost his ear due to an absinthe binge!)
Absinthe need not remain a mystery to you. The experience of preparing, pouring, and drinking absinthe is difficult to describe without resorting to extravagant language, and so we recommend that you see for yourself what all the fuss is about.