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ABSINTHE INFO

by Azazel

HISTORY

Absinthe dates back to antiquity, references to it are made in the bible, in Egyptian papyri and in early Syrian texts. Originally, it was a simple composition of wine with wormwood leaves soaked in it. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a shrub native to Europe and Asia (but alas, not North America). Supposedly, the name absinthe is derived from the greek word apsinthion, meaning undrinkable, and probably referring to the bitter nature of the original beverage.

Absinthe as it was known around the turn of the century was a different beverage all together, derived from the original wormwood + wine combo, plus lots of other herbs (see recipe below). It was terribly in vogue throughout Europe, but particularly in France and Switzerland, around the Fin de Siecle, and was popularly known as 'La Fee Verte' (the green fairy). Baudelaire, Manet, Rimbaud, Velaine, Oscar Wilde, Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gaugin were all known for partaking of the beverage.

By 1915, however, thujone-contining absinthe was banned across Europe and in the United States, the only specific alcohol to be targeted aside from general abolitionist movements. Absinthe, in a historical case highly reminiscent of modern drug policies and _wars_, was scapegoated as the cause for many social problems of the time, falling birth rates, a series of absinthe related murders, and mostly, a growing awareness for the first time in political consciousness of alcoholism as a social problem in general. In recent years, legal changes in the European Union have made absinthe legal in many European countries, but laws vary.

POETRY

Still, those who indulged in the green fairy, adored her, and wrote many words to her praise ....I liked this one the best:

Absinthia Taetra

by Ernest Dowson

Green changed to white, emerald to opal;
nothing was changed.
The man let the water trickle gentle into his glass,
and as the green clouded,
a mist fell from his mind.
Then he drank opaline.
Memories and terrors beset him.
The past tore after him like a panther, and
through the blackness of the present he
saw the luminous tiger eyes of things to be.
But he drank opaline.
And that obscure night of the soul,
and the valley of humiliation,through
which he stumbled, were forgotten.
He saw blue vistas of undiscovered countries,
high prospects and a quiet, carressing sea.
The past shed its perfume over him,
today held his hand as if it were a little child,
and tomorrow shone like a white star;
nothing was changed.
He drank opaline.
The man had known the obscure night of the soul,
and lay even now in the valley of humiliation;
and the tiger menace of the things to be was red in the skies.
But for a little while he had forgotten.
Green changed to white, emerald to opal;
nothing was changed.

RECIPE

Although there were many manufacturers of absinthe around the turn of the century, pernod was the most famous, and their recipe probably contained the following:

  • wormwood
  • anise (Pimpinella ansium)
  • hyssop (hyssopus officinalis)
  • dittany (Dictamnus albus)
  • sweet flag (Acorus calamus)
  • Melissa (kind of mint)
  • and varying amounts of: coriander, veronica, camomile, parsley, and even spinach


AVAILABILITY

  • Absinthe is still legal in Spain.
  • It has been illegal in Switzerland for over 50 years, and copiously bootlegged and ignored by the government since then -- so, if you try hard enough, you can probably find some there.
  • Don't know about any other countries.

CHEMICAL ANALYSIS

I'm no chemist here, but I thought this was interesting:

The active ingredient of wormwood is thujone, and thujone has been shown to be identical to tanecetone in the herb tansy and salvanol in sage. Thujone has also been shown to have a similiar molecular structure to THC.

PRIMARY SOURCE

Absinthe Barnaby Conrad