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Notable by its absinthe


Hey, somebody in New York worked out how to make a street legal absinthe. Per their website (warning: tinkly piano music) they expect to ship the first bottles to New York City and the Hamptons at the end of this month.

Absinthe is made with wormwood, one constituent of which — thujone — is what makes the drink illegal in the US. Thujone is a GABA receptor antagonist; it causes convulsions at high levels and is regulated in most places. Absinthe with thujone levels below 10 parts per million is still legal in many European countries, and is imported pretty freely. This new manufacturer made absinthe per several 19th Century recipes and discovered that the thujone levels in the traditional article were really quite small. Once eliminated entirely the FDA permitted them to go ahead.

A lot of crap is talked about absinthe in general, and thujone in particular. The latter has roughly the molecular shape of THC and was thought to act similarly. It does not. Absinthe is supposed to cause drunkenness with clarity; visual saturation; hallucinations, even. I always heard it burnt out your optic nerves and you went bliiind. As near as I can tell, it’s all booollshit. Absinthe was just the Reefer Madness of la Belle Epoch.

I had to have some. I bought a big pyramidal bottle of the stuff for stupid money in England one year. I was like, “get me! I’m the world’s tallest Toulouse-Lautrec!”

The absinthe ritual is very particular: an ounce of vile green liqueur is poured into a glass. A slotted spoon is balanced across the top of the glass with a sugar cube poised in the middle. Slowly, drop by drop, ice water is dripped over the sugarcube and into the glass until the contents go from green to swirly, opalescent white.

Screw that. It’s just liquor and sugarwater. I drank mine on the rocks.

Despite having ingested my fair share of illicit chemicals, I have the same reaction every time. The moment I swallow, it’s like, “Oh my god you stupid fucking monkey, what have you done? It’s inside you now!!!

After a couple of ounces, I thought, “Heyyyy…I know this sensation. It’s…alcohol!

Feels like booze, looks like mouthwash, tastes like licorice. Jesus, how I hate licorice.

Further reading: the Virtual Absinthe Museum is fun. Apparently, old bottles of pre-ban absinthe are forever turning up in Europe, and they will sell you an ounce or two. They don’t tell you what it costs, which tells you what it costs. These people are good, too. They run another pricetag free site that sells nothing but bottles of assorted hooch older than fifty years.


Comment from SteamBoat McGoo
Time: May 9, 2007, 8:20 am

Master Weasel, you just blew away everything I thought I knew about absinthe. I thought it was up there with laudanum, heroin, morphene, and the other opiates, and deadly or addictive to all and sundry. Whoa. Extra credit on this article, dude! Mayhaps I shall try some someday!

Comment from SteamBoat McGoo
Time: May 9, 2007, 8:21 am

…and if I could learn to spell morphine (and god-knows what else), I’d be way happier.

Comment from Skynet
Time: May 9, 2007, 9:48 am

I saw a thing on the History Channel (IIRC) about absinthe a while back. They indicated that the French wine industry was largely responsible for absinthe’s evil reputation and eventual banning. One hell of a smear campaign eh?

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: May 9, 2007, 9:49 am

Gah! Stupid Skynet. That was me.

Comment from mesablue
Time: May 9, 2007, 1:34 pm

So it must have been the E and not the absinthe that got me so messed up in Budapest a few years ago?

I felt pretty goofy after drinking the stuff, but I’d been abusing myself for days and I feel goofy a lot without getting my particles excited.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: May 9, 2007, 4:54 pm

I hear if you hold your breath long enough you’ll get a real big buzz too. Hitting yourself in the forehead with a hammer can make you see funny things and feel weird too.

The stuff people do to avoid life amuses me.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 10, 2007, 2:27 am

Wow, Mythbuster Weasel! I wonder if Wormwood even works as a anti-parasitic now. Interesting, what about that green woman, Absinthia ? I saw her in pictures from Burning man. Amazing the kinds of myths and legends we believe untested. I guess Van Gogh was just plain old nuts then.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 10, 2007, 9:14 am

Ha! Check it out! These absinthe sellers were running a banner ad at Reason Online (first time I’ve ever clicked a banner ad on purpose). Must be what all the cool kids are doing.

Comment from Lokki
Time: May 10, 2007, 11:33 am

Interesting, what about that green woman, Absinthia ? I saw her in pictures from Burning man.

Was she burned in absentia?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 10, 2007, 6:30 pm

Ohhhh. For that, you burn in hell.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 11, 2007, 6:01 am


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