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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.

May 9, 2007 — 5:09 am
Comments: 11