Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

I'd like first to apologize for the pun. Couldn't help myself. I'd also like to say that I've never tried absinthe. Heck, I've never even see it. I live in Ohio, so it's hard to get a Corona here. I'm not much of a drinker. Two beers and someone has to drive me home, so absinthe would most likely put me into a coma.

Absinthe is a distilled spirit, 45-75% alcohol, and that's a heck of a lot of alcohol. It's made from grande wormwood, and that makes it sound even more exotic. To top it off, it's this lucious, strange bright green color, like a potion. It was extremely popular in late nineteenth and early twentieth century France, where a lot of writers and artists enjoyed it immensely and referred to it as "the Green Fairy." A list of bohemian fans includes Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Toulouse-Lautrec, Wilde, Crowley and van Gogh. Not an extremely cheery group of people, but they were quite inventive. In 1910, the French were drinking 36 million liters of absinthe a year. And that is a heck de beaucoup of absinthe.

It gained a great reputation as a psychoactive, addictive substance, and was villified and banned. However, its only real reactions seem to be caused by its very high alcohol content and nothing more. Like so many vintage fads, absinthe enjoyed a resurgence at the last turn of the century, into the new millenium, and it's now being sold around the world again today.

The myth of illness and addiction has made absinthe a glamourous subject for many artists. Early absinthe may have been mixed with poisonous substances to make it even more green, and that could account for some of the reported strange effects. From modern experiments, it seems to have the effect of an unusually "lucid drunkeness," and many creators lauded its mind expanding qualities while also damning its after effects and addictive qualities.

"The Goddess," wrote Aleister Crowley. "What makes her so adorable and so terrible?" Trust me, if Aleister Crowley thought it was terrible, then it's best to steer completely clear of it.

Me? I just love the history and the color. . .


  1. When my sweetie, Dennis, and I were in Prague a few years ago, we were tempted to try some absinthe, but we were too chicken.

    The romantic allure of the green fairy elixir was dampened by my reading on the Internet that it mostly now (in its tamed-down modern versions) will just give you a whooper of a headache.

    Love your post, your writing, the color of absinthe, the great illustrations, and your yummy necklace!

  2. ive tried absinthe and from what i remember it was okay. another favourite is ouzo. the green colour of absinthe is definately a winning card for me!