Absinthe. In the world of alcoholic beverages, it is a word that evokes a lot of of interesting responses. Also known as the “Green Fairy,” absinthe is an adult beverage with a long and storied history dating back to the 16th century. No other alcoholic drink has been so misunderstood yet been blamed for so much.
Before getting into the history of absinthe, we should probably discuss what it is. Although some consider it to be a liqueur, it’s actually a spirit because it’s bottled with no additional sugar. It’s made from several different types of botanicals and includes anise and fennel, two ingredients that give it a taste very similar to black licorice.
How Strong is Absinthe?
To say that absinthe is potent would be an understatement. Typically, it’s bottled with a very high alcohol content only to be diluted at the bar when drinks are mixed. Yet if it’s consumed straight out of the bottle, it is definitely a “smack you in the face and call your mama” kind of drink.
Most of the time absinthe is a greenish color (hence the nickname “Green Fairy”), although it can sometimes be clear. The only question is: Can you stomach a greenish-looking beverage that vaguely resembles mouthwash but tastes like black licorice?
That’s most likely the reason why it’s consumed today by pouring the absinthe over a spoonful of sugar into a glass. Not only does that lighten the color substantially, it also reduces the bitterness of the straight absinthe. As for smacking you in the face and calling your mama, feel free to ask one of the more friendly bar patrons to do that for you if it makes you feel better.
Is Absinthe Mostly for the Eccentric?
The French were the largest consumers of absinthe in the 1800s and early 1900s. It was believed to have very strong narcotic effects and was therefore favored by poets, musicians, and artists as a way to spur creativity; much the same way that government grants do today. This might be one of the reasons it has a reputation for causing one to lose one’s mind.
Just as an example, did you know painter Vincent van Gogh was a big fan of the Green Fairy? No, not Peter Pan; he was a big fan of absinthe. Remember, he’s the one who was so obsessed with a French prostitute he cut off his left ear and gave it to her as a gift.
Van Gogh had definitely lost his mind. Whether or not it was due to absinthe is anyone’s guess.
Other notable drinkers of the intoxicating fluid include Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Pablo Picasso. And just for the record, a look at Picasso’s work suggests he was one brick short of a load as well. Was absinthe the cause? You make the call.
Why Was Absinthe Banned?
By the early 1900s absinthe had such a bad reputation for being highly narcotic that local towns and villages across Europe began calling for it to be banned. After a Swiss farmer known to drink absinthe murdered his entire family in 1905, its fate was sealed.
One by one, countries began to outlaw absinthe until, by 1914, it was virtually extinct on the legal market. But just like prohibition didn’t stop U.S. alcohol production in the 1920s, banning absinthe didn’t stop people from making it. It wasn’t until the 1990s that laws were relaxed and it was allowed back into bars and liquor stores.
So, Does Absinthe Really Drown Out Your Mind?
At the end of the day, the question still exists as to whether or not absinthe can really make your mind go absent. The question probably can’t be fully answered, given the fact that too much alcohol of any kind can do just that. But might we suggest anyone willing to consume a beverage known as the Green Fairy may have some issues to begin with?
If absinthe is your drink of choice you’re better off carrying it in a stainless steel flask so no one finds out about your “little secret.” Trust us; the explanation of lime Kool-Aid probably won’t cut it with your friends who are already familiar with your drinking habits. And just for the record, Mountain Dew is yellow, not green.
If you’re worried about the mind-altering effects of absinthe you might consider trying rum instead. Of course, rum is known in some places as “Kill-Devil” or the “Devil in a Bottle”, so you might not be any better off there. Perhaps if you mixed the two, one would cancel out the other. Or not.
In either case, drinking responsibly is always the best method for ensuring you don’t lose your mind. Whether your drink of choice is absinthe, rum, vodka, or red wine, consume it in moderation and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, you might find yourself missing an ear in the morning.
Absinthe: Dancing with the Green Fairy – http://absinthe.msjekyll.com/
Absinthe Buyers Guide – http://www.absinthebuyersguide.com/absinthe_history.html