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November 27, 2007

Absinthe Back On Shelves

Would never try it, but I admit curiosity.

The green liquor that is sometime called the queen of poisons has been banned since 1915.

However, some companies have found away around the ban, WJXT-TV reported.

"It was outlawed because of the narcotic quality," said Riverside Liquors owner David Joudi. "It's already being imported into the states under camouflage of packaging."

I can't tell if this article is badly written or if the writer is being cagey. What's on store shelves now? The real stuff or the legal (non-narcotic) stuff? They don't really say.

Explain to me [Gabe]: What's the big deal with absinthe? Is the fascination derived from the fact that it was banned or are there some other qualities I'm unaware of? Morons, explain to this innocent lad.

Explanation [Ace]: Absinthe is a potent liquor but what makes it notorious is the fact that wormwood is somehow in it. Whether it's aged in wormwood casks or what I don't know, but wormwood is in there. And wormwood has hallucinogenic properties -- mild, I'm guessing -- and I think can be poisonous or induce madness at high doses.

A lot of people drank absinthe in the 1800's/early 1900's. Van Gogh was a big drinker, and some claim his phatasmagorical landscapes were influenced by absinthe hallucinations. And also, some say he went mad on the stuff.

So it has a romantic/dangerous pedigree. Plus there's this whole ritual to drinking it. It's a clear greenish fluid, but usually it's drank after being poured over a cube of sugar, which turns the stuff a milky yellow color.

I drank some one time. A friend had gotten it in Spain. I don't know if it was real absinthe -- with the wormwood -- or a safer sort, without the wormwood. I know I got really drunk off it but I think it might just have been that I drank too much of it. Not sure if I had any sensory distortion, apart from the typical amount one experiences when shitfaced.

I know I don't particularly want to drink it again. I woke up with a dead hobo next to me, which I guess isn't such a big deal, as I'd also gone to sleep with a dead hobo next to me, as I usually do.

But the thing is -- it was a completely different dead hobo. There's a head-scratcher for ya.

So that's why I wouldn't drink it again. Plus -- Atkins.

Debunking [Ace]: Sinistar:

Apparently a lot of the rumors of its narcotic qualities come from the use of nasty additives used when producers couldn't meet demand or were looking to cash in. Similar things happened with gin, but absinthe had different qualities, and was popular with artists, it probably got a boost in mystique from that.

The only issue is a compound in it called thujone, which can be a carcinogen. Of course, a few sage leaves carry much more than a bottle of absinthe. There's a scientist named Breaux who has been studying absinthe, finding old bottles and original recipes and recreating them. From what I've seen, he seems to indicate most of the mystique is bullshit, its just an enjoyable drink. Its actually kind of interesting how he's working to revive it.

Mike Z:

It used to be popular among intellectuals, especially the European literary set. Absinthe was thought to be have certain stimulant and narcotic qualities that set it apart from ordinary alcohol. The fact that so many notables suffered from and sometimes died from "absinthism" was taken as an indication that the stuff was especially bad and should be banned. This seemed to be confirmed when studies suggested that thujone, an active chemical in wormwood - a primary ingredient in absinthe, was a convulsant poison in large quantities. However, other alcoholic beverages, such as vermouth, are also flavored with wormwood and thus contain thujone and it doesn't appear that the amount of thujone in absinthe is anywhere near sufficient to induce seizures. Recent thought is that the people who suffered from absinthism were just plain old alcoholics and that absinthe's popularity had more to do with its exceptionally high alcohol content (between about130 and 160 proof) than any special narcotic properties.

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posted by LauraW. at 01:47 PM

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