Absinthe is an anise-flavored alcohol that has a high alcohol content ranging from 50 to 75 percent alcohol by volume (though most varieties are about 60 percent ABV). Absinthe liquor is made from the extracts of herbs, including the wormwood that is responsible for absinthe”s unique flavor.
The essential oils in vintage absinthe contain the chemical Thujone, a toxic substance when consumed in large amounts. Thujone is said to be the culprit behind absinthe”s mysterious, mind-altering effects.
History of Absinthe
Dr. Pierre Ordinaire invented absinthe in 1797. By the 1850s, absinthe had become a favorite drink of the wealthy. When its wine base was replaced with pure alcohol in the 1870s, absinthe became more affordable and, therefore, more widely drank.
During this time, artists and writers adopted the drink because it increased their creativity. Some of the more famous drinkers of absinthe included:
- Edgar Allen Poe
- Ernest Hemingway
- Oscar Wilde
- Pablo Picasso
- Vincent Van Gogh.
Absinthe became known as “the green fairy,” or the absinthe fairy, because of its deep green color.
As absinthe continued to grow in popularity, some became concerned about heavy use of absinthe. They believed absinthe was causing addiction and hallucinations. As a result of prohibition, absinthe was soon banned in many countries in the early 1900s. In 1912, absinthe was banned in the United States.
Absinthe”s Psychedelic Effects
It has long since been rumored that vintage absinthe contains a toxic chemical, known as thujone, that has mind-altering properties. However, scientists have found very small amounts of thujone in absinthe and, therefore, have concluded that the high concentration of alcohol is the only source of the “madness” that results from drinking “the green fairy.”
Chemists who analyzed bottles of absinthe dating back to the early 1900s (before it was banned) also found only trace amounts of thujone in the anise flavored liqueur.
Main Ingredients in Vintage Absinthe Liquor
Absinthe is most often described as having the flavor of licorice, with a bitter after taste. Some of the other herbal ingredients of absinthe typically include:
- lemon balm
While some researchers content that a few of the ingredients of vintage absinthe were toxic, today”s absinthe is made with safe, non-toxic ingredients.
Several recipes outline different methods of how to make absinthe. The following is a common recipe for making this type of liquor at home.
- 1 liter of vodka
- 1 oz. of dried chopped wormwood
- 1 tbsp. of angelica root
- 1 tsp. of hyssop
- 1/2 tsp. of coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp. of caraway seeds
- 1 pinch of cardomon pods
- 1 pinch of fennel or anise seeds.
- Add the wormwood to the vodka in a glass container. Set aside and leave in a dark place for ten days. It is best to use 100 proof (50 percent alcohol) vodka.
- After ten days, strain out the wormwood and add all the remaining herbs and spices.
- Wait four days, then strain and serve.
With this recipe, the absinthe is best when drunk straight, with water chasers.
How to Drink Absinthe
Absinthe is emerald green in color and very bitter. Traditionally, absinthe alcohol is prepared by pouring cold water over a cube of sugar that is sitting on top of a slotted absinthe spoon.
The cold water dissolves the sugar while diluting the absinthe. The sugar helps to ease the bitterness of the absinthe. Interestingly, when the water is drizzled into the liquor, it all turns a milky greenish-white.
Absinthe Mixed Drinks
Along with being served on its own or with water, absinthe is also delicious as mixers for other cocktails. If you can”t bear the potency of absinthe straight, try some of these recipes.
- 1 oz. absinthe
- 1/2 oz. bourbon
- 1/2 oz. gin
- 1/4 oz. peach schnapps
- 1 oz. energy drink
- splash of cranberry juice.
Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
- 1/4 oz. absinthe
- 1/2 tbsp. sugar
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice.
In a cocktail shaker with ice, mix together all the ingredients and shake well. Strain mix into a sugar-topped, chilled martini glass.
Where to Buy Absinthe
Although absinthe was once banned, it is now legal to produce and sell absinthe in almost every country where alcohol is legal. In 2007, absinthes banned status was lifted, making it now legal in the United States as long it does not exceed 10 mg of Thujone.
Two brands, Lucid and Kbler, were the first absinthe brands to be sold in the United States in nearly a century.
Absinthe is also readily available online and is sold in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and Switzerland. It has never been banned in the Czech Republic, Spain or Portugal.