Absinthe is a liquor made with herbs including wormwood – Artemisia absinthium. It was popular in France in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. By 1912 the temperance movement was powerful, and absinthe became the object of a moral panic. People believed it caused hallucinations, murderous violence, epilepsy, and tuberculosis in habitual drinkers. It was banned in the US in 1912. Since about 2005 it’s been legal in the US, though the amount of the psychoactive compound thujone is regulated by law. I received a bottle for Christmas.

bottle of green absinthe, glass, slotted absinthe spoon, tungsten
Absinthe in a glass. A cube of sugar rests on the absinthe spoon. Ice water is in the pitcher.

It’s 136 proof, so it needs to be mixed with water. The traditional method is to slowly pour ice water over a sugar cube set on a slotted absinthe spoon. The clear green liquor turns louche – cloudy, a light green usually described as “opalescent.” To one ounce of absinthe I added four ounces of ice water.

bottle of green absinthe, glass of pale green mixture, tungsten
Absinthe after adding ice water. The small gray cylinder to the left of the pitcher is tungsten.

More so than other liquors the flavor masks the alcohol, so it might be possible to take more than you realize. I don’t notice any unusual effects, other than a slight numbness in my lips and tongue. It has a nice fresh herbal flavor and satisfying aroma. Now all I need is a hat.

man in a ragged cloak and large hat
Manet, The Absinthe Drinker, 1859

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