Sunday, April 3, 2011

A is for Absinthe

This month, I will be blogging a topic starting with every letter of the alphabet. Today's topic is absinthe.

There is probably no other alcoholic beverage with more mystique and cloak-and-dagger coolness than absinthe. This over-proof spirit was traditionally made from grande wormwood, fennel, and anise and distilled into a 100-proof state that came into favor in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the arts and literary communities. Vincent Van Gogh was a fan as was Ernest Hemmingway. The spirit was said to be hallucinogenic due to a compound found in wormword. This just increased its coolness factor.

However, not everyone was impressed. In the early 1900s, absinthe was embattled on all sides. Prohibition proponents, wine companies, and doctors were all calling for a ban on the beautiful green drink. Legal cases were held up as proof of its evil nature, including murders, rapes, and deaths. Today, we know that wormwood- and therefore, absinthe- has no hallucinogenic properties but it has been a long struggle to reinstate it in many countries around the world.

What is absinthe? Unfortunately, in most countries, there is no legal definition so many flavored and colored alcohols are allowed to use the name. Traditional absinthe included maceration of wormwood, fennel, and anise in a distillation process. The green color derives from the chlorophyll in the herbs. Although absinthe has a high alcohol content, it is most often diluted with water before drinking (unless you are Ernest Hemmingway, and then it is diluted with champagne).

Absinthe has once again become legal in the United States since 2007 and there are several imports and domestically-distilled products on the market. There are now several small micro-distillers producing traditional absinthe, such as St. George Absinthe Verte.

When purchasing absinthe, always do your homework first. Know the brand you are buying and how it was made. Purchasing what is essentially vodka with fennel flavoring is in no way the same experience as traditionally-distilled absinthe. If you buy absinthe in a bar or restaurant, try out several brands until you find the one you like best.


Linda St.Cyr said...

I haven't tried Absinthe yet but will one day... maybe...

Anonymous said...

Poe loved his absinthe... it probably contributed to his madness, in some respects. Great blog post!

Derek Odom said...

I found a bottle a long time ago that would ship from Germany for $100.00. I wanted it bad but didn't have that kind of scratch laying around. I finally did try it, but only a tad. I'd like closer to 1/2 bottle to really see for myself - LOL!

Theresa Wiza said...

I feel as if I've just had a history lesson. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I had a little sip of something--not sure if i was absinthe, but the name is familiar. This stuff had a kind of licorice taste. I wonder if it was this.

My “G” post: Genetic Link
My “H” post: Habituation: Can You Think Yourself Skinny?