Absinthe: the bad boy of booze

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There might not be a more notorious bottle of booze on the planet than the small but might absinthe as we continue our look at some of the different liqueurs and how we celebrate with them.

Known for it’s very high alcoholic content and exaggerated history, absinthe is almost like the mob boss of the alcohol world. For years, it was difficult to find and had quite the reputation. For a very long time, people believed that the anise flavoured spirit had hallucinogenic qualities in the early 1900s. While a chemical compound called thujone is presence in the spirit. There is such a trace amount that it’s affects have been greatly overblown. 

Absinthe was actually banned from many countries and federations by 1915.

Before that, absinthe actually has a storied history. 

Absinthe’s origins date back to late 18th century and a small, french speaking area of Western Switzerland. It wasn’t until the late 19th century and early 20th century that the spirit really took off. Over that time, it became rather popular among Parisian artist and writers in France. Not surprisingly, the establishment was definitely not a fan. Social conservatives and prohibitionists were staunchly against the spirit that can rise above 70% alcohol by volume. Perhaps that opposition helped create a “cool factor” around the drink. It was also consumed by some of the most notable people of the time like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Goh, Edgar Ellan Poe and Lord Byron, among many others. 

After being banned in the United States and much of Europe by 1915, absinthe slowly started to make it’s comeback in 1990s Europe. At that time, the European Union loosened some laws surrounding the barriers to production and sale of food and beverages. By the early 2000s absinthe distillers started popping up across Europe, some 200 of them actually, most of which were in France, Switzerland, Spain and the Czech Republic. 

It wasn’t until 2006 that a definitive study proved once and for all that absinthe’s hallucinogenic affects were unfounded. 

To this day, absinthe is still very regulated across the world. In Canada, every province has it’s own rules surrounding the potent spirit.

As mentioned, absinthe is an anise flavoured spirit that is made from botanicals like the flowers and leaves from the “artemisia absinthium” or the “grand wormwood,” green anise, sweet fennel and a mix of other herbs. 

You can find both green and clear absinthe.  

The traditional way to enjoy absinthe is by pouring cold water over a sugar cube into one serving. Though, it’s also found it’s way into cocktails as well, including something made famous by Hemingway called “Death in the Afternoon” in a collection of celebrity cocktails published in 1935. It was more of a joke at the time, but if you wanted to try it, it’s one serving of absinthe in a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.

Joel Gasson