The effects of Absinthe are infamous. Ask anyone about Absinthe and they will remember Absinthe as the green liquor that was famously banned around the world because it drove people to insanity. Many of these people have never tried Asbinthe and cannot comment from personal experience.
Absinthe was originally developed as an elixir or tonic by a doctor in the Swiss town of Couvet. Dr Ordinaire made it out of a selection of herbs known for their medicinal properties. His recipe finally got into the hands of Henri-Louis Pernod who made Absinthe from a wine base and added herbal ingredients such as aniseed, wormwood, hyssop, fennel, star anise, angelica root, lemon balm, nutmeg, juniper and dittany. Other manufacturers used different types of herbs in addition to Pernod’s recipe, herbs such as calamus root and mint.
The Green Fairy, or Absinthe, was given to French soldiers in the 1840s to treat malaria and became popular with the troops who brought it back home with them where it grew very popular in bars in France. Some bars even had Absinthe hours – L’heure vert – the green hour.
The Absinthe Ritual was an important part of the enjoyment of drinking Absinthe. Absinthe was served in bars in special Absinthe glasses with an Absinthe spoon, a sugar cube and iced water. The barman or waiter would use a carafe or fountain to drip the water over the sugar on the spoon and the customer would watch the Absinthe louche as the water mixed with the liquor.
Absinthe became a popular drink amongst the artists and writers of the Bohemian part of Paris – Montmartre. Artists and writers, such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Degas, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Oscar Wilde and Gauguin, all claimed that Absinthe gave them their genius and inspiration. Absinthe and Absinthe drinkers are featured in many works of art such as Albert Maignan’s “Green Muse” from 1895 showing an Absinthe drinker with a fairy (the green fairy) and Degas’ “L’Absinthe” from 1876.
Oscar Wilde wrote “After the first glass of Absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
Others have described the effects of drinking Absinthe as a “clear headed” or “lucid” drunkenness and this could be because Absinthe contains both sedatives and stimulants.
Effects of Absinthe and the Ban
Absinthe was famously banned in France in 1915 and many other countries around the world also banned it. The prohibition campaigners had managed to convince the French government that Absinthe would bring about the country’s downfall and that prolonged drinking of Absinthe, Absinthism, caused the following effects:-
– Hyper excitability
– Weakening of the intellect
– Brain damage
The chemical thujone, found in one of the vital ingredients of absinthe, wormwood, was thought to be like THC in the drug cannabis. Thujone was alleged to be a neurotoxin, to be psychoactive and to cause psychedelic effects. The wormwood in Absinthe was blamed for Van Gogh’s suicide and for a man murdering his family.
Many studies have shown that thujone has to be consumed in large amounts to cause such nasty effects and when Ted Breaux, Absinthe manufacturer and creator of the “Lucid” brand, tested bottles of vintage pre-ban Absinthe he found that Absinthe only contained minute amounts of thujone. Absinthe has therefore been legalized in many countries now.
Absinthe is mainly alcohol and is a very strong spirit, about twice as strong as other types of spirits such as whisky and vodka. It would therefore be pretty much impossible to ingest a large amount of thujone as you would not be able to consume that much alcohol and still be able to drink!
The effects of Absinthe are really just stories, part of the myth and legend that surrounds this glorious drink. Try some yourself by ordering a bottle of real wormwood Absinthe online or by making your own by using Absinthe essences from AbsintheKit.com.