Absinthe Green Fairy is an alcoholic drink with an interesting history. Developed as an elixir or tonic in the 18th century it is now one of the most controversial and famous drinks of all time.
Absinthe is an anise flavored spirit which is incredibly strong, between 45 and 75% Alcohol by volume. It is emerald green in color, hence the name “Green Fairy” or in French “La Fee Verte”. It is a distilled liquor made from herbs. The three main herbs tend to be wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium), green aniseed and fennel (fennell). Henri-Louis Pernod, who first commercially distilled Absinthe, used other herbs such as hyssop, lemon balm, nutmeg, juniper, veronica, star anise and dittany to produce his famous original Pernod Absinthe recipe. Other ingrediants such as the herb calamus were used by some manufacturers and this herb along with wormwood and nutmeg were though to be psychoactive. It is the essential oil extract from the herbs which causes Absinthe to louche when iced water is poured over the sugar on the Absinthe spoon. The oils are not water soluble and so cause the Absinthe to cloud or louche.
Absinthe Green Fairy and the Art World
Absinthe is famous for inspiring many artists and writers associated with the Bohemian culture of the Montmartre area of Paris. Famous Absinthe drinkers include Vincent Van Gough, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Degas, Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde. Many writers and artists were convinced that Absinthe gave them inspiration and gave them their genius. Painters like Van Gogh and Picasso even featured Absinthe and Absinthe drinkers in their paintings.
Absinthe’s association with old Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge and the Bohemian sect, was just the excuse that prohibition campaigners needed. Once it was linked with the murder of a family and the growing problem of alcohol addiction in France it was easy for campaigners to get the sale of Absinthe made illegal and it was banned in France in 1915. Other countries also banned it but it remained legal in the Czech Republic, the UK, Spain and Portugal.
The chemical thujone, present in wormwood, was blamed for the psychedelic effects of drinking the Green Fairy. Thujone was thought to be similar to THC in cannabis. However Absinthe is mainly alcohol, ethanol, and therefore only contains minute quanitities of thujone. Research has shown that Absinthe is just as safe as any other strong liquor and that it is the alcohol content not the thujone that is dangerous. Many studies and articles have been written on the subject. If you remember that it is about twice as strong as vodka or whisky and drink it with care and in moderation, it is simply a drink which gives pleasure.
During the time of prohibition many people enjoyed buying and drinking vintage style Absinthe in Absinthe bars in the Czech Republic, served in the classic Absinthe large glasses and in surroundings decorated with vintage Absinthe posters. Now, in 2008, Absinthe is legal in many countries although thujone levels are controlled in the EU and the United States only allows Absinthe with trace amounts of thujone to be bought and sold.
You can buy Absinthe online by the bottle or order Absinthe essences (visit the website AbsintheKit.com) to make your own Absinthe Green Fairy to bottle at home. Real Absinthe and Absinthe essences contain the vital ingredient wormwood but some new Absinthes, produced for the US market, do not contain thujone.
Absinthe Green Fairy is a delicious spirit and can be used in cocktails too – mix with champagne for a truly decadent drink!