Absithe, Wormwood, The Green Fairy

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Absinthe. What is this stuff? Why the big hoopla?

Backpacker’s heading off to Europe with the intentions of partying like rock stars often seek the mysterious "green stuff" at one point of their trip or another.

Here are some facts and history of this controversial green potion.

Absinthe is an alcoholic drink made with an extract from wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). It was invented by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in 1792, as an all purpose remedy and he became the first to promote this "cure all" wonder drink. Crazy as it sounds, when it was first invented it was mixed with wine (to give it a more intoxicating effect), and was used to treat drunkeness.

It looks like a magical potion due to it`s green emerald color and was nicknamed "La Fèe Verte" or "The Green Fairy."

Because of the ingredient Absinthin, it`s bare flavor is quite bitter.

Due to it`s bitter flavor, water is lightly poured over a specially made spoon(with holes/slots in it) filled with sugar(a spoonful or a cube).

As the water and sugar dissolve in the glass filled with Absinthe, it`s emerald green color turns milky white.

Absinthe is distilled from a plant called wormwood and contains a chemical called thujone, which may cause hallucinations and psychotic behavior.

As more and more manufacturer`s of Absinthe grew, it became very inexpensive to buy. And as it`s popularity grew in the mid to late 1800`s, it became a favorite drink of not only the upper class society, but of the Bohemian lifestyle too.

In it`s heyday, Absinthe was 140-160 proof! How ya like them apples?! In Hamburg, Germany I was at a party when I first tried Absinthe. Wow. That stuff was potent!

It didn`t affect me immediately, but as I sat there slowly sipping it and chatting with my new German friends, I could feel the chemical properties taking effect.

It was a different kind of buzz, I remember. It didn`t feel like the same kind of buzz that you get when you have a  beer, a glass or two of wine, or hard liqour for that matter.

You know how you get that tipsy feeling first, after downing a bottle or two of beer? Well, after my initial glass of Absinthe, I remember thinking that my brain was starting to feel heavy. Like I drank mercury or something and it slowly started to seep into my brain.

It is the custom in Germany (or maybe just the party people in Hamburg), that before they pour the water over the sugar, they light the Absinthe on fire giving it a cool "must have drink" effect.

The fire is distinguished when you mix it all together after the water has been poured over the sugar.
Quick Absinthe History
1792 Absinthe was invented by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire.
1805 Henri-Louis Pernod opened the first Absinthe distillery in Switzerland and then moved to a larger one in Pontarlier, France in
1850`s Widely popular among the upper-class.
Late 1800`s The Bohemian lifestyle embraced it. La Fèe verte (the green fairy) as it became commonly known, was most popular in France.  
Most people finished their day with one or two drinks, thus was born- l`heure verte (the green hour).
Early 1900`s Banned from most countries, but never banned in Britain, Spain, or Portugal.
Some famous people known to have been regular consumers of the green stuff.
  • Edouard Manet
  • Charles Baudelaire
  • Paul Verlaine
  • Arthur Rimbaud
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Ernest Dowson
  • Edgar Degas
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Adolphe Monticelli
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Alfred Jarry
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Edgar Allen Poe
Ever wonder why the famous Dutch Vincent van Gogh cut his ear off?
It is a known fact that he was a big fan of Absinthe (as were many artist and famous people in the 19th century) and in his final days, drank tons of it before he became the "one-ear-wonder."
He died in Auvers, France(1889) two days after shooting himself in the chest with a pistol.
Absinthe was banned in the US in 1912.

Is Absinthe illegal in the US right now? If your brand of Absinthe contains "artemisia absinthium," than YES, it is illegal. And if you bring a bottle of it back home from your trip to Europe, the US customs agent can confiscate it from you.

However, there are certain brands  that do not contain "artemisia absinthium," and these  ARE PERFECTLY LEGAL in the US. Do your research before you try to bring a bottle home with you!

When you are off backpacking Europe and come across this mezmerising green stuff. Just remember that too much of anything is not good. This is most definitely the case with Absinthe.

Party hard, but keep it real. Don`t over do it! We can all learn a lesson or two from Van Gogh.

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