What Is Absinthe? – Absinthe is an overproof liquor, meaning it is a spirit whose ABV (alcohol by volume) is over 50%. It is made from medicinal and culinary herbs, plants, and flowers steeped in high-proof spirits. “The elixir was invented in Switzerland as a general cure-all by Pierre Ordinaire, a French physician, in 1792,” writes Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead in their book Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century.
Its signature bitter anise flavor comes from a mix of herbs including fennel and most notably, wormwood, a bitter herb notorious for both its health benefits and supposed hallucinogenic properties. Wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium, contains a chemical called thujone, which when consumed in large quantities can act as a convulsant.
In small quantities, like in a few servings of absinthe, thujone is totally harmless. Traditionally, absinthe is not bottled with added sugar, making it a high-proof spirit instead of a sweetened liqueur,which gives absinthe its sharp, harsh flavor.
- 1 Is it legal to drink absinthe?
- 2 Is spirit and liqueur the same?
- 3 Is a spirit a liqueur?
- 4 What makes a spirit a liqueur?
Why is absinthe banned?
Few other distilled spirits have lived the long hard, magical, mystical life of Absinthe. Years before the 18th Amendment, best known as Prohibition was ratified in the U.S. in 1919 this often misunderstood green spirit – Absinthe, La Fee verte or The Green Lady – was banned in 1912.
- The Absinthe ban was based on a belief that the green liquid inside the bottle was hallucinogenic.
- When the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition in 1933 the ban on Absinthe remained.
- In fact, that ban remained in effect until 95 years later when the TTB along with the FDA authorized the sale of Absinthe in the U.S.
But, as is often the case with the TTB and the FDA, there were several “buts.” “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.” ~ Oscar Wilde
Is one shot of absinthe OK?
How Do You Drink Absinthe? – di4kadi4kova/Getty Images Because of its incredibly high alcohol content, absinthe shouldn’t be taken as a shooter alone. The most common way to drink absinthe is to place a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over a shot of absinthe and slowly pour cold water over the sugar until it dissolves.
This creates a milky white cocktail that is a bit diluted but still tastes like absinthe. Another way is similar in that it also starts with a shot of absinthe in a glass-topped with a sugar cube on a slotted spoon. But this sugar cube is soaked in a drop or two of additional absinthe, lit on fire, then dropped into the glass.
This causes all of the absinthe to ignite before it’s doused with a shot of water. Cocktails are also a good way to use absinthe. A drink named Death in the Afternoon was a favorite of Ernest Hemmingway and involves adding a shot of absinthe to a champagne glass, then filling it with sparkling wine.
Is it legal to drink absinthe?
Is Absinthe Legal in The US? – The most common absinthe-related query on the internet is “Is absinthe legal?” The short answer is yes, the alcoholic spirit absinthe (also spelled absinth in the Czech Republic or absenta in Spain) is perfectly legal in the United States as long as it is thujone-free.
Does absinthe get you drunk fast?
Historically, absinthe, also known as the “Green Fairy,” was said to cause hallucinations. (iStock) Many countries are embracing absinthe again, after nearly a century of shunning the alcoholic drink. Historically, absinthe, also known as the “Green Fairy,” was said to cause hallucinations.
- According to Men’s Journal, it was popular with artists and writers even during the ban, including creatives like Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.
- But will absinthe actually send you on a trip? MAN CLAIMS ENERGY DRINK ADDICTION ROTTED HIS TEETH, CAUSED SEVERE PAIN The short answer: it doesn’t cause hallucinations if that’s your worry.
However, absinthe may cause other side effects related to drinking an alcoholic drink of this magnitude. Scientist Ted Breaux proved that absinthe doesn’t have hallucinogenic ingredients in its mix, states Men’s Journal. According to the magazine, his experiment eventually led the world to accept the drink as mainstream again.
However, absinthe does have a proven characteristic that also raises questions. The drink is known for its high alcoholic content—that’s why it’s considered a high-proof herbal liquor. Because of that, absinthe will get you drunk quickly if you don’t dilute it. According t o HowStuffWorks, the drink consists of 55 to 75 percent alcohol, making it a 110- to 140-proof drink.
By comparison, hard drinks like whiskey, gin, and rum have around 40 percent alcoholic content, which translates to an 80-proof drink. Men’s Journal states that the safest way to enjoy this drink is by mixing 1 ounce of absinthe with 4 to 5 ounces of water before downing it.
DEADLY ‘ZOMBIE’ DEER DISEASE COULD POSSIBLY SPREAD TO HUMANS, EXPERTS WARN But should health officials trust that the general public will know to dilute the drink that much? The main concern with a drink this strong is the hands it could fall into. If a habitual drinker downs too much of this alcohol, his actions may very well resemble someone who is hallucinating.
Of course, those who drink alcohol should take responsibility for themselves. However, absinthe’s high alcoholic content could increase the chances of impairment. Currently, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
- In 2014, over 30 percent of all driving fatalities were related to alcohol, states the NIAAA.
- Allowing a drink that’s stronger than most other alcoholic beverages into the U.S.
- Could cause this rate to increase.
- In addition, alcohol is known to interact with medication, both prescription and over-the-counter.
According to Consumer Reports, one study by the National Institutes of Health dug into this topic. Of the 26,000 people who participated, the NIH found that 42 percent of alcohol drinkers were also taking medication that could interact. That percentage rose when researchers looked at only those aged 65 and older.
This fact warrants concern since alcohol often stays in an older person’s body longer. Older people are also more likely to be taking multiple medications every day, states Consumer Reports. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP The consumer-dedicated site lists a variety of common medications known to interact with alcohol.
Those include medicines like Valium, Warfarin, Lipitor and even OTC drugs like Advil, aspirin, Aleve and Tylenol. The fact is that if these medications interact with common alcoholic beverages, think what might happen if someone unknowingly consumes absinthe while taking them.
Why do people drink absinthe?
It was late August 1905 in the small village of Commugny, Switzerland, and three coffins stood open to the air. The mother’s was the largest, adult-sized; a smaller casket held her four-year-old daughter, Rose. In the smallest coffin lay her two-year-old daughter, Blanche.
Before the coffins stood Jean Lanfray, a burly, French-speaking laborer. Facing the bodies of his family, he wept, insisting he didn’t remember shooting the three. “Please tell me I haven’t done this,” he wailed. “I loved my family and children so much!” Lanfray had drunk his way through the previous day, beginning near dawn with a shot of absinthe diluted in water.
A second absinthe shot soon followed. At lunch and during his afternoon break from work at a nearby vineyard, he downed six glasses of strong wine. He drank another glass before leaving work. Heading home, Lanfray stopped at a café and drank black coffee with brandy.
Back home Lanfray finished a liter of wine as his wife watched in disgust. She called him lazy. He told her to shut up. She told him to make her. He took his loaded rifle from the wall and shot her through the forehead. When his daughter Rose came to investigate, he shot her too. Then he went into the next room, walked to the crib of his other daughter, Blanche, and shot her.
From this domestic tragedy the people of Commugny drew one inescapable conclusion: the absinthe made him do it. Anti-absinthe sentiment had been bubbling throughout Europe, and in Switzerland it boiled over. “Absinthe,” Commugny’s mayor publicly declared, “is the principal cause of a series of bloody crimes in our country.” A petition to outlaw the drink gathered 82,000 signatures in just a few days. The Hour of Absinthe, by Gilbert Martin. Published in the satirical journal Don Quichotte. David Nathan-Maister and the Virtual Absinthe Museum, oxygenee.com The press seized on Lanfray’s story, dubbing it “the absinthe murder.” For members of the anti-absinthe movement (including many newspaper editors), two glasses of pale-green liquid explained why a family lay dead.
Prohibitionists could not have imagined a more potent metaphor for social decay. La Gazette de Lausanne, a French-language Swiss newspaper, called it “the premiere cause of bloodthirsty crime in this century.” At his trial the following February, Lanfray’s lawyers declared him a classic case of absinthe madness—a medically ill-defined affliction, but one that captured the public imagination.
The lawyers called to the stand Albert Mahaim, a leading Swiss psychiatrist. He had examined the defendant and declared confidently that only sustained, daily corruption by that foul drink could have given him “the ferociousness of temper and blind rages that made him shoot his wife for nothing and his two poor children, whom he loved.” The prosecution countered that his absinthe consumption was dwarfed by his prodigious intake of other alcohol.
The trial lasted a single day. Found guilty on four counts of murder—his wife, an examination revealed, had been pregnant with a son—Lanfray hanged himself in prison three days later. The murders energized prohibitionists—the drink became a Swiss national concern. The canton of Vaud (containing Commugny) banned it less than a month after Lanfray’s death.
The canton of Geneva, reacting to its own “absinthe murder,” followed suit. In 1910 Switzerland declared absinthe illegal. Belgium had banned it in 1905 and the Netherlands in 1910. In 1912 the U.S. Pure Food Board imposed a ban, calling absinthe “one of the worst enemies of man, and if we can keep the people of the United States from becoming slaves to this demon, we will do it.” By 1915 the Green Fairy ( la fée verte, as the absintheurs called it) had been exiled even from France, long the center of absinthe subculture.
- While temperance movements had blossomed worldwide in the late 1800s and early 1900s, never before had an individual alcoholic drink been targeted.
- Yet by World War I, throughout the world a combination of economic interests, dubious science, and a fear of social change—and the tabloid stories that used murder to inflame readers’ imaginations—had turned the Green Fairy into the Green Demon.
The press seized on Lanfray’s story, dubbing it “the absinthe murder.” Absinthe was not always the devil in a bottle. The French name derives from the Greek absinthion, which the Greeks used not as an intoxicant but as a medicine. Typically made by soaking wormwood leaves ( Artemisia absinthium ) in wine or spirits, this ancient absinthe supposedly aided childbirth.
- Hippocrates, often considered the first physician, prescribed it for menstrual pain, jaundice, anemia, and rheumatism.
- Roman scholar Pliny the Elder describes chariot-race champions drinking absinthium, its taste reminding them that glory has its bitter side—a sentiment wholeheartedly embraced by later enthusiasts.
Throughout the centuries wormwood remained a folk medicine. Galen, a physician during the second century CE, suggested it for stomach relaxation and as a remedy for swooning. British herbalist John Gerard wrote in 1597, “Wormewood voideth away the wormes of the guts.” This evocative connection helped solidify Artemisia absinthium ‘s common English name.
- When the bubonic plague returned to England in the 17th and 18th centuries, many people burned wormwood to fumigate infected houses.
- For centuries wormwood drinks remained primarily medicinal.
- More recreational concoctions occasionally appeared, such as wormwood wine and crème d’absinthe.) Then in 1830 France conquered Algeria, beginning its expansion into North Africa.
As local resistance grew, the French army sent reinforcements, amounting to 100,000 soldiers by 1840. The heat and bad water took their toll, with fever tearing through the ranks. The men received wormwood to quell fevers, prevent dysentery, and ward off insects.
They took to spiking their wine with it, which cut the bitterness and provided an alcoholic punch. Returning to France, they brought with them a taste for the drink, dubbing it “une verte” for its distinctive green color. And soon civilians, eager to align themselves with their newly victorious empire, began asking for “a green.” At first absinthe remained a middle- and upper-class indulgence.
Adults Get Drunk For The First Time
But it had an exotic appeal; legends grew about its long history and supposedly hallucinogenic effects. As prosperity spread, more people partook of l’heure verte, the “green hour” of early evening when the unique smell of absinthe wafted through the air.
Savvy customers realized that with its high proof, absinthe delivered more force for the franc. Diluted with water (virtually no one could drink it straight), it went even further. By 1849 the 26 French absinthe distilleries were producing some 10 million liters, a small fraction of the prodigious amount of alcohol consumed in France.
A minority of artists and poets evangelized loudly in favor of the Green Fairy. Absinthe became synonymous with mad genius as literary luminaries like Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud sang its praises. In 1859 Edouard Manet painted The Absinthe Drinker, a realistic portrait of a street bum clad in rags and wearing a gnarled top hat, his left foot thrust forward in defiant insouciance.
Next to him sits an emerald glass. Manet’s painting was rejected from that year’s Salon of Paris. It caused his mentor, Thomas Couture, to shake his head: “My poor friend, you are the absinthe drinker. It is you who have lost your moral faculty.” Manet had dared to portray absinthe intoxication realistically; indeed, his painting lent its subject an insolent grandeur.
His new mentor, poet Charles Baudelaire, had declared, “One must be drunk always. With wine, poetry, or with virtue, your choice. But intoxicate yourself.” The absintheurs idealized intoxication. Polite society did not. The absinthe mythology— of the Green Fairy of liberation, of altered perceptions and unveiled meanings—appealed to creative libertines around the world.
- Vincent van Gogh was a convert, as was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
- Playwright Alfred Jarry sought his destruction in absinthe; Pablo Picasso dabbled in it for a time, painting The Absinthe Drinker and the cubist breakthrough The Glass of Absinthe, but never gave himself over to it.
- Oscar Wilde declared, “A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world.
What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?” Often reproduced, the Absinthe Blanqui poster is an art-nouveau image inspired by the cultural trend of orientalism at the time. David Nathan-Maister and the Virtual Absinthe Museum, oxygenee.com Even Ernest Hemingway, not especially known for decadence or dandyism, embraced absinthe.
- He called it “opaque, bitter, tongue-numbing, brain-warming, stomach-warming, idea-changing liquid alchemy,” saying, “It’s supposed to rot your brain out, but I don’t believe it.
- It only changes the ideas.” Hemingway succinctly captured the danger and allure of the pale-green drink.
- To enthusiasts it promised new ideas.
To the unconverted it symbolized madness—”une correspondance pour Charenton,” a ticket to Charenton, the insane asylum outside Paris. The most systematic studies of absinthe toxicity took place at another Paris asylum, under the supervision of a psychiatrist seeking to prove that absinthe did indeed “rot your brain out.” Valentin Magnan, an influential and well-respected psychiatrist, was appointed physician-in-chief of France’s main asylum, Sainte-Anne, in 1867 and thus became the national authority on mental illness.
He diagnosed a steady decline in French culture—a not uncommon belief. While Magnan ignored the wilder, medically unsupportable claims of absinthe’s sinister effects, he shared the general concern about the fitness of the French population. Like many nationalists of the time he believed in a “French race”: the concept of “degeneration” had much currency among public officials of the time, as ideas about heredity filtered into public discussion.
Claims of degeneration—of a once-great nation now in decline—spurred action and anger, though such claims were often scientifically and statistically confused. Those who saw the French race collapsing, Magnan among them, could point to increasing instances of diagnosed insanity—most likely the effect of better diagnostic techniques—and to the strain of modern industrial life on already at-risk psyches.
They could also point to lower birth rates—now seen as a nearly inevitable consequence of higher living standards and greater female education. Given the massive social and industrial changes of the 19th century, many unsurprisingly looked for culprits. And for Magnan, who found signs of national collapse in his asylum, absinthe became the villain responsible for an entire host of social ills.
In response Magnan sought to define “absinthism” as distinct from alcoholism. In 1869 he published results of an experiment designed to do just that. He placed one guinea pig in a glass case with a saucer of pure alcohol. A second guinea pig got its own case and a saucer of wormwood oil.
Two other cases contained a cat and a rabbit, both with saucers of wormwood oil. As Magnan watched, the three animals inhaling wormwood fumes grew excited and then fell into seizures. The alcohol-breathing animal merely got drunk. From this and similar experiments Magnan insisted on a separate category for the small number of “absinthistes” in his asylum.
Chronic absinthe users, he claimed, suffered from seizures, violent fits, and bouts of amnesia. He recommended a ban on the Green Devil. Others found his claims unpersuasive. Responses in The Lancet, for one, noted flaws in his methodology, including the crucial differences between a guinea pig inhaling high doses of distilled wormwood and a human consuming trace amounts of diluted wormwood.
- More likely, many argued, excessive consumption produced the same alcoholism as with any other drink.
- The British were especially skeptical of his claims; not coincidentally, the United Kingdom was one of the few countries never to ban the drink, which had never gained popularity there.
- When disease infected French vineyards in the 1880s, the resulting wine shortage helped popularize absinthe among the money-conscious working class.
But in France, Magnan’s theories fit into the larger cultural conversation. Defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 escalated already existing anxieties about France’s collective health and especially its ability to protect itself against a bellicose and populous neighbor.
(After the war Germany had 41 million citizens compared with France’s 36 million.) Public-health concerns gained an existential force; those worried about the rise of absinthe dubbed it “the poisoning of the population.” Not only did it contribute to the ill health of the populace, these opponents argued, but it was also an abortifacient and sterilized men, robbing the country of a generation of potential soldiers.
Others had long reveled in the dark side of absinthe. Baudelaire, an unrepentant absintheur, had declared in 1861, “France is passing through a period of vulgarity.” He thoroughly enjoyed the onrushing modernity, with Paris madhouses filling up and an apparently inevitable decline of civilization.
But by the 1890 publication of Magnan’s The Principal Clinical Signs of Absinthism, common opinion in France largely agreed with his conclusion: the absinthe did it. Still, it took the Lanfray murders of 1905 to convert many citizens into activists. Previously the absinthe drinker symbolized moral decay, but he had never truly crystallized into a violent threat to society.
Doctors disagreed about the danger, with Magnan and his disciples declaring absinthe the root of all social evil. On slim evidence some even linked it to tuberculosis. Meanwhile, other physicians continued to tout its health benefits, prescribing it for gout and dropsy, as a general stimulant of mind and body, as a fever reducer, and as the perfect drink for hot climates.
Amid the medical uncertainty support for an outright ban remained a minority stance. After the Lanfray murders absinthe consumption became a serious political issue, as people throughout Europe—reading lurid headlines about the “absinthe murder”—demanded action. Absinthe went on trial in the court of public opinion, facing a newly hostile citizenry, its longtime enemies in the temperance movements, and a bevy of respected medical authorities.
Behind the scenes wealthy wine producers supported a ban in an attempt to eliminate an increasingly popular competitor, even though absinthe never accounted for more than 3% of the alcoholic beverages consumed in France. But when disease infected French vineyards in the 1880s, the resulting wine shortage helped popularize absinthe among the money-conscious working class.
- When the wine crisis ended, many working-class drinkers stuck with the green beverage, increasingly made with cheaper industrial alcohol produced from beets or grain.
- Yet wine still accounted for 72% of all alcohol consumed.
- More than actual competition, it was the appearance of a trend that provoked wine makers to move against absinthe.
Meanwhile, Magnan’s distinction between alcoholism and absinthism allowed wine to escape any blame for the state of the national health. In defense of the Green Fairy stood a collection of self-proclaimed decadents of the absinthe subculture (not always a politically active lot), and a few sympathetic politicians scattered throughout Europe.
- The outcome was never in doubt.
- When Magnan died in 1916, he did so in a France freed from the shackles of the Green Devil.
- Absinthe faded into lore, kept alive through the stories of Parisian decadence.
- What remained were caricatures of mad geniuses who roamed from café to café calling out “une verte!” as they chased that next great insight, the transcendent perspective available only through the grace of the Green Fairy.
Of course, anyone who knows this kind of story—romantic, poetic—knows the Green Fairy can never really die. Bootleggers in Switzerland continued to produce absinthe. Spain never outlawed the drink, and a few small distilleries produced it throughout the 20th century.
- In 1994 a Czech distiller began marketing absinthe in the United Kingdom, where, thanks to a legendary reputation, it became a hit among bohemian cognoscenti.
- Soon enough dozens of copycat brands appeared.
- In response to pressure from their own distilleries—and perhaps noting the lack of modern “absinthe murders”—many European countries revised their absinthe bans.
Most allowed only small amounts of thujone, the active ingredient in absinthe, in the new concoctions (see sidebar). But most aficionados knew that pre-ban absinthe always contained less than the now-mandated 10 mg/liter of thujone. The restrictions, later adopted by the European Union, effectively legalized absinthe.
- Switzerland lifted its ban on absinthe production and sale in March 2005.
- France, however, only allows the label “absinthe” on products destined for export.
- Absinthe produced for local consumption instead carries the label “spiritueux à base de plantes d’absinthe,” or “wormwood-based spirits.” The United States has complicated laws about “thujone-free” absinthe, making illegal the importation of most European varieties.
Even in this diminished form it’s now legal to produce and sell absinthe in the United States. After nearly 100 years the Green Fairy lives again.
Why was absinthe banned in France?
If you go out for a fancy cocktail this weekend, you might see absinthe on the menu, but there was a time when it was difficult to find. The drink was banned in France in 1915, when the wormwood used to make it was thought to cause hallucinations and madness.
As the historian P.E. Prestwich explained back in 1979, the actual reasons for the ban were more complex. Soldiers fighting in Algeria first brought absinthe to France. At that time, it was too expensive for most people. But in the 1880s, an infestation of phylloxera pests led to a shortage of wine. Absinthe manufacturers, who had previously used wine alcohol as the base of the drink, switched to cheaper alcohol made from beets or grain.
Suddenly, absinthe was cheaper than wine, and many working-class people switched to it. Absinthe was appealing not just for its low price but because of the ritual attached to it: slowly pouring cold water over a sugar cube into the glass, transforming the aperitif from a bright yellowish green to a cloudy white.
Around the same time, a temperance movement emerged in France, just as it did in the U.S. By 1911, France was the largest consumer of alcohol in the world, and many doctors, politicians, and reformers blamed alcohol for tuberculosis, mental illness, crime, and even labor unrest. Still, most temperance advocates either saw wine as innocuous or preferred to direct their first attacks elsewhere for strategic reasons.
“Wine, that sunny product of French soil and source of considerable wealth, was sacrosanct and was encrusted with national myths about the glory and genius of the French race,” Prestwich writes. Poster by French painter and missionary Frédéric Christol (1850-1933) warning of the dangers of absinthe and other alcoholic drinks (via Wikimedia Commons ) Researchers did link wormwood to madness—though from a modern perspective their work isn’t very persuasive.
- Between the scientists and the temperance advocates who interpreted their findings for the public, absinthe became known as a prime culprit in the “degeneration” of the French race.
- At temperance meetings, Prestwich writes, “innocent guinea pigs and rabbits were injected with doses of pure and quickly died a horrible, convulsive death, impressive, if scientifically unsound, testimony to the destructive quality of the drink.” Another key to the demonization of absinthe producers was that, unlike other alcohol industries, they were largely confined to the Doubs and Rhône regions, and had limited political power.
When temperance advocates won the ban on absinthe in 1915, many of them saw it as the first step in a broader anti-drinking campaign. But subsequent efforts to ban other aperitifs fell flat. In fact, Prestwich writes, the “tactical decision to concentrate on absinth as a first step had the effect of diverting so much attention from other drinks that they were considered innocuous.” The ban’s main practical effect was forcing manufacturers to slightly alter their aperitif recipes and call them something other than absinthe.
What famous person used absinthe?
A sugar cube is cradled by a slotted spoon balanced on top of a glass of absinthe. Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum A sugar cube is cradled by a slotted spoon balanced on top of a glass of absinthe. Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum There’s something romantic about absinthe — that naturally green liquor derived from wormwood and herbs like anise or fennel.
Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde drank it. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso filled the glasses of cafe patrons with absinthe in their paintings. Absinthe was a drink of aesthetes. Yet it was not art, but necessity that first helped popularize absinthe: It was included in the rations of French soldiers who marched off to colonize Algeria in the 1840s.
As Betina Wittels and Robert Hermesch write in Absinthe: Sip of Seduction, French army doctors issued absinthe to soldiers “for the prevention of fevers and treatment of dysentery.” Le louche refers to the transformation that happens when water is added to absinthe, turning the liquor from a deep green to a milky, iridescent shade. At left, a classic pour. At right, an absinthe glass fitted with a brouilleur, a device that holds the ice and lets water slowly drip down. Courtesy of Scott MacDonald hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Scott MacDonald Le louche refers to the transformation that happens when water is added to absinthe, turning the liquor from a deep green to a milky, iridescent shade. At left, a classic pour. At right, an absinthe glass fitted with a brouilleur, a device that holds the ice and lets water slowly drip down.
- Courtesy of Scott MacDonald Soon, the soldiers were drinking the beverage for nonmedicinal purposes, too.
- Wittels and Hermesch write that it became a fashionable beverage in Algerian cafes and nightclubs, and when soldiers returned to France, they weren’t ready to give the drink up.
- At the time, the French wine industry was collapsing owing to a vine-killing aphid called phylloxera that left wine in short supply.
Absinthe was in the right place at the right time. But rather than simply substituting one alcohol for another, the French developed a ritual for drinking absinthe that gave rise to some of the greatest liquor paraphernalia — known as absinthiana — around. An assortment of slotted absinthe spoons from the late 19th century. They were mostly used in bars and absinthe houses in Europe. Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum First, absinthe is mixed with cold water. This drip fountain, on display at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, is a replica of the one found at the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. Drip fountains were an economical way to cool down water before adding it to absinthe, while also prolonging the spectacle of le louche.
Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum Le louche is also an example of a scientifically interesting phenomenon known as the ” ouzo effect,” Basically, when the water hits the absinthe, it releases the essential oils from the alcohol into the water, creating a spontaneous emulsion.
So the drink becomes cloudy, and the effect sticks around a surprisingly long time. Cold water, it seems, was considered essential to palatability: In Five O’Clock Absinthe, the late-19th century poet Raoul Ponchon wrote that, if you have warm absinthe, boire du pissat d’âne ou du bouillon pointu – which translates, more or less, to “you might as well drink donkey’s urine or ‘enema broth’ ” instead.
- So cold water it was.
- The absinthe is sweetened with a cube of sugar, placed on a slotted spoon balanced on top of the glass.
- Water is dripped over the sugar, so that it dissolves slowly into the refreshment below.
- Why create a special spoon for this purpose? Forks could also work, but in the 1800s, sugar didn’t come in cubes but in lumpy rocks, which would have been difficult to balance on tines.
So the French created special spoons that could cradle the sugar while allowing the sweetened water to drip down into the glass. Bottles of absinthe line the bar at a display dedicated to the drink at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum Bottles of absinthe line the bar at a display dedicated to the drink at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Courtesy of Southern Food and Beverage Museum Drip fountains were created for two reasons. First, they allowed people to economically cool the water used to dilute the strong liquor.
- A small amount of ice — which was still an expensive luxury in the mid-1800s — could be used to chill a large quantity of water.
- Second, the fountains allowed patrons to draw out the ritual of le louche,
- Sure, you could simply pour the water in all at once and be done with it.
- But where is the magic in that? No, drinking absinthe was meant to be an indulgence for the senses — no wonder artists flocked to the beverage.
Absinthiana collector Scott MacDonald, author of Absinthe Antiques, refers to the process as “Western civilization’s tea ceremony.” Lots of people were drinking absinthe in the latter half of the 19th century, but the way they drank it — and the utensils they used — quickly became a marker of social class.
- While cafes might carry slotted spoons with a simple design, some wealthy families would order a full set of specially engraved spoons from the silversmith.
- Like most of us, these wealthy absinthe drinkers weren’t immune to trends: MacDonald says that in the 1880s, spoons made out of a new material called aluminum were actually more costly than those made from pure silver.
The French brought their love of absinthe with them to New Orleans, which explains why the city’s Southern Food and Beverage Museum has a large exhibit devoted to the drink. Museum President Liz Williams says that only the upper classes could afford a bottle of absinthe on their own — but that didn’t make absinthe any less of the people’s drink.
Instead of happy hour, the time between 5-7 every evening was known as “the green hour” in France. People gathered in cafes, visiting and unwinding over glasses of absinthe. And MacDonald explains that despite absinthe’s reputation as an artist’s beverage, it was the common person’s beverage first. “Artists enjoyed it because it brought people together,” explains MacDonald.
“They enjoyed the culture of it.”
Is absinthe a depressant?
Is Absinthe a Stimulant or Depressant? – Surprisingly, absinthe is a stimulant. This sets it apart from every other alcohol. There are some sources that will tell you tequila is also a stimulant, but it’s truly just absinthe. However, it’s more nuanced than those simple facts.
What is the nickname for absinthe?
4. Absinthe is also nicknamed “The Green Fairy.” – Thanks to its perceived effects, reputation for inciting madness, and exquisite allure, absinthe gained the nickname “La Fee Verte” during its heyday in France, circa 1880s. The English translation? “The Green Fairy.” Already a popular drink among the greatest creators of the time, absinthe and its mystique became a significant cultural influence throughout the period.
The Green Fairy” and the effects of the scandalous drink came to life as a focal point in a number of paintings and literary works. Edouard Manet produced the first great absinthe painting, “The Absinthe Drinker,” which cast a somber woman sitting at the bar with a glass of the stuff, a vacant expression on her face.
References to absinthe also appear in several of Ernest Hemingway ‘s most famous writings, like Death In The Afternoon and For Whom The Bell Tolls, Other artists took the motif of “The Green Fairy” more literally. In his painting, “PijÃ¡k Absintu” (“Absinthe Drinker”), Viktor Oliva depicts a man falling victim to the tempting caresses of absinthe, shown in the form of an alluring and spritely green woman.
Is spirit and liqueur the same?
What Is a Liqueur? – When I was younger, I remember seeing colorful bottles of alcohol with pictures of strawberries, bananas, and sour cherries inside of my grandparents’ vitrine. They were trotted out for special occasions, and while they looked (and often smelled) like hard candy, I knew I wasn’t to touch them, at least, not yet.
As I got older, I learned that those candy-scented bottles contained cordials, which is another term for liqueur. According to Lynette Marrero, co-founder of women’s bartending competition SpeedRack, liqueurs are simply distilled spirits that are sweetened and flavored. “They often have fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices, even coffee or chocolate added to them,” she explains.
Liqueurs are typically lower in alcohol than a base spirit on its own, making them easier to sip than, say, a shot of tequila or whiskey, but that’s not to say you should assume this entire category is light and sessionable. “There are some higher proof liqueurs like Chartreuse, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier that pack a base spirit punch,” Marerro adds.
As it often tends to be the case when artificial flavoring is involved, not all liqueurs are created equal. “The base distillate, flavor, sweetness level and sweetener used are some of the main contributing factors to the quality of the final product,” explains Bodenheimer. If you’ve ever had a perfect Espresso Martini, you know the difference a well-made coffee liqueur can make.
Some, like Mr. Black, are rum-based with minimal sweetness, while others, like Kahlúa, are vodka-based and sweeter.
Is a spirit a liqueur?
Nobody goes to a spirits store. When we want hard alcohol, we go to a liquor store. Where they sell spirits. Aka liquor. Which shouldn’t be confused with liqueurRight? Alcohol terminology can get confusing. Thankfully, for our purposes, and most purposes in the selling and consumption of fermented, distilled beverages, ” spirits ” and ” liquor ” are the same thing : a hard (the hardest) alcohol product made by distillation, often clocking in around the 40% ABV mark, possibly flavored but always unsweetened—the stuff of good sipping, hearty toasting, and ill-conceived drinking contests.
- But what about liqueur ? That one’s pretty easy, too.
- Liqueur is made from liquor ; it’s sweetened, often flavored (think almondy Amaretto or chocolatey Crème de Cacao), and generally lower proof.
- And just as spirits is the same thing as liquor, a liqueur is basically the same as a cordial,
- If someone offers you a cordial, usually after dinner, maybe even as dessert, expect a sweet, flavored alcoholic beverage served in small quantities.
(In Europe, a “cordial” may refer to something sweet that’s alcohol free.) But is this cordial a digestif or an aperitif? Or a digestive or apertivo? Don’t worry! Even when French and Italian terms come into play, it’s all still pretty simple. In this case it isn’t so much about the contents of the drink as the timing: the terms digestif/digestivo and aperitif/apertivo refer to kinds of alcoholic beverages that are drunk as either a way to stimulate the appetite (aperitif) or as a way to begin the metabolic unwinding process after a meal (digestif).
- Different things can be drunk as aperitifs and digestifs, but usually it’ll be a liqueur, an Amaro (bitter liqueurs), brandy, or fortified wine.
- One more term to note— bitters,
- While liquors and liqueurs can all be consumed by themselves (as digestifs or apertifs or as simple drinks, no meal required), bitters are an ingredient, used primarily in cocktails (though they can also be used, and were originally innovated, for medicinal purposes).
Bitters are a non-potable product made with a spirits base and characterized by intense flavoring. As the name suggests, bitters can be bitter, but they can also be bright and citrusy, spicy, herbal, smoky, etc. And because of their strong flavoring, bitters are used the way you might use cloves or thyme—like a seasoning, in small doses, a way to finish and flavor a recipe.
Liquor/Spirit: an alcoholic product that’s made from a grain- or fruit/vegetable-derived sugar that’s fermented and distilled, yielding a lower water content and higher ABV Liqueur: made from liquor, sweetened and often flavored Apertif/Apertivo: a lower ABV beverage traditionally taken before a meal, flavored in a variety of ways but usually lighter and drier in flavor profile to stimulate the appetite Digestif/Digestivo: a lower ABV beverage traditionally taken after a meal, often flavored with herbs and spices known to aid digestion Bitters: A heavily flavored, low ABV product used as a kind of seasoning/spicing ingredient in cocktails Potable Bitters: Another name given to bitter liqueurs, aka “bitter amaros,” which are traditionally drunk as digestifs.
What’s the difference between absinthe and liquor?
What to Know About Absinthe Reviewed by on November 11, 2022 Absinthe is no ordinary alcohol — at least, that’s what legend would have you believe. Whimsically dubbed the “green fairy” due to its verdant hue, absinthe has long been associated with hallucinogenic effects.
- It’s been blamed for everything from psychosis and seizures to dangerous behavior and murders among those who dare to drink it, and over the years, this lore has shrouded absinthe in mystery.
- Now, inquiring minds must know: Is absinthe really any different from other hard liquors? Absinthe is an herb-infused alcohol derived from,, and the leaves and flowers of a small shrub called (otherwise known as Artemisia absinthium ).
Absinthe is typically between 90 proof and 148 proof, but it’s possible to find 179 proof absinthe — this proof means that it contains a formidable 89% alcohol. By comparison, common liquors like vodka and whiskey generally contain 40% alcohol. Due to its high alcohol content, absinthe is best diluted with water before drinking.
- Traditionally, absinthe is distilled from dried herbs and wormwood.
- After mashing the wormwood and herbs together, the mixture is distilled in a water or steam bath until the distillate reaches an alcohol volume of 60% to 80%.
- At this point, more wormwood and herbs are added to the clear, colorless distillate to give it that characteristic green color.
Finally, the distillate is diluted with water to make the absinthe drinkable. Absinthe is a strong alcoholic beverage, and it has a strong taste to match. In his short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway likened absinthe’s flavor to licorice.
Many would agree with this comparison — but the Wormwood Society argues that quality absinthe should never taste like licorice candy. Instead, it should have a slightly bitter, dry, and astringent flavor that’s both complex and subtle. Long before it gained popularity as the star ingredient in absinthe, wormwood was used medicinally.
The first recorded use of wormwood in medicine dates back to 1552 B.C., and absinthe itself was initially used to treat illness — but its potential didn’t go unnoticed for long. Here’s a timeline of absinthe’s tumultuous journey from medical invention to banned booze (and back again):
1789 — While living in Switzerland, French doctor Dr. Pierre Ordinaire develops the first recipe for absinthe (which he intends for medicinal use).1798 — Dr. Ordinaire’s recipe is repurposed for industrial production of absinthe as a recreational alcohol, which begins with the founding of the Pernod-fils distillery.1840s — Absinthe hits the shelves in France.1849 — In France, 26 distilleries are producing 10 million liters of absinthe.1850s to 1890s — Absinthe gains popularity partly due to its mystique and partly because it packs a punch — people find its high alcohol content makes it more effective and affordable. Absinthe becomes the drink of choice among Europe’s bohemian creatives, like Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde. Meanwhile, a growing group of people from the medical community and temperance groups attempt to prove its inherent evil.1869 — Psychiatrist Valentin Magnan, physician-in-chief of France’s primary asylum, publishes research that shows that inhaling wormwood oil causes seizures in animals. Although his study draws prompt criticism after its publication, he (along with many others) believes it proves the legitimacy of “absinthism.” Magnan concludes that the negative effects of drinking absinthe are due to absinthism, not,1905 — Following a drinking binge that starts with two shots of absinthe, a man murders his wife and children in Switzerland. His lawyers cite “absinthe madness” as his motive, and anti-absinthe sentiment seizes Europe.1905 to 1915 — Absinthe is banned in an increasing number of countries, including Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the U.S., and finally France. It remains legal in some countries like Spain, the U.K., and the Czech Republic, but its popularity takes a hit there as well.1990s — Decades later, countries slowly begin revisiting and revising their absinthe bans to allow the production of absinthe with limited amounts of thujone, among other caveats.
Switzerland lifted its absinthe production ban in 2003, and France followed suit in 2011. Gradually, absinthe has made its way back into bars around the world — but an air of caution still surrounds the controversial booze. For instance, the U.S. only permits thujone-free absinthe, and France doesn’t allow the word “absinthe” to appear on bottles unless they’re to be exported.
- After all this time, you have to wonder: Is there any legitimate reason to fear absinthe? Does absinthe have hallucinogenic effects? In short, no.
- Wormwood contains a psychoactive compound called thujone that’s long been linked to its purported hallucinogenic properties.
- In fact, absinthe is often defined by two time periods: “preban” and “postban” (i.e., before and after the absinthe ban).
This is mainly due to the belief that the thujone concentration in absinthe was significantly decreased upon its reintroduction. But it turns out that the amounts of thujone in preban absinthe were generally overestimated — in reality, both preban and postban absinthe contain similar amounts of thujone.
- Not only that, but a 2008 study confirmed that thujone is not responsible for the reported psychedelic effects of absinthe.
- The concentration of thujone in preban and postban absinthe simply isn’t high enough to have any hallucinatory effects, even if you guzzled a liter of absinthe (not that anyone is recommending that you do that).
This same study determined that one absinthe ingredient could explain absinthism:, Ethanol is also known as the chemical compound that puts the alcohol in alcohol. In all likelihood, heavy absinthe drinkers were suffering from the negative effects of chronic alcoholism or alcohol poisoning.
Even if there was reason to deem absinthe a hallucinogen, alcohol was not to blame. But it’s possible that preban absinthe drinkers were reacting to, or even poisoned by, toxic additives in certain absinthes. Contrary to urban legend, a couple shots of absinthe won’t prompt a visit from a green fairy or cause temporary insanity.
Drinking modern-day absinthe will get you drunk, but that’s about it. As with any potent alcohol, you should consume absinthe responsibly. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to accidents, injuries, alcohol poisoning, addiction, memory loss, and death. In the days of preban absinthe, though, it’s possible that absinthe drinkers experienced other effects due to poor quality control and ingredient regulation.
While top-tier preban distillers made absinthe without additives, some less reputable manufacturers used toxic additives like,, and sweet flag. Antimony was another common addition to preban absinthe. Although it was intended to decrease the absinthe’s toxicity, it likely had the opposite effect, as antimony can cause nausea and toxic effects of its own.
Yes, absinthe is legal. Most countries lifted their absinthe bans by the early 2000s. If you live in the U.S., though, absinthe is only legal if it’s thujone-free. Bottom line: Absinthe is safe when consumed in moderation. Don’t forget to dilute it with water, drink responsibly, and enjoy! © 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. : What to Know About Absinthe
What makes a spirit a liqueur?
Spirits, booze, liquorliqueur? What is liqueur anyway? Liqueur is actually a type of spirit or liquor, which itself is a grain-based, distilled alcoholic beverage. A liqueur is a distilled spirit like vodka or brandy that is sweetened with sugar or syrup, and oftentimes it also contains flavoring agents such as fruit, herbs, and oils.