5 Myths About Absinthe

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5 Myths About Absinthe


Absinthe, the green fairy has made its revival in Europe after decades of being banned. Many myths deserve to be busted. Let's do it for the green fairy!

Absinthe, the drink of poets and artists that once upon a time dominated the bars of France, spreading its wings like the green fairy and uplifting the drinker into a state of eureka. Until not so long ago, absinthe was banned for many years in many countries, which drove this notorious green substance from the underground into light. There are many myths surrounding absinthe's history and substance. We are impelled to bust them.

ABSINTHE IS HALLUCINOGENIC

The exotic Green Fairy (La Fee Verte) mystically appearing to absinthe guzzlers and entangling their minds with madness has become a clandestine legend, appealing to the masses. Although, does absinthe have any hallucinogenic properties? No, it does not. It has merely been a hype to move product. It’s just as likely to see things on other spirits such as whiskey or vodka. All the herbs used to make absinthe may give the drinker a “the air feels a little clearer” type of feel. The entire mystical story behind this poetic drink may have contributed to this hallucinogenic myth.

Rumors swirl around the components of wormwood, which people believe creates this hallucinogenic high. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is one of the main ingredients that makes absinthe, absinthe.

 

Absinthe ingredients

 

This plant is very bitter and has been used for many medical and ritualistic purposes by cultures all around the world. Wormwood contains a substance known as thujone. Experts say that it’s highly unlikely that thujone has any hallucinogenic effect that drinkers strive for. In high doses, thujone can cause hyperactivity, excitability, delirium, seizures, convulsions. According to EMA (European Medicines Agency) in their public statement about thujone, it acts like a poison in high doses: “Cases with severe intoxications in humans have been reported after consumption of essential oil rich in thujone ... Convulsions resembling epilepsy have been reported after the ingestion of isolated thujone ... Overdosage of alcoholic Absinthii herba preparations or the use of the essential oil may cause CNS disturbances which can lead to convulsions and ultimately to unconsciousness and death ...“ As per Official Journal of The European Union, the maximum thujone level allowed in absinthe or any alcoholic beverage in Europe is 35mg/kg, as long as it's from Artemisia species. The absinthe bought on the commercial market contains very small amounts of thujone due to tight restrictions, therefore commercial absinthes are safe to consume. In other words, you don’t want to be hunting down high doses of this stuff.

ABSINTHE WAS BANNED BECAUSE IT’S HALLUCINOGENIC

Let’s begin with a story. 1905 in Vaud, Switzerland. Jean Lanfray, a 31-year old farmer went on a binge drinking crawl, he consumed large amounts of wine, cognac, brandy, creme de menthe and two glasses of absinthe, he also had a sandwich that day. He went home and got into an argument with his wife and shot her dead. Afterwards, he killed his children. At that time there was a strong prohibitionist movement that condemned absinthe, and the atrocious murder catalyzed the anti-absinthe public opinion. Approximately 82,000 signatures were gathered and the drink was banned in 1915. In France, the ban came at the beginning of the WW1, because the government officials declared that absinthe degenerated people which was unacceptable in a state of war.

 

Absinthe_ban

Henri Schmidt, a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, stated, "Nous attaquons l'érosion de la défense nationale. L'abolition de l'absinthe et la défense nationale, c'est la mme chose" ("We are attacking the erosion of the national defense. The abolition of absinthe and the national defense are the same thing."). Of course wine lobbyists had their own interests in their own pockets. Pro-wine lobbyists claimed that wine was a French drink and drinking absinthe was an unpatriotic act and made people mentally berserk. Absinthe was banned in the US and most European countries including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary.

Of course it’s important to note that in those times, food and health safety controls were minimal in comparison with today's standards, even though the pre-ban samples didn’t show toxic levels of thujone, the samples varied greatly in thujone levels, henceforth there is a possibility that some absinthes did actually make people mad, although this is merely a speculation.

ABSINTHE IS FROM THE CZECH REPUBLIC

People believe in the Czech origins due to marketing campaigns by Czech distributors and several historical factors. Let’s transport ourselves back in time into the era of the French revolution. Absinthe was allegedly first created in 1792 Switzerland, by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire (although the recipe may have come from from the Henriod sisters from the same country).

 

Czech Republic Flag

 

 Dr. Ordinaire coined the name “La Fee Verte” for absinthe and prescribed it as a cure-it-all medicine for diseases like gout, epilepsy, kidney stones, colic and other health issues. It started as an innocent medicine, but together with wormwood's mythical associations and the alluring green fairy tales, the drink has become very popular between 1880-1914 among artists and poets. In 1874 alone, 700,000 liters of absinthe were consumed, but by 1910, the amount exploded into 36,000,000 liters of absinthe per year. In Paris it was the drink to drink, it provided the mojo that artists and poets sought after.

Now let’s transport ourselves to Eastern Europe. As early as 1860’s absinthe was popular in Czech republic and the 1915 absinthe ban didn’t reach through. Czech republic continued producing absinthe until the end of WW2 when the communist regime banned its use. The revival of absinthe was greatly influenced by the fall of the communist regime in 1990. Czech republic wanted to revive its absinthe culture. The Czech reputation of absinthe spread all around the world, which is one of the factors that contributed to the myth of absinthes origins.

FLAMING SUGAR CUBE MYTH

Flaming sugar absinthe

Absinthe + sugar + fire = a marketing technique that ruins good absinthe. The traditional way involved placing a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon and trickling down cold water through the sugar cube into the glass which would create a cloudiness called the “louche”. Absinthe connoisseurs say that sugar was used in the past to cover the bitterness of poor absinthe. The burned caramelized sugar cubes distort the taste even further. Burning stuff in the bar can constitute a fun activity, but it’s good to know the facts. Also be careful so you don’t accidentally ignite yourself on fire and make the headline “Human Or Steak? Dangers Of Absinthe!”

COLOR OF ABSINTHE

Absinthe can have different colors, such as see-through, red, and green. The first distillation of absinthe has a see-through color, it can be directly bottled and sold as “Absinthe Blanche”, or “White Absinthe”. During the secondary distillation process, all the necessary herbs are added, which provide an emerald green type of liquid. When this absinthe is bottled it changes color from emerald green to “dead leaf” green, the natural color of professionally made absinthes. Many producers cut the production costs by using the Absinthe Blanche from the first distillation and adding artificial coloring agents, such as, blue color E133 and the yellow color E102 to produce the emerald green absinthe. The best absinthe will have the dead leaf green or see-through color “White Absinthe”. You can also have red absinthes which are infused with natural substances such as hibiscus flowers. There are of course other colored absinthes, even black, but be aware of the artificial coloring agents.

 

Artificial color

CONCLUSION

Absinthe Kit

The history of absinthe is fascinating and its essence has inspired artists like Dega, Verlaine, Hemingway, and Van Gogh to submerge themselves into the mystique of the green fairy. Today, many manufacturers and connoisseurs are bringing back the smooth quality absinthe into people's bar cabinets. Do you want to make absinthe at home? Well, you can! Check out Zamnesia's Absinthe Kit and create some lovely absinthe.

 

         
  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

 
 
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