I don’t actually drink all that much alcohol. I make a point to not drink alcohol 2 days in a row. When I do drink, I limit myself to one of whatever I’m having: One pint of beer (one litre during Oktoberfest), one glass of wine, etc. I rarely if ever touch mixed drinks. The most I’d do with hard liquor are mojitos. Which brings me to a recipe I just adore, the Green Fairy Mojito:
- 1 ½ oz Beleza Pura® Super Premium Cachaça
- 1 oz Absinto Camargo
- 8-10 mint leaves
- Juice of a whole lime
- simple syrup
- Splash of soda
Because I can’t afford the name brand stuff, I substitute decent white rum (usually Bacardi Silver) and Lucid. If you’ve never had real absinthe before, this is a good way to try it. But nothing beats the proper (French) way of enjoying this fine herb-macerated infusion:
I almost always omit the sugar cube as I prefer the natural sweetness of the oils. It is truly an experience. I would highly recommend everyone try absinthe made the proper way at least once.
For over 80 years, it was illegal to make or sell absinthe in the United States. This is due to a misconception about one of the primary ingredients. People believed that wormwood made you crazy. Wormwood naturally contains a monoterpine psychoactive called thujone. When taken in large doses, thujone causes fatigue, loss of concentration, intoxication, nausea, and in cases of overdose, liver or nerve damage. However, nobody ever bothered to study how much thujone was actually contained in properly prepared absinthe. They assumed that since people drank absinthe, the thujone was hurting them. So they banned all food and drink products containing wormwood. Then they looked at the facts: people said that absinthe made you go crazy and have hallucinations. So they made some in a laboratory under controlled conditions using authentic recipes. They found that not only was there only a small amount (~0.12% by volume) of thujone in the final unprepared product, but that there were no psychological effects other than those caused by alcohol. They said, “Well how come people said they saw odd things when they drank this stuff?” Three possible theories came forward: Excessive consumption, heavy metal poisoning, and fairy tales. Excessive consumption hypothesis says that people just drank so much of this stuff in a short amount of time that the alcohol (and/or thujone) overwhelmed their systems and caused them to hallucinate. There has been varying degrees of acceptance of the plausibility of this argument since drinking a boat load of alcohol just makes you drunk, sick, and unconscious (and maybe dead). A very real, though relatively untestable, hypothesis is that the manufacture or bottling of the authentic Belle Epoque absinthes introduced heavy metals into the product, primarily copper. The herbs were macerated in copper kettles and the liquor was distilled in copper stills. Finally, copper (and lead!) was used to color the glass into which the absinthe was placed for sale. There is also the possibility that copper compounds (like cupric acetate) were used to artificially color the absinthe a deeper shade of green, though there is little evidence to support this. Heavy metal poisoning can cause hallucinations and severe brain, liver, and kidney damage. Finally, the most widely accepted theory was that the hallucinations were mostly made up by romantic poets and distillers looking to promote their product.
At any rate, you probably won’t see La Fee Vert when you drink it, but you will taste and smell a wonderful herbal elixir that will intoxicate your senses with mystery.
I have compared this, the first true absinthe made in the U.S. since the ban, with a well-established player in the European absinthe market, La Fee Parisienne. La Fee is the silver standard among modern European absinthes. It is true to the original recipes, although not a premium liquor. Its only flaw is that it is a blanche with an artificial anti-freeze green coloring (I mean it looks like anti-freeze, not that it contains it). It is still very good absinthe. And so is Lucid. Lucid is top quality absinthe made in the traditional, authentic way of the Belle Epoque. It is naturally colored and the color does vary from bottle to bottle.
I would advise trying it in the traditional way, with sugar first. I also recommend the Green Fairy mojito. Never drink it without diluting it with something else. The bitter herb oils dissolved in it WILL cause you to vomit. Hyssop, whose oil has been used as a purgative irritant emetic in primitive times, is a main ingredient. Properly dissolved and louched, the oils are pleasant-tasting and will cause no ill effect. Drunk straight it will not only taste bad, you will feel bad also. Common sense tells you not to set an open flame near highly flammable materials. Absinthe is around 65% ABV in the bottle so it counts as HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. Don’t do anything involving fire. Setting it on fire is not “traditional” or “authentic.” All that will happen is that you will burn yourself and waste good (and expensive) liquor.
Sorry for the lecture but I want people to ENJOY absinthe, not act like assholes.