Sunday, October 10, 2010
Imagine France during the Bell Epoque. In the nightclubs, one stylish drink was absinthe. The ritual was important. The clear green liquor is poured into the bulb at the bottom of a stemmed glass. A flat sugar spoon is laid across the top of the glass. The water is poured over the sugar and into the glass. As the water hits the absinthe, it changes from clear green to cloudy and the green fairy is released. Absinthe has the flavor of Liquorice, but the famous ingredient is wormwood, which contains thujone, a neurotoxin. It was thought that it was thujone that caused absinthe drinkers to hallucinate and become delirious. But really, no one know what it actually was. At any rate, people blame absinthe for the sinister quality of Edgar Allen Poe's short stories. Perhaps it was the absinthe that caused Vincent Van Gogh to cut off his ear. And the poet Paul Veraine binged on absinthe before setting his wife's hair on fire. Recent research indicates that absinthe had little thujone and that it could not have caused the problems. Some believe that the spirit was adulterated with copper sulfate, a pesticide, or copper acetate, because it was cheaper to creat the green color that way, and perhaps the copper caused people to go crazy. Perhaps it was more of a political thing. Maybe the politicians wanted to ban absinthe because it was a big part of the counterculture. Or maybe the wine makers wanted to sell more wine. Anyway, it was banned for many years, but it now legal again.