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Absinthe, also known as the “green fairy” is a popular alcoholic drink famous for its clean green color and legends about its psychoactive traits and role in the history of art and literature.
Credit: photo credit: tnm-photography via photo pin ccThis drink is usually connected to XIX century decadent artists who supposedly drank it seeking inspiration – these artists include Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Lord Byron just to name a few.
What is Absinthe?
Absinthe is made from anise, known by latin name of Pimpinella anisum, and wormwood. Absinthe has high alcohol content which varies from 45 to 74 %, and is drunk from small glasses, with sugar cubes which are ignited in order to melt into the absinthe glass.
The History of Absinthe
The history of absinthe begins in 18th century Switzerland, where it was sold by both Dr. Pierre Ordinaire and the Henriod sisters as an elixir that cured all diseases. It is not known who came up with the recipe first. We do know that the Henriod sisters sold the patent to a man called Major Dubied. In 1805 Dubied established the most well-known absinthe brand named Pernod Fils which was popular until absinthe was banned for the first time in 1914.
Absinthe was slowly becoming more and more popular among French artists and painters. It's popularity bloomed in 1840 when it was given to French soldiers as a preventive for malaria and the cold. When they came home, they were used to absinthe so it became popular in bars that were often visited by soldiers. It became so popular that 5pm was referred to as the “green hour” after absinthe's green color. Although popular, absinthe was also expensive so it was affordable only by rich bourgeoisie and eccentric decadent artists of the time. By the 1880's the price became more affordable so that almost anyone could enjoy it.
It was thought thCredit: photo credit: beyond20khz via photo pin ccat absinthe consumption was responsible for many violent crimes that happened in France during those years. France was experiencing a wine shortage those years so its presumed that the people consumed more absinthe than wine, which led to increased violence.
Until 1915, absinthe production was banned in most countries. Many decades and two World wars have passed since absinthe again became legal in the ‘90s and 2000s through most European countries. UK was the first to import Czech absinthe, which is, to this day, known as the best.
The Effects of Absinthe
This alcoholic beverage is said to alter the human brain. It contains a substance called thujone that has psychoactive effects in large quantities and can even cause epilepsy. Artists say that absinthe opens your mind and produces hallucinations while proponents for an absinthe ban say it turns normal human beings into beasts. Both of these claims are exaggerations since the thujone content is very low. There is also a placebo effect involved: it is much easier for someone to get drunk from a specific drink if they have heard fabulous stories about it and if they believe that it has psychoactive effects. Drinkers of absinthe may think they will get high from it but this effect is due to the alcohol content, which in some brands exceeds 89 %!
Everybody responds differently to absinthe because everybody responds differently to the plant from which it is made. Some brands are not even made by the original recipe but simply marketed as containing “more thujone”. This is a good marketing trick because people think that they will get more than drunk from it.