The Lure of Absinthe

This green alcoholic beverage has had a colorful career since its debut in the late 18th century. Flavored with wormwood, fennel, anise, and other herbs, the beverage has a bitter, licorice flavor and a high alcoholic content. Drinking it was supposed to bring on hallucinations. 


Absinthe reached the pinnacle of its popularity in the Roaring Twenties in Paris, where the bohemian population of writers and artists made it their trademark beverage in spite of it being illegal. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway are associated with absinthe. 

There were several ways to consume the drink, but the most famous one involves placing a sugar lump on a slotted spoon held over a glass of absinthe, then pouring ice water over the sugar cube. The beverage turns milky. 

Many countries banned the production of absinthe in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries because it was believed to be more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages. After this was disproved–it has no hallucinogenic effects after all–it gradually became legal. In 2007, it became legal in the United States, so you can buy it if you like. Personally, I can’t stand licorice-flavored drinks like pastis, ouzo, pernod, or anisette, so I’ll pass. 


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