Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Absinthe Explained

Absinthe: Mind-Altering Effects Explained

LiveScience | Charles Q. Choi
In recent years, the psychedelic nature of absinthe has been hotly debated. Absinthe was notorious among 19th-century and early 20th-century bohemian artists as "the Green Fairy" that expanded the mind. After it became infamous for madness and toxic side effects among drinkers, it was widely banned.

The modern scientific consensus is that absinthe's reputation could simply be traced back to alcoholism, or perhaps toxic compounds that leaked in during faulty distillation. Still, others have pointed at a chemical named thujone in wormwood, one of the herbs used to prepare absinthe and the one that gives the drink its green color. Thujone was blamed for "absinthe madness" and "absinthism," a collection of symptoms including hallucinations, facial tics, numbness and dementia.

"Today it seems a substantial minority of consumers want these myths to be true, even if there is no empirical evidence that they are," said researcher Dirk Lachenmeier, a chemist with the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory of Karlsruhe in Germany.

Keep reading>>

Watch this video on how absinthe is prepared:

via: Huffington Post, Live Science

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Buyers Guide

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Absinthe Makes a Comeback

A Liquor of Legend Makes a Comeback

HERBAL Lance Winters makes absinthe at the St. George Spirits distillery in Alameda, Calif.

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

EARLIER this year, when Lance Winters heard that absinthe was being sold in the United States again for the first time since 1912, he shrugged it off. Then he reconsidered. He’d spent 11 years perfecting an absinthe at St. George Spirits, the distillery where he works in Alameda, Calif., and considered it one of the best things he’d ever made. Why not sell it?

Over the past few months, he must have wished he’d stuck to his first instinct.

The division of the Treasury Department that approves alcohol packaging sent back his label seven times, he said. They thought it looked too much like the British pound note. They wondered why it was called Absinthe Verte when their lab analysis said the liquid inside was amber. Mostly, it seemed to him, they didn’t like the monkey.

“I had the image of a spider monkey beating on a skull with femur bones,” Mr. Winters said. But he said that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau thought the label “implied that there are hallucinogenic, mind-altering or psychotropic qualities” to the product.


also from NYT:
SHAKEN AND STIRRED; Molecular Theory

A Modern Absinthe Experiment
Secrets of Fuel for Creative Fires Unlocked


NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: BENDING ELBOWS; A Beer Hall With Home-Grown Czech Nostalgia


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Absinthe Minded

from Mind Hacks

The absinthe minded green fairy:

The New York Times has a brief but wonderfully illustrated article on the cultural history of absinthe, the highly alcoholic spirit that was adopted by numerous famous artists.

Wikipedia also has a fantastic article on absinthe which looks at the history of its creation, popularity, prohibition and revival.

It also exposes the myth that wormwood, a key flavouring ingredient, causes hallucinations. A scientific article looked at the evidence for this and found that the effects of the drink are almost entirely due to its alcohol content.

While thujone, an active ingredient in wormwood, can causes seizures in high enough quantities, there isn't enough in absinthe to have a significant effect.

However, erroneous concerns about the drink leading to dangerous forms of 'madness' led it to be banned in most European countries in the early 1900s, giving it an instant notoriety and cultural impact that far goes beyond its pharmacological influence.

Link to NYT on 'Absinthe Returns in a Glass Half Full of Mystique...'
Link to Wikipedia article on absinthe.
Link to scientific article 'Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome...'


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Absinthe: La Folie Verte


Absinthe: La Folie Verte
Athanor ATNR 017

In a collaboration with the French project, Les Joyaux de la Princesse, Michael Moynihan's Blood Axis forsakes militaristic bombast to deliver a homage to absinthe, the notorious fin-de-siècle tipple distilled from an infusion of wormwood. Michael reads from contemporary texts condemning or examining the gods and demons of the absinthe experience, against a dreamy mood-evoking ambient soundscape. With snatches of period music weaving in and out of the cacophony, the album successfully captures that sense of distance associated with intoxication as it takes us on a journey into the addled brain of the absintheur.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

USB Absinthe Spoon

They Said We Couldn’t Do It

But we didn’t listen… We never do.

Finally, after months of work we’ve succeeded in building a prototype of world’s first USB Absinthe Spoon.

We’d like to share this formidable instrument with a few select testers, but we can’t hand these babies out to just anyone.

You’ll have to tell us why you deserve one of the first USB Absinthe Spoons:

Update 3/2: Wow, the response to our chef d’oeuvre was much bigger than we expected. This is going to take a little bit of time, but rest assured, testers are being chosen (which is an incredibly difficult task) and the design of the spoon is being re-worked to allow for a larger production run.

PS If you’re curious who we are, who said we couldn’t and why we did, check out the history of the spoon.

We made a store where you can buy USB Absinthe fairy t shirts and stickers and stuff.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Jade Liqueurs

Absinthe StillsBuy Jade Absinthes
Ordering Information
The Jade absinthes are presently available through our worldwide distributors: Liqueurs de France, Ltd. To order, simply go to the Jade ordering page.

All wholesale and retail inquiries should be directed to Liqueurs de France, while all other inquiries should be emailed directly to us. We hand craft our absinthes in France with only the finest select herbs from the best original regions, using original antique absinthe stills, and we always employ the strictest adherence to artisanal methods and tradition. We are unique in that we make NO modern compromises to our craft, and we are very proud of the results.

Please subscribe to our emailing list to be kept abreast of the latest happenings at Jade Liqueurs! We hope you enjoy this unique opportunity to obtain our absinthes, and we look forward to providing you with unparalleled quality and authenticity for many years to come.


T. A. Breaux
Chemist / Absinthe Historian
Jade Liqueurs

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Absinthe and Women

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Absinthe in New Orleans


And what does it have to do with New Orleans?

Absinthe is a strong herbal liqueur distilled with a great number of flavorful herbs like anise, licorice, hyssop, veronica, fennel, lemon balm, angelica and wormwood (the flavor of anise and/or licorice, at least in contemporary forms of the liquor, tends to predominate). Wormwood, the one that's gained the most notoriety, is Artemisia absinthum, an herb that grows wild in Europe and has been cultivated in the United States as well. Much of the liquor's legendary effect is due to its extremely high alcohol content, ranging from 50% to 75% (usually around 60%), plus the contribution of the various herbs. It has been assumed by many that the so-called "active ingredient" in absinthe is wormwood, although that is apparently not really the case.

It was traditionally served with ice water and a cube of sugar; the sugar cube was placed on a slotted "absinthe spoon", and the water was drizzled over the sugar into the glass of absinthe (typically in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio). The sugar helped take the bitter edge from the absinthe, and when the water is drizzled into the the liquor it all turns milky greenish-white (the effect is called "louche").

The drink was referred to in France as "La Fée Verte", or The Green Fairy, which is a reference to its often dazzling green color (depending on the brand). The color usually came from the chlorophyll content of the herbs used in the distillation process; however, some disreputable manufacturers added toxic chemicals to produce both the green color and the louche (or clouding) effect that in reputable brands was caused by the precipitation of the essential oils of the herbs. It is quite probable that the bad reputation absinthe developed was due to these low-grade and perhaps quite poisonous version of the real thing.

Wormwood had been used medicinally since the Middle Ages, primarily to exterminate tapeworm infestations while leaving the human host uninjured and even rejuvenated by the experience. At the end of the 18th century -- the age of revolution and skeptical humanism -- the herb developed a recreational vogue. People discovered they could get high off it. The problem was the means of delivery, as it was unacceptably bitter in taste.

A French expatriate living in Switzerland by the name of Dr. Ordinaire found the answer by inventing absinthe, which delivered both the herb and alcohol in a stunningly tart beverage, with a flavor resembling licorice. The most well-known maker of absinthe was French distiller Henri-Louis Pernod, who was impressed with Dr. Ordinaire's beverages and purchased the secrets of its distillation and manufacture. Absinthe would eventually enjoy its greatest popularity in fin-de-siècle Paris, with Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Verlaine, Alfred Jarry and Oscar Wilde among its most ardent imbibers.

Given the French character of the Crescent City, absinthe achieved quite a bit of popularity in New Orleans as well, where it was widely consumed by people from artists to musicians to Storyville madams. Visitors to New Orleans can still check out the beautiful, ornate spigot at the Old Absinthe House bar on Bourbon Street; it was used to drip cold water over the sugar into the beverage. (Note: I haven't been to that bar in a while, but I understand it was recently sold and gutted; I'm not sure the original spigot is still there.)

Around the turn of the century, after observing a subset of alcoholism referred to as "absinthism", and noting that heavy absinthe users had a propensity toward madness and suicide, by the second decade of this century it became banned in the Western world, unfairly lumped in with opiates, cocaine, and marijuana when it is, in fact, just another alcoholic beverage (although one with unique properties). Although the effects of thujone can be toxic when consumed in very large quantities, this substance is found in properly made and distilled absinthe in only the smallest trace amounts. The most popular misconception about absinthe is that it is a drug. "Not so!" says the Fée Verte FAQ. As for the so-called "secondary effect", we refer you again to the FAQ:

[Q]uality absinthe, properly distilled, does have a different effect over and above the results of alcohol, though at up to 70%, the effects of the alcohol alone can be considerable. Absinthe's effects, despite popular conception, are not due to the wormwood (Artemisia Absinthia) alone. Absinthe's constituents consist of a very delicate balance of various herbs, most of which contribute in one way or another to its intoxicating effects. [Chemist and absinthe expert] Ted Breaux once explained it that it is a push-me, pull-you effect of the various herbs, as some are of an heightening effect, and others are lowering. The effect on the individual is subjective, and can best be described as a kind of heightened clarity of mind and vision, mildly ponderous and sparkling, and warmed by the effect of the alcohol. This seems to wear off after 20 or 30 minutes, leaving one with an alcohol buzz. 2-3 glasses seems to do the trick. More than that, depending on the proof of the alcohol, will just make you very drunk.

But saying all that, 'secondary effects' seem to be quite subjective. Some have never felt them at all. Some say one brand works for them, others another. Many absintheurs ... have placed absinthe's 'effects' low on their priority list when it comes to judging modern commercial absinthes, preferring to focus on actual herbal constituents, manufacture and historical detail.

Ancient and Modern Absinthe

The Origins of Ancient and Modern Absinthe

Absinthe was considered a vivifying elixir long before it could be ordered in a cafe. When Madame de Coulanges, one of the leading ladies of the seventeenth-century French court, became ill, she was prescribed a preparation containing wormwood. When it calmed her stomach, she wrote to Madame de Sevigne, " My little absinthe is the remedy for all diseases."

Hippocrates recommended absinthe for juandice and rheumatism. Ancient absinthe was different from the liquor that Verlaine and Picasso imbibed, generally being wormwood leaves soaked in wine or spirits. Most likely the word absinthe derives from the Greek word apsinthion, which means " undrinkable " presumably because of its bitter taste. Pythagoras recommended wormwood soaked in wine to aid labor in childbirth. Hippocrates prescribed it for jaundice, rheumatism, anemia, and menstrual pains. The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder called it apsinthium in the first century A.D. and noted that it was customary for the champion in chariot races to drink a cup of absinthe leaves soaked in wine to remind him that even glory has its bitter side. He also recommended it as an elixir of youth and as a cure for bad breath... Over the centuries, however, wormwood drinks moved away from being just bitter medicine. Independent distilleries were producing absinthe made from the dried leaves of wormwood steeped in equal parts of malmsey wine and " burning water thrice distilled." The " Purl " of Tudor England was compounded of ale or hot beer and wormwood, and although it was mainly popular with the working classes, Samuel Pepys reported in his famous diary that he had enjoyed several glasses of wormwood ale one night " in a little house...which doubtless was a bawdy house." These dusty tales convey something of the mystique surrounding absinthe; one imagines a flask of it sitting beside the alchemist's crocodile and the mandrake root. Absinthe incorporated Olympian legends of debauch and rather downhome peasant notions. Modern absinthe allegedly was invented in 1792 by an extraordinary French doctor called Pierre Ordinaire, who fled France's revolution to settle in Couvet, a small village in western Switzerland. On his periodic journeys by horseback, Dr. Ordinaire is said to have discovered the plant Artemisia absinthium growing wild in the hills of the Val-de-Travers region. Like most country doctors, he prepared his own remedies, and being acquainted with absinthe's use in ancient times, he began experimenting with it.

Dr. Ordinaire's recipe probably included the following herbs: wormwood, anise (Pimpinella anisum), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), dittany (Dictamnus albus), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), Melissa (a type of mint), and varying amounts of coriander, veronica, chamomile, parsley, and even spinach. The 136 proof elixir produced in his sixteen liter still became popular as a cure-all in town and early on was nicknamed La Fée Verte. On his death, he supposedly left his secret recipe to two Henriod sisters from Couvet, who then left it to a visiting Frenchman, Major Dubied, whose son-in-law was named Pernod, and the rest is history.

Absinthe comes to America.

Absinthe soon found its way to the Little Paris of North America, New Orleans. The drink, which was spelled absynthe in an 1837 New Orleans liquor advertisement, enjoyed a vogue under such brand names as Green Opal, Herbsaint, and Milky Way. (Today, one can still find a version of this made without wormwood and marketed under the name Herb Sainte.) Of all the ancient buildings in New Orleans's famed French Quarter, none has been more glorified by drunks and postcard photographers alike than a square, plaster and brick structure at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets. " The Old Absinthe House " with its scarred cypress bar was visited by many famous people: Oscar Wilde, Lafcadio Hearn, William Thackeray, Walt Whitman, Aaron Burr, and General P.G.T. Beauregard are just a few of the many who relaxed over a green absinthe in this shady retreat. Alexis, Grand Duke of all Russians, drank here, and the chairs once creaked under William Howard Taft's presidential bulk. The great O. Henry was just a struggling newspaperman named William Sidney Porter when he came to dream over an absinthe frapp&eacute.
I will free you first from burning thirst
That is born of a night of the bowl,
Like a sun 'twill rise through the inky skies
That so heavily hang o'er your souls.
At the first cool sip on your fevered lip
You determine to live through the day,
Life's again worth while as with a dawining smile
You imbibe your absinthe frapp&eacute.

Sunday, May 07, 2006



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Thujone (C10H16O) is a chemical compound. It is a colourless liquid with a distinctive menthol odour. It is a ketone and a monoterpene, and is found in two stereoisomeric forms: (+)-3-thujone or α-thujone and (-)-3-thujone or β-thujone. Its formal name is sometimes given as bicyclo(3.1.0)hexan-3-one, 4-methyl-1-(1-methylethyl)-,(1S-(1-, 4-, 5-α))-(9CI); other names include isothujone and thujanone. It is used as a flavouring agent in certain foods and is a compound in a number of other food additives. It boils at 201°C and is insoluble in water although it is readily soluble in ethanol or diethyl ether.


Thujone is found in a number of plants, such as arborvitae (genus Thuja, whence the derivation of the name), Nootka Cypress, some junipers, mugwort, sage, tansy (25-77% in essential oil) and wormwood, most notably the Artemisia absinthium species, usually as a mix of isomers in a 1:2 ratio.


The chemical structure of thujone is loosely related to that of THC and it was formerly believed to have a similar structure-activity mechanism, but this has now been disproved. It is now believed that it antagonizes inhibition in the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor system.

In mice the LD50 is around 45 mg/kg. 0% mortality rate at 30 mg/kg and 100% at 60 mg/kg. Those exposed to the higher dose had convulsions that lead to death in 1 minute. From 30 to 45 mg/kg the mice would experience muscle spasms in the legs which progressed to general convulsions until death or recovery. Pretreatment of diazepam, phenobarbital or 1 g/kg of ethanol protected against a lethal 100 mg/kg dose. [1]

There are few studies on humans and the LD50 isn't known. One study in the "journal of alcohol studies" administered 0.28 mg/kg thujone in alcohol, 0.028 mg/kg in alcohol and just alcohol to subjects. The high dose had a negative effect on attention performance. The lower dose showed no noticeable effect. [2]

It is best known as a component of the drink absinthe, as it is a component of natural oil of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Although it was believed to be the cause of absinthism, an alleged syndrome which caused epileptic fits and hallucinations in chronic absinthe drinkers this has since been questioned. New studies of vintage absinthe, modern absinthe made with vintage recipes and modern absinthe show very little thujone. Most absinthe studied including the vintage were below 10 mg/kg and all were below EU regulations for bitters. [3] [4]


European Union

maximum thujone levels in the EU. [5]
  • 0.5 mg/kg in food not prepared with sage and non alcoholic beverages.
  • 5 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with 25% or less ABV
  • 10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with more than 25% ABV
  • 25 mg/kg in food prepared with sage.
  • 35 mg/kg in alcohol labeled as bitters.

United States

Foods or beverages that contain Artemisia species, white cedar, oak moss, tansy or Yarrow must be thujone free.[6] Other herbs that contain thujone have no restrictions. For example, sage and sage oil (which can be 50%+ thujone) are on the FDA's list of Substances generally recognized as safe.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Famous Absinthe Drinkers

Soon to be a directory of famous people through history who were known to have been drinkers of absinthe. Check back regularly as this section is small now, but will continue to grow.


Perhaps one of the most recent of famous absinthe drinkers, Hemingway drank absinthe long after it was made illegal in most parts of the world. He was known to drink absinthe in Spain, before bull-fighting and perhaps before his running with the bulls. It is also rumored that he liked to keep a few bottles around while living in the United States. References to absinthe appear in many of his famous writings, including Death In The Afternoon and For Whom The Bell Tolls. Obviously, Hemingway never became the kind of absinthe addict as others mentioned on this page, but even so, he, like so many others, ended his life in suicide in 1961.

ALFRED JARRY (1873-1907)
The famous author of the scandalous French absurdist play, Ubu Roi. Jarry was an eccentric writer who was known to drink absinthe straight. While Jarry considered his less well-known Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, 'Pataphysician' his greatest work, he will always be remembered for creating the foul and monstrous character Pere Ubu, a grotesquerie who immediately drove audiences to anger and indignation. Pere Ubu was the principal character in Ubu Roi, which outraged the French theatre patrons of the time, and made the young Jarry a cult figure. The French stage would never be the same again. Jarry admittedly used absinthe to fuse together the dream and reality, art and life.

ARTHUR RIMBAUD (1855-1891)
Arthur Rimbaud was a young poet who arrived in Paris at the age of sixteen, destitute but carrying an impressive body of work. He soon fell in with Paul Verlaine and the two became lovers. They would drink absinthe together and play cruel games with each other. Rimbaud finally broke off with Verlaine in a particularly messy incident in which Verlaine shot Rimbaud and was sentenced to prison. Rimbaud gave up absinthe and spent the later years of his life enlisted in the Dutch army and became involved in colonization and gun running. Although he had stopped writing poetry, he nevertheless ended up being known as one of France's greatest poets. He died alone (many thought he was already long since dead) from possible cancer or complications of syphilis.

Erowid: Absinthe Vault


Green Fairy; Green Goddess; La Fée Verte
Alcoholic Depressant Intoxicant
Absinthe is a distilled spirit infused with herbs including the thujone-containing Aretmesia absinthium. Many describe its effects as significantly different than alcohol alone, but the nature of thujone's effects are much disputed. It was popularized in the late 19th century and associated with the bohemian artistic movements of the time.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Absinthe Literary Review

The Green Menace

The Mystery of the Green Menace

It's been celebrated as a muse and banned as a poison. Now an obsessed microbiologist has cracked the code for absinthe - and distilled his own.
By Brian Ashcraft

At first, Ted Breaux dismissed the urgent warnings on TV and radio. He even ignored the sirens that started blaring Saturday afternoon. "The last two times they evacuated the city, I stayed," says Breaux, 39, a chemist and environmental microbiologist. But when he woke up on Sunday, August 28, the hurricane had become a Category 5 and was still bearing down on New Orleans. He decided it was time to get out of his house on the floodplain just south of Lake Pontchartrain. He packed his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with all the essentials: clothes, toiletries, a laptop, some World War II rifles, ammo, and $15,000 worth of absinthe.

It took Breaux six hours to go 20 miles, and a full day to reach refuge in Huntsville, Alabama. He spent the next week watching Fox News, looking at aerial photos of New Orleans on his laptop, wondering if his friends had made it out, and cursing himself for not remembering to grab his original 1908 copy of Aux Pays d'Absinthe.

Raised in New Orleans, a city once dubbed the Absinthe Capital of the World, Breaux has long been fascinated with the drink. Absinthe is a 140-proof green liqueur made from herbs like fennel, anise, and the exceptionally bitter leaves of Artemisia absinthium. That last ingredient, also known as wormwood, gives the drink its name - and its sinister reputation. For a century, absinthe has been demonized and outlawed, based on the belief that it leads to absinthism - far worse than mere alcoholism. Drinking it supposedly causes epilepsy and "criminal dementia."

see also *

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Nowhere was this cafe culture more vibrant than in the Parisian district of Montmartre, already by the mid 19th century the favourite haunt
of the bohemian literary and artistic set. Amongst the best known establishments were the Brasserie des Martyrs, a particular favourite of
Baudelaire, the Cafe du Rat Mort, popular with writers by day and a lesbian hangout at night, and most famous of all, the Chat Noir,
founded in 1881 by Theodore Salis, an unsuccessful painter. Erik Satie played the piano here and Alfred Jarry was a regular, as was the
remarkable poet and inventor Charles Cross, who reputedly drank 20 absinthes a night.

In 1860, a young Parisian author, Henri Balesta, wrote Absinthe et Absintheurs, the first book to record the social context of heavy absinthe
drinking. He describes a typical cafe scene:

"In the morning, at lunchtime, the habitués invaded the bistrot. The professors of absinthe were already at their station, yes, the teachers
of absinthe, for it is a science, or rather an art to drink absinthe properly, and certainly to drink it in quantity. They put themselves on the trail
of the novice drinkers, teaching them to raise their elbow high and frequently, to water their absinthe artistically, and when, after the tenth
little glass, the pupil rolled under the table, the master went on to another, always drinking, always holding forth, always steady and
unshakeable at his post."

Absinthe hit its peak during the years from 1880-1910, when it fell dramatically in price, becoming accessible to all parts of society and
rivalling wine as the most popular drink in France. By then EVERYONE drank absinthe – society ladies, gentlemen-about-town,
businessmen and politicians, artists, musicians, ordinary working-men. In 1874, France consumed 700,000 litres of absinthe, but by
1910, the figure had exploded to 36,000,000 litres of absinthe per year. It was a quintessential part of Belle Epoque French society.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Leah: Absinthe Drinker

I'm convinced I can learn to love German girls...soon as they learn
to speak French.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Edouard Manet. The Absinthe Drinker
1858-1859. Oil on canvas. Ny Carlsberg-Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Green Zone

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My Private Planet

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The eyes have it

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