Thursday, December 22, 2005

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."


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2 Comments:

Blogger thyfleshconsumed said...

It's weird, I was in New Orleans with my sister just a few months before everything went to shit...I'm glad I enjoyed the time I did, when I had the chance. They had faux absinthe but not the real thing. That was weird, too.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Indigobusiness said...

What was it like? (He asks, months later...)

10:45 PM  

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