Thursday, November 29, 2007

So we were going to talk about absinthe

TIME magazine reports "Absinthe is back," and encourages us to "party like it's 1899." Oh, Time... you hoot an'a half...

Distillation of absinthe was outlawed in the United States (and most of Europe) in 1915, after enjoying a galloping run through bohemian society, with its neighbors opium, laudanum, heroin, and Dr. Pemberton's snappy cocaine beverage. The turn of the century was truly a buzz-kill.

Absinthe was rumored to be hallucinogenic (Wilde said it gave him the jimmy legs) and could also act as an aphrodisiac. Those Victorians loved to be titilated, but only without their control.

Absinthe madness is blamed for 1 particularly horrific mass-murder, after Jean Lafray killed his whole family in 1905. He had consumed 2 glasses of absinthe that morning. he had also consumed five litres of wine, six glasses of cognac, one coffee laced with brandy, two crème de menthes and a sandwich. I always say "de menthe before don't feel so dandy..." "Absinthe 'n' menthe'll... make you go mental."

(by the way, reefer makes you all kinds of crazy too...)

What absinthe was considered worse than:
rum - pivotal leg of the triangle trade. 1860 Census count of enslaved persons ~ 4M ( 27M free persons) of course those 4M were not counted as "persons," but as assets.
tobacco - current estimate, 46M smoking Americans at $7 a pack. 1 in 5 deaths in America is smoking related, says the CDC
hemp - Pot never caught on as a drug in Europe primarily because it was more valuable as rope, but also because it just wasn't strong enough.
morphine - Anything sadder than Albert Ingalls on morphine? How about this: one of the fastest addicting and most violent to kick, though you can withdraw from it in as little as 2 weeks -- if you don't kill yourself in the attempt. Afterward, you'll learn you are now more susceptible to Hep C.
gin - not outlawed until 1920 , and then for no reason that has ever made sense.
vermouth - which is German for wormwood. I promise.

not to mention child labor, Jim Crow, and rickets, none of which were on the social agenda in 1915.

It was long believed that the chemical thujone, naturally occurring in wormwood (an otherwise useless herb) was the source of absinthe hallucinations. It was thought to be related to THC (the mad part of reefer madness) and therefore, of course, very very baaad. Interestingly, the new US regulations will only allow absinthe that is free of thujone, the faery that gives the Green faery its kick. Which means that US absinthe is just herb-liqueur. More commonly.... Campari.

Notice the subtle connection between green faeries and red.

So. everything you want to know about the now-legal, less-potent, labor-intensive elixir that apparently tastes like Tic-Tacs soaked in air freshener, is of course available on the Web. here are some interesting resources:

The Virtual Absinthe Museum - this is the most comprehensive source I have found. It is also available in French, so you know it must be authentic. Plenty of paths to follow here.

The Wormwood Society - founded by a man named Gwydion, which is also one of the houses in Harry Potter. Judging by the "About Us" page, this is a full-on Bloomsbury group of alt.bohemians. Be sure to check out their reviews before you buy.

Absinthe original - only 1 of many shopping sites available.

Merry Faery Christmas

1 comment:

  1. *snif* Albert Ingalls on the drugs! Still catches me by the heartstrings... -- Dr. A.


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