Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Absinthe: The Topic


  • Please log in to reply
528 replies to this topic

#61 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:14 AM

I know a few restaurants in Paris who may have ancient bottles of Absinthe, but they will never say this in public.
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#62 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 11:51 AM

please read this if you are interested about recent studies on thujone and absinthe:
http://www.absintheo...og/Thujone.html

i have tasted vintage absinthe and can tell you that the best makers produced a sublime product.
it's trying to reproduce the original taste that is a bitch, since most are convinced it tasted terrible (virtually all modern makers have never tasted vintage absinthe) and had to be diluted with lots of sugar, therefore modern versions (czech) taste like bitter crap, since they have no history of making it, but do have the taste for bitters, and french versions are typically too sweet, since they are trying to make absinthe-aroma pastis, and are required to follow strict regulations based on 19th century science.

#63 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,104 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 25 August 2003 - 12:13 PM

please read this if you are interested about recent studies on thujone and absinthe:
http://www.absintheo...og/Thujone.html

Interesting/relevant passages from this article, in my opinion, include:

What is more likely to have caused harm to regular absinthe drinkers is the adulterants used in the cheaper varieties. Absinthe existed in a quality pyramid much as wine does today, for each quality brand there were many more indifferent and positively harmful versions being sold cheaply to those who could not afford to buy a reputable brand. Common adulterants were cupric acetate (to provide the valued green colour) and antimony trichloride (which provided a cloudiness when water was added in imitation of the milky appearance of diluted absinthe). The purity of the base alcohol used for lesser brands would also have been questionable, and toxic levels of methanol from poor rectification would have been a real possibility. An additional aggravating factor is that as the cheaper brands were lower in alcohol than the quality brands, around 45% abv for ‘absinthe demi-fine’ compared to 68 or 72% for ‘absinthe superior’, someone drinking the cheaper version and seeking to obtain the same effect from the alcohol would have needed to consume more of the absinthe and hence more adulterants.

and

In conclusion, there is no evidence that absinthe ever contained the high concentrations of thujone that would have led to detrimental effects or that it has hallucinogenic or mind altering properties. The health problems experienced by chronic users were likely to have been caused by adulterants in inferior brands and by the high levels of alcohol present. Claims for beneficial effects must also be treated with some scepticism as again, the detrimental effects of the alcohol would presumably outweigh any benefits. It seems likely that the phenomenal success of absinthe during the 19th century was due to one factor, the French love of aniseed drinks. The modern equivalent of absinthe, pastis, is by far the most popular distilled spirit in France with 125 million litres being consumed annually.

This article was apparently originally published not in a peer reviewed journal, but in a magazine called Current Drug Discovery which is a publication of Current Drugs, Ltd. which is, in turn, part of Thomson Scientific, a division of The Thomson Corporation.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#64 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 03:46 PM

>Recently, I found that there is a product much like absinthe, but finally legal: absente.
I'm really curious about this, but it appears to carry a hefty price tag. I'm curious whether anyone has tried this, real absinthe, and what their opinion is of either.

'absente' is a glorified pastis and does not taste anything like original absinthe. the american version does not contain extracts of the plant artemisia absinthium i.e. grande absinthe, which is the basic ingredient of the spirit, absinthe.
the european version does contain absinthe, but it doesn't make it that much better. this alcohol falls under the french liquor category 'spiriteux aux plantes d'absinthe' (containing 10mg/liter or less of thujone)which must be used as the alcohol's designation in france as 'absinthe' (by its original name) is still banned. to further the producer's marketing strategy, they have also produced a 'bitter aux plantes d'absinthe' (which can contain up to 35mg/liter of thujone under that designation) which comes in a medicine-dropper bottle and is supposed to be used to enhance the thujone content of the original product...it is 70% alcohol, as opposed to 55%, is disgustingly bitter, because absinthe oil has been added to enhance the thujone, and is a pitiful attempt to cash-in on those who search for the mythical thujone
high, which doesn't really exist as was once thought.

#65 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 03:53 PM

>The only difference between the two is that Absente is palatable, while true absinthe is generally not.

this is not true, if it is made correctly

>I was just a small child when van Gogh and Verlaine where flirting with the green fairy, but my recollection is that nobody ever thought of the stuff as an epicurean experience.

one of the reasons absinthe was so popular was because it was tasty.


>I've had three brands of true absinthe--two from Portugal (actually not entirely positive the portuguese use wormwood, i've heard conflicting reports)

although absinthe was never banned in portuagal, the portugese make a horrible excuse for absinthe (called absinto)...it is nothing like real absinthe.

>and one from the Czechs.

ditto

#66 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 04:20 PM

>The Spanish stuff is real.

it used to be, but most is not, now.

>People have just exaggerated the claims of thujone content in 19th century Absinthe to strenghen their position against it. Absinthe around the turn of the century was manufactured with steam distillation which yeilds 4 mg per 1.5 oz at the most, but also renders the absinthe very bitter.

the best absinthes of the époque were distilled in an alambic that was heated by water boiled in a double-boiler type rig...this water did not touch the herb/alcohol maceration in the main tank. it could also be heated by direct flame, (i know of one distillery in spain (segarra) that does this with excellent results) but this can burn the herbs and is much more labor intensive.
'steam distillation' to extract essences from each plant ingredient, as i think you mean it, and then assembling these in an alcohol base would produce a bitter absinthe. this process was used by lesser producers and still is used today by most pastis and 'absinthe' makers. (it is much cheaper) and is why most add sugar and star-anise oil to take the edge off) the double boiler actually allows the bitter elements to remain behind and the vapor, and once reduced to liquid 'alcoholate' produces a product that is not very bitter at all. this also reduces the amount of thujone in the final product considerably.


>For taste's sake, it is better at 2-3 mg. However, even at 4 mg, it means at most you would be looking at a 90 mg per litre at the most. This is readily available currently in the brand Serpis, which is the strongest currently available.

how do you know this? serpis is actually red in color, which has nothing to do with original absinthe. the the coloring in absinthe was originally a by-product of a second flavoring step, but is rarely more than food-coloring today...
that said , i do like serpis, the 65% better than the 55%, and think it is a classic spanish absenta (which is also not like original absinthe but more lemony and stronger anise), except for its color. my guess is that it doesn't have more than 10 mg/liter of thujone (not that this makes any difference) or it would not be able to be sold in the EU, besides spain, where absinthe was never banned and has no laws on thujone levels.

#67 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 04:28 PM

>I can believe that grain alcohol with 'additives' would be sold unscrupulously to those who only had the few pennies or francs for drink.

this is what helped to kill absinthe...absinthe was grouped by the anti-alcohol league and the wine maker's lobby (wine was not considered an alcohol, but food, at the time) as one product with no regard to better makers...it would be the same if MD 20/20 was considered an equal product to petrus...

#68 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 25 August 2003 - 04:33 PM

> to my knowledge there are no bottles left in existence from that time period.

yes, there are

>However, the recipes do exist and based on the recipes, we can ascertain that absinthes in the "Salon" time period had roughly 90 mg thujone per liter.

no, we can't, especially not as an overall generalization. properly distilled absinthes contain(ed) far less thujone than macerated or essence-oil mixed products. see above comparison...

#69 ihutton

ihutton
  • legacy participant
  • 4 posts

Posted 26 August 2003 - 09:34 AM

Greetings. As this is my first post I will introduce myself and make clear my affiliations right away so that you can take what I say cum grano salis if so desired. I am the author of the 'Myth Reality and Absinthe' article on absinthe and thujone cited a few posts earlier, I am also an analytical chemist and a director of Absinthe Online who are the sole suppliers of Un Emile 68 premium French absinthe.

One of the main points of argument in my article is that 'vintage' absinthe did not contain the high concentrations of thujone claimed in various literature references and that this makes it unlikely that it is solely responsible for the secondary effects of absinthe. I deduced this because Arnold, the most widely quoted source for information on thujone concentrations in 19th century absinthe, seems to have misread the original French reference book by Duplais and has probably confused thujone with oil of wormwood when extrapolating the figures. The figure of 200+ mg/l of thujone has simply been requoted over and over because the original source material was not checked. I also believe that thujone is stable under the conditions found in absinthe and that modern GC is measuring what was present when the absinthe was made as no degradation products are visible on the output trace. Finally it would not be possible to extract the high concentrations of thujone using distillation of plants (although it would be possible using essential oil extracts such as were (and are) used to make inferior absinthes). I will shortly be repeating my earlier GC analyses with a greater and more diverse collection of vintage absinthes.

Absinthe should be enjoyed purely for its taste, and a correctly crafted absinthe is one of the World's finest spirits. There are a few good examples commercially available, but most modern absinthe has been created from a mixture of oils and colouring with no reference to the original product and is marketed on the basis of hype or claims that it contains more thujone than other brands.

#70 Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 13,501 posts
  • Location:FL

Posted 26 August 2003 - 09:47 AM

So have samples of original absinthe from the early 20th and late 19th century been analyzed in a modern laboratory environment to prove or disprove any misconceptions about the actual chemical composition, taste and thujone content?

Wouldn't spectrographic analysis, among other techniques, pretty much make this a moot issue?
Jason Perlow
Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters
offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | My Flickr photo stream

#71 ihutton

ihutton
  • legacy participant
  • 4 posts

Posted 26 August 2003 - 10:11 AM

So have samples of original absinthe from the early 20th and late 19th century been analyzed in a modern laboratory environment to prove or disprove any misconceptions about the actual chemical composition, taste and thujone content?


My analyses were performed at a certified UK standards laboratory using the official GLC set up for thujone analysis in beverages. As well as for thujone they were tested for anethole (a major compound from the anise) and other marker componds which gave us clues as to what other plants had been used in the distillation.

#72 WHT

WHT
  • participating member
  • 983 posts
  • Location:Chicago

Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:12 AM

>Why would you suggest otherwise? Basic organic chemistry and pharmacology might be a start.



Thanks for the return post. Solomon’s post is a good basic explanation. You would have to have a perfectly mad and preserved bottle from that time (I would think that to be rare.) to try and do any form of detailed testing. To many wild factors in just coming across a bottle of anything and being able to test it and have the results mean something.

Or another way of looking at it is the way some drug tests work. They look for remainders of chemicals. Ones that occur in other things besides drugs. Poppy seeds or VICODIN show as opium on some of the testes. Yes, people do abuse prescription medicine but if the test is not followed up on or the right questions asked beforehand the test is useless. I will have to dig out my pharmacopoeia and get the properties and decay rates just to back this up.

Your comment about rehashing and selective quotes rings true. Hence some of my questions as to what and why.

Welcome and have a good time.
Living hard will take its toll...

#73 mcdowell

mcdowell
  • participating member
  • 424 posts
  • Location:Austin Texas

Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:28 AM

Another quick datapoint, this time from an article at the DEA web site, excerpting an article from Forensic Drug Abuse Advisor that says, in part:

Salvia officinalis (common sage), and presumably Salvia divinorum, contains thujone and camphor. These same two ingredients are found in wormwood, one of the ingredients in the original formula for the liquor absinthe, which is now making a comeback, at least in Europe. The thujone molecule bears a very strong resemblance to tetrahydrocannabinol, and it has been suggested that absinthe's psychological effects were really the result of thujone's cannabis-like effects.

Modern receptor studies have proven that hypothesis wrong, but alternate explanations have not been forthcoming. Salvinorin A is easily extracted from the leaves and identifiable with GC/MS, but it is not likely to be detected by any of the normal urine screening immunoassays.



#74 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,104 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:31 AM

One of the main points of argument in my article is that 'vintage' absinthe did not contain the high concentrations of thujone claimed in various literature references and that this makes it unlikely that it is solely responsible for the secondary effects of absinthe. I deduced this because Arnold, the most widely quoted source for information on thujone concentrations in 19th century absinthe, seems to have misread the original French reference book by Duplais and has probably confused thujone with oil of wormwood when extrapolating the figures. The figure of 200+ mg/l of thujone has simply been requoted over and over because the original source material was not checked.

I assume you refer to: "Duplais P. Traité des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools ou le liquoriste et le distillateur moderns. Versailles: Chez l'Auteur, 1855" as cited in this article by Strang, Arnold and Peters? If, as you suggest, they have made a mistake in their translation, perhaps you could provide reference to the passage(s) mistranslated and what you believe is the correct translation? I am also curious as to why you think it might be that this error has not been remarked upon in the scientific community. Or do you suppose you are among a very small minority that has rechecked the original information? I'm not asking this facetiously, I really do wonder.

Have you ever thought of writing to one of the scientific journals or posting a comment on the journal's web site in response to an article they had published citing the figures you think are erroneous?

I also believe that thujone is stable under the conditions found in absinthe and that modern GC is measuring what was present when the absinthe was made as no degradation products are visible on the output trace.

Might there be other explanations for why your gas chromatography didn't find any degradation products? For instance, might any such products have reacted into still different forms over time? Or might they have precipitated and formed a sediment in the bottle? Or is is possible that the sample which you tested was not representative of all 19th century absinthes?

Finally it would not be possible to extract the high concentrations of thujone using distillation of plants (although it would be possible using essential oil extracts such as were (and are) used to make inferior absinthes).

Ah, but isn't this part of the point? Presumably most of the people suffering absinthe's alleged ill effects were did not have sufficient means to drink the expensive stuff. Unfortunately, I rather imagine that there aren't too many 100 year old bottles of carefully preserved rotgut absinthe hanging around in old cellars waiting to be tested. I would be very interested to see the CG analysic results of some really crappy absinthe, as I strongly suspect that contaminants and non-ethyl alcohol were responsible for most of absinthe's reported effects not explainable by alcohol intoxication.

I will shortly be repeating my earlier GC analyses with a greater and more diverse collection of vintage absinthes.

Great! I look forward to seeing your results. Do you intend to write them up for publication in a scientific journal?


Thanks for your contributions and welcome to eGullet, by the way. Assuming your culinary interests extend beyond absinthe, you should check out our other forums as well. For what it's worth, I am rather in your camp when it comes to the alleged mind-altering effects of the various substances in absinthe other than alcohol.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#75 jsolomon

jsolomon
  • participating member
  • 2,534 posts
  • Location:Medical school

Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:51 AM

>Over time, the ring would open and you'd have something that tasted akin to smog or road tar instead of thujone.

are you saying that the vintage absinthe would have this flavor because of the thujone, or just a liquid essence of a plant that contained high amounts of thujone (which would be unbearably bitter in the first place)?
and how long is 'over time'?

this has not been my experience with samples of almost 100-year-old absinthe that i have tasted (though some survive in much better drinking condition than others)
but if what you are saying is true, that would suggest then that these absinthes did not contain much thujone in the first place, becaiuse with high amounts of thujone, they would become undrinkable because of the aging process.

I agree that this suggests that these fine vintage absinthes probably did not have much thujone. But, I'll also put out that a proper steam distillation will tend to bring out into the distillate many alkaloids that are naturally found in plant products. For instance, if you steam distilled coffee, you would find caffeine in the distillate.

That being said, steam distillation is an evil process from a "good separation scheme" standpoint. It's too long, provides poor yields, and requires baby-sitting a lot more than, say, an ether or benzene extraction (something similar was probably used to make the inferior absinthes). Think of it as brewing coffee by extracting the coffee flavors from beans using the absolute cheapest vodka you can find and then dumping that liquor in boiling water to drive off the alcohol to make coffee. I would rather chew on donkey's sphincter than drink that coffee. It would taste perfectly despicable because the essential liquors you get from a steam distillation are much different than those you get from a benzene solution because steam is not benzene, and these things have differing solubilities in the two substances.

What I did imply, and I will state it more strongly this time is that good absinthe will not be an acidic beverage because you would turn your thujone into something quite awful in the bottle instead of your stomach. So, if your absinthe tastes like road tar, it's because 1: it was poorly made, and 2: it is old.

As for how long this would take, that depends on factors of temperature and pH, mainly, and I do not have enough experience with real absinthe to be able to hazard a competent guess.

Unfortunately, my qualifications are not as august as ihutton's (being more of a physical chemist, myself), so I shall defer to ihutton.
I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#76 jsolomon

jsolomon
  • participating member
  • 2,534 posts
  • Location:Medical school

Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:57 AM

Have you ever thought of writing to one of the scientific journals or posting a comment on the journal's web site in response to an article they had published citing the figures you think are erroneous?

Great!  I look forward to seeing your results.  Do you intend to write them up for publication in a scientific journal?

This article by Ian Hutton first appeared in Current Drug Discovery, September, 2002
I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#77 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,104 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 26 August 2003 - 12:17 PM

This article by Ian Hutton first appeared in Current Drug Discovery, September, 2002

It's not entirely clear to me whether Current Drug Discovery is a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Regardless, Ian's interesting article does not appear to present experimental data as in a typical journal article and appears in the "Back Pages" section of the magazine.

This is not quite the same thing as writing a counter-article or response, or posting a "rapid response" to, say, the BMJ -- nor does it seem equivalent to submitting an actual experimental study to a peer-reviewed journal to be considered for publication. These are the two things about which I inquired.

Not that any of the above should be taken as a negative comment as to the interesting, provocative and informative nature of Mr. Hutton's article in Current Drug Discovery, which I think is pretty cool. :cool:
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#78 ihutton

ihutton
  • legacy participant
  • 4 posts

Posted 26 August 2003 - 12:31 PM

I assume you refer to: "Duplais P. Traité des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools ou le liquoriste et le distillateur moderns. Versailles: Chez l'Auteur, 1855" as cited in this article by Strang, Arnold and Peters? If, as you suggest, they have made a mistake in their translation, perhaps you could provide reference to the passage(s) mistranslated and what you believe is the correct translation? I am also curious as to why you think it might be that this error has not been remarked upon in the scientific community. Or do you suppose you are among a very small minority that has rechecked the original information?


This is indeed the source. I don't have a copy of Duplais to hand at present but if you will accept a passage from Bedel's Trait complet de la fabrication des liqueurs et des vins liquoreux dits d'imitation Paris, 1899, (which many people think was largely a rehash of Duplais) I can email or fax it to you. I fear that I may try the forum's patience as well as my own typing accuracy if I copy out passages of 19th century French distillers handbooks! However, when Duplais wrote the original work in 1855 no one considered thujone an issue and there would have been no way of measuring it with any accuracy if anyone had had the inclination to do so. Duplais was interested in distillation and producing liqueurs and eaux de vie so he quoted figures for g/l of essence of wormwood but not concentrations of thujone.

Mistakes such as this are not as uncommon as you might think and the fact that it has not been picked up sooner is partly an indictment of scientific and journalistic technique and partly due to the fact that Duplais's book is rather hard to come by.

Might there be other explanations for why your gas chromatography didn't find any degradation products? For instance, might any such products have reacted into still different forms over time? Or might they have precipitated and formed a sediment in the bottle? Or is is possible that the sample which you tested was not representative of all 19th century absinthes?


This is indeed possible and rigorous testing would be necessary to completely eliminate this possibility. On the weight of evidence I still believe that thujone is stable in alcoholic solution, however I do need to test more samples.

Ah, but isn't this part of the point? Presumably most of the people suffering absinthe's alleged ill effects were did not have sufficient means to drink the expensive stuff. Unfortunately, I rather imagine that there aren't too many 100 year old bottles of carefully preserved rotgut absinthe hanging around in old cellars waiting to be tested.


Indeed, just as you don't seem to see many old vins ordinnaire at auction, bog standard absinthe is also unseen.

I will certainly be looking at the other topics on the forum.

#79 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,104 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 26 August 2003 - 01:11 PM

I assume you refer to: "Duplais P. Traité des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools ou le liquoriste et le distillateur moderns. Versailles: Chez l'Auteur, 1855" as cited in this article by Strang, Arnold and Peters? If, as you suggest, they have made a mistake in their translation, perhaps you could provide reference to the passage(s) mistranslated and what you believe is the correct translation?

This is indeed the source. I don't have a copy of Duplais to hand at present but if you will accept a passage from Bedel's Trait complet de la fabrication des liqueurs et des vins liquoreux dits d'imitation Paris, 1899, (which many people think was largely a rehash of Duplais) I can email or fax it to you. I fear that I may try the forum's patience as well as my own typing accuracy if I copy out passages of 19th century French distillers handbooks! However, when Duplais wrote the original work in 1855 no one considered thujone an issue and there would have been no way of measuring it with any accuracy if anyone had had the inclination to do so. Duplais was interested in distillation and producing liqueurs and eaux de vie so he quoted figures for g/l of essence of wormwood but not concentrations of thujone.

OK... now we're getting somewhere. Do you think it is the case that Duplais wrote a figure for g/l of essence of wormwood and Strang et al. misread this as a concentration of thujone? As you point out, Duplais would hardly have been able to measure the concentration of thujone anyway, which is a fact I can hardly think would have been unknown to Strang et al. In fact, I wonder whether the existence of thujone was understood at all in 1855.

So, what I am wondering is where the misunderstanding/mistranslation happened. Of course, I did not mean to suggest that you type long passages of 19th century French and several possible translations thereof. I thought it would be more along the lines of "Duplais says blah blah blah here and was really referring to X, but Strang et al. mistranslated it as referring to Y." Is it not the case that Strang et al. read something in Duplais that caused them to extrapolate what they thought was a reasonable extimation of the thujone concentration in absinthe based? Somewhere there has got to be the misunderstanding. I am just trying to get a handle on what it was.

I will certainly be looking at the other topics on the forum.

Great! Glad to have you aboard. And still looking forward to any recommendation of absinthe that might be available in the US, if you are aware of any.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#80 ihutton

ihutton
  • legacy participant
  • 4 posts

Posted 26 August 2003 - 02:14 PM

Do you think it is the case that Duplais wrote a figure for g/l of essence of wormwood and Strang et al. misread this as a concentration of thujone?


Exactly so. There is no mention of thujone in those sources, only oil or essence of wormwood. As to how the misunderstanding arose, only Strang et al can answer that.

Sadly you cannot buy any authentic absinthe over the counter in the US due to Federal regulations. However we have been shipping Un Emile 68 to private individuals the US by courier for over a year without any problems.

#81 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 26 August 2003 - 03:57 PM

>I asked where you found these 100-year old absinthes, not how. And I still have no answer to my question. Do you reside in a country where it is possible to obtain vintage absinthe?? Details, please!

sorry, i was being cagey as sources are hard to come by...

i live in france. i am a collector of absinthe-related antiques. i love fine wine, spirits and great food. the french, ditto. when they know that, and that you like their life-style, you're in, especially if you speak the language. i have made contacts via friends and the internet, and occationally stumble on someone who has found an old bottle. my first vintage absinthe was purchased from a corsican who moved to aix-en-provence, and, during the course of emptying his family's house in corsica, stumbled upon full bottles of absinthe, which he started to drink with his friends...i ended up buying two full bottles from him. my other bottle was purchased from an absinthe/pastis antique collector in provence who found a cache of bottles in an old cellar. i have also purchased a bottle on the internet that was full, but turned out to be full of wine, it being used to rebottle bulk wine in an old café. recently old bottles have been refilled and pawned off as being original.

that being said, it must be noted that full bottles of absinthe have been found in the usa, as it was a popular drink in new orleans, new york and san francisco. there were also several makers of absinthe located in the united states, mostly in new orleans ('legendre' absinthe, for one, now the pastis 'herbsaint') and even in boston and cleveland...

it is my personal theory that absinthe was never as popular in the usa as in france because america already had its own herbal drink at the same time, 'bitters', (a high-alcohol 'remedy' labeled as a cure for kidney, liver and other malidies, which was just booze in a puritan disguise). it has a story in the usa amusingly parallel to the once-medicinal, then aperitif, absinthe.

#82 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 26 August 2003 - 07:03 PM

>I'd be very interested in your recommendations as to the best modern absinthes to try. Especially any that you think might be or become available in the US.

*disclaimer*
i am associated with liqueurs de france ltd. located in england, which is directly responsible for the development and exclusive distribution of 'un émile 68°' absinthe, made by the 'distillerie les fils d'émile pernot' in ponarlier, france. :www.absintheonline.com
*feel free to interpret everything i state afterwards based on this admission*

based on taste, production methods, and current commercial availability in the EU -

best distilled french absinthe and closest to original style: un émile (68°) traditional and 'absinthe blanche' (68°).
(if anyone wants me to back up why i say this, i will on request, so as not to appear to go immediately into an advertising rant)
also very good: françois guy (45°)
lemercier (72°)
decent, but artificially colored and not distilled: le fée (68°)
and pernod-ricard absinthe (68°) (nothing like its ancestor)

best (the only?) distilled spanish absenta: segarra (45°)
most amusing (not distilled): serpis (65°)-red color!

czech-none
however they do have the most foul product ever bottled: zelena muza ('green muse' in czech) (72°) one taste and you'll want to scrape the bitterness off your tongue with a straight razor...


i would also suggest checking the more detailed list of independant reviews at: http://www.feeverte....nthe-guide.html

none of these products in their current form will become commerically available for distribution within the usa any time soon, but can be ordered over the internet.

#83 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 27 August 2003 - 07:47 AM

Thanks, pierre, I live in Paris, and have yet to obtain "vintage" absinthe myself..
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#84 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 27 August 2003 - 08:03 AM

bettina - wow! not only an absinthe expert, but a relative of King Ludwig as well!
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#85 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 27 August 2003 - 08:04 AM

I guess a good question is: How many of you actually drink the stuff as well as discussing it?
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#86 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 28 August 2003 - 03:08 AM

>Thanks, pierre, I live in Paris, and have yet to obtain "vintage" absinthe myself..

what brands have you tasted in france? FYI, there will be an absinthe 'festival' (absinthiades) on october 4-5 in pontarlier, near the swiss border (though still small and mostly for antique collectors, it is now attracting more local and international absintheurs)
3 hours TGV direct from paris.

#87 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 28 August 2003 - 09:22 AM

La Fee Verte seems to be the best I've tried so far, which, as you know, has the stamp of approval of the Musee d'Absinthe in Auvers s/ Oise. I always have to bring it over from the UK, though, as I know of nowhere in Paris I can purchase a bottle, although I'm sure there are such places...
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#88 pierreverte

pierreverte
  • participating member
  • 28 posts
  • Location:paris

Posted 28 August 2003 - 09:39 AM

you can buy the 45° la feé verte from madame delahaye at the museum in auvers, but not the 68°, which is not sold in france...

Edited by pierreverte, 28 August 2003 - 09:40 AM.


#89 fresh_a

fresh_a
  • participating member
  • 1,282 posts
  • Location:Paris

Posted 28 August 2003 - 10:18 AM

But it ain't the real stuff...
Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

#90 theabroma

theabroma
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 692 posts
  • Location:Dallas, Texas

Posted 29 August 2003 - 03:04 PM

The original 'fee verte' gave quite an alcoholic kick. However, the amount of thujone in a belt of absinthe was negligible. If I am not mistaken, however, thujone will build in the system, so over a long period of intense and dedicated fidelity to absinthe's green fairy, negative effects attributable to a high thujone concentration may have kicked in.
Don't forget, however, that the establishmed order saw fit to demonize, then criminalize absinthe, citing wormwood as the evilest of evils in the green bottle. I think there was a cultural/social dimension in operation here, which we have seen in our own day: when you wish to marginalize and disempower a group of people (often free-spirits & artistic types), in order to destroy its perceived threat to the established order and "morality", you can best begin by demonizing, destroying, and removing its emblematic accoutrements. Absinthe surely fits squarely in that category. And it was rapidly replaced by a series of defanged and emasculated imitators - Pastis, Pernod, Anis de Mono, etc. Eunuchs in a bottle to provide a frisson of the vrai vie de boheme to weekday moralists/weekend bohemians. Anyone remember the term 'weekend hippie'? Turned on, tuned in & dropped out on Sat & Sun, and prosecuted pot busts M-F?

T.
Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum