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Absinthe: The Topic


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#211 Hiram

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Posted 15 July 2006 - 12:39 PM

MaxH, I'd be very interested in the details of the infusion trick you mention.  Most of the serious "newer enthusiasts" take their instructions from the 19th century protocols established by the actual makers at the time...

It trivially illustrated my larger point about info that's in older mainstream publications, but not in recent online introductions.

A great deal of that information is now omitted because it's been found to be erroneous or irrelevant. As you say, the info did not apply to liquor manufacture. I was simply trying to get at what the process was, where you read, it and how it applied to absinthe, as no such process has ever been used on a large scale to my knowledge.

Don't get distracted too far by assumptions even beyond mine!  I did mean only bitter A. absinthium (basis of absinthe liquors and their name).  "Newer enthusiasts" referred to tutorial authors, not absinthe makers.

The newer enthusiasts I was referring to are the distillers, both commercial and hobbyist, who are reviving the knowledge laid down by their predecessors, the 19th absinthe makers.

The online absinthe world is made up of quite a few different communities. I'm just trying to figure out which one(s) you're talking about. Could you give specific examples of the tutorials, retained myths, the conventional wisdoms, etc. to which you're referring?

#212 MaxH

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 02:37 AM

... my larger point about info that's in older mainstream publications, but not in recent online introductions.

A great deal of that information is now omitted because it's been found to be erroneous or irrelevant ...

I referred to specific background science related to absinthe, which hasn't changed, and was available (and also in popular absinthe introductions) before, for instance, Ted Breaux tried pre-ban absinthe, or you or most people now posting on feeverte.net were commenting online about absinthe. (I.e., "Newer enthusiasts.")

... As you say, the info did not apply to liquor manufacture.

No, but my source referred to extraction of herbal principles by infusion, exactly the point of discussion. It happened to arise in non-liquor-making context. (Evidence yet again, by the way, that wide reading pays unexpected rewards. :-)

Don't get distracted too far by assumptions even beyond mine!  ... "Newer enthusiasts" referred to tutorial authors, not absinthe makers.

The newer enthusiasts I was referring to are the distillers ...who are reviving the knowledge laid down by their predecessors...

Yes, you mentioned that already to my use of the phrase, in which context I explained that it was off point, although certainly creditable. I was describing absinthe introductions written by people who embraced the subject in recent years.

Some particular questions:

I know about thujone's significance in absinthe, and the separate point has been made that specific measured absinthes (both pre-ban and carefully reproduced) contain little thujone, a point we can take as established, I hope, without further repetition (though you also know, I assume, that thujone can be distilled).

Question 1. [Hiram May 10 2005, this thread]: "Amount of thujone is an issue ... That's why we try to keep people from drinking homemade steeped concoctions: they're poisonous." Why do you call homemade steeped absinthe attempts "poisonous?"

2. Besides legal considerations (i.e., it's salable legally in more countries), does low thujone content per se impart benefits to a quality absinthe, compared to a hypothetical absinthe of equal quality but higher thujone?

3. Ted Breaux is on record as crediting Barnaby Conrad's book for interesting him in absinthe. What got you interested?

#213 drunkenmonkey

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:23 PM

Anything for sale IN France is NOT absinthe... only anise-flavored drinks trying to cash in on another name and legend... I live in France, and go to the supermarkets every day and see this stuff on the counters. Absinthe is ILLEGAL in France, in any form, and has been for decades. Believe me. Some websites will try to sell you absinthe, but inform you very clearly that, although you may order the stuff, that as it is against the law in certain countries, it may be ceased by customs.

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Absinthe IS LEGAL IN FRANCE AND EU including artemesia absinthum (the variety of wormwood that gives the drink its name. One variety, Nouvelle Orleans, is produced by an organic chemist who reverse engineered several french bottles of over 100 years ago. How someone could live in france and not kow this....
"I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy." -W.C. Fields

#214 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 03:16 PM

I had half-a-case delivered by The Alandia Company last week. I love their site because you can order by country of origin or by style. I had had a number of Czech, German, and French absinthes in the past, but am now completely won over with Alandia's Swiss La Bleue Clandestine l´Alcool de Vin.

It is a lovely high... :biggrin:

#215 Nathan

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:30 PM

I have a bottle of the Jade Edouard on the way...looking forward to washing away the taste of the Czech rotgut I had.

problem is at over $140 a bottle after shipping, I think it's probably not worth wasting on a monkey gland or sazerac, right? just use absente or pernod?

#216 BrooksNYC

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:42 PM

Those two cocktails call for just enough absinthe to coat the glass, so a round of drinks won't deplete your Edouard by much. You'll be thrilled to have graduated from Czechsinth. Please let us know what you think!

If you're "budgeting" (ha!) Kübler is a lovely, straightforward absinthe. It lacks the complexity of the Jades, but works nicely in cocktails. 100 cl of Kübler is £40 at Liqueurs de France (vs. £55 for 75 cl of the Jades).

By the way, fans of Artemisia-Bugnon's Clandestines (see Carolyn Tillie's post, above) might be interested in a tasting box of the three La Bleues. They're small bottles — 25 cl each — but at €59.90, it's a nice way to sample the La Bleues without committing to full bottles.

(Shipping absinthe IS expensive. Since it costs the same to ship three bottles as it does to ship one, get some friends to order a bottle for themselves, and split the shipping costs.)

Edited by BrooksNYC, 09 January 2007 - 05:08 PM.


#217 Sneakeater

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Posted 13 January 2007 - 01:31 PM

Me at a bar:

http://www.comedycen...playVideo=17453

#218 Friend of the Farmer

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Posted 13 January 2007 - 01:50 PM

CUSTOMS INSPECTION - watch out

Clearing US Customs this past Wednesday I was sent to the Ag inspection line. I always declare in full on my blue form (lose my passport, lose my job) the wine and/or spirit type, and this time had "5 bottles of french aperitifs(spirits)". The first thing asked - "Are they Absinthe?" While I joked that I wouldn't risk both my mind and job, he said they specifically look for it.

And though what I had was perfectly legal, I was greatful I didn't have to explain the Gentian aperitif.

#219 kvltrede

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:32 PM

CUSTOMS INSPECTION - watch out

Clearing US Customs this past Wednesday I was sent to the Ag inspection line.  I always declare in full on my blue form (lose my passport, lose my job) the wine and/or spirit type, and this time had "5 bottles of french aperitifs(spirits)".  The first thing asked - "Are they Absinthe?"  While I joked that I wouldn't risk both my mind and job, he said they specifically look for it. 

And though what I had was perfectly legal, I was greatful I didn't have to explain the Gentian aperitif.

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I'm confused. I know it's illegal to sell and to make absinthe in the US but I thought possision was legal. Is this incorrect?

Kurt
“I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake--which I also keep handy.” ~W.C. Fields
The Handy Snake

#220 slkinsey

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:46 PM

I have been led to believe that it's not a controlled substance like, say, marijuana, where you would get into real legal trouble if you were caught by Customs bringing some into the country. Rather, you're just not allowed to have it. You won't be arrested, but they will take it away from you. Read upthread.
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#221 alacarte

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:49 PM

I'm confused.  I know it's illegal to sell and to make absinthe in the US but I thought possision was legal.  Is this incorrect?

Just last week I attended a Culinary Historians of NY event focused on Absinthe. According to the speaker, Dr. David Weir, it is illegal to sell absinthe, but not illegal to be in possession of it.

We did a side-by-side tasting of absinthe (yes, the real stuff) and Pernod. Did not sell it, just shared it with us. Even diluted with water, even with sugar cubes added, IMHO absinthe is nasty stuff. Perhaps it's an acquired taste, but I don't foresee ever acquiring it. But Pernod is delightful.

#222 slkinsey

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:29 PM

Kara, what was the absinthe you tried? Was it home-made?

I ask because, I have a hard time understanding why you wouldn't like real absinthe if you like Pernod. There are differences between, say, Pernod pastis and Pernod absinthe (Pernod is once again making absinthe). But I wouldn't call these huge differences. On the other hand, homemade infused absinthe tastes horrible.
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#223 The Hersch

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:29 PM

[Just last week I attended a Culinary Historians of NY event focused on Absinthe. According to the speaker, Dr. David Weir, it is illegal to sell absinthe, but not illegal to be in possession of it.

But it's illegal to import it, isn't it?

#224 eje

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 03:11 PM

[Just last week I attended a Culinary Historians of NY event focused on Absinthe. According to the speaker, Dr. David Weir, it is illegal to sell absinthe, but not illegal to be in possession of it.

But it's illegal to import it, isn't it?

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This is answered on the wormwood society website starting here:

Isn't Absinthe Illegal in the US?

Short answer:

No, absinthe is prohibited from being imported into, or produced for sale and consumption in, the United States.


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#225 BrooksNYC

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 03:19 PM

We did a side-by-side tasting of absinthe (yes, the real stuff) and Pernod. Did not sell it, just shared it with us. Even diluted with water, even with sugar cubes added, IMHO absinthe is nasty stuff. Perhaps it's an acquired taste, but I don't foresee ever acquiring it.  But Pernod is delightful.

I, for one, would love to know what brand absinthe was served at this seminar. Commercial absinthes vary in quality from sublime to undrinkable.

The loopy US laws concerning absinthe can be summarized as follows:

Absinthe is not a controlled substance, like marijuana. It's legal to possess, drink, or serve it.

It's ILLEGAL to import, make, or sell it. If you're caught bringing it through Customs, they'll snatch it away from you, but that's the end of it. It's not like being busted for drugs.

The most hassle-free way to order it is online, from a reputable (repeat: reputable) merchant. The best retailers ship your order via courier which, while more expensive than regular shipping, greatly minimizes the odds that the order will be confiscated by Customs. (I can recall only two instances in the last five years when this has happened.) Additionally, the best merchants will fully insure your shipment, so that if anything goes wrong in transit, you will be issued a refund or replacement.

With merchants, as with absinthes, it pays to do your homework.

#226 Sneakeater

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:13 PM

I hear that even the reputable merchants are watching their respective asses at customs now, owing to a current (hopefully temporary) crackdown (although they continue to minimize your risk by guarantying the shipment).

#227 Nathan

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:15 PM

indeed...I had an Edouard bottle delayed by a couple days. although it still arrived within a week of my order.

#228 eje

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 10:22 PM

[...]
The loopy US laws concerning absinthe can be summarized as follows:

Absinthe is not a controlled substance, like marijuana. It's legal to possess, drink, or serve it.
[...]

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To me the loopiest part of the loopy laws which surround Absinthe/Wormwood/Thujone, is that it is, I guess, completely legal to manufacture and sell, as an herbal supplement, the fairly toxic wormwood extract.

It just boggles my mind.

Ban the tasty stuff, and leave the toxic stuff legal so kids, (and I use that term loosely,) can add it to their coke or Wapatuli.
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#229 jmfangio

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:24 PM

Alright, now that we've established that the ban on absinthe is mostly based on bad 19th Century social science, who do we need to write to in order to get the ban overturned? The FDA? Our Congressman?
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#230 Nathan

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:55 PM

the FDA.

the problem is, someone (a manufacturer) needs to pony up the cash for scientific studies....that's not going to happen.

I suppose it's possible that a review of the literature could convince them...I'll look into it one of these days...

#231 slkinsey

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 07:57 AM

Or, I don't know... the FDA could decide to follow what most every European government has decided is okay. Sigh. Of course they won't.
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#232 Nathan

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 08:42 AM

its possible that given the same scientific literature that the European decisions were based upon, they might give it some weight.

I'll look into it.

#233 Friend of the Farmer

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 08:18 AM

If you're looking for a nice synopsis of the European studies, click through to this article recently published online by the National Institute of Health (the NIH is a US govt agency):

Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome with present impact

http://www.pubmedcen...i?artid=1475830

#234 MaxH

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 12:08 PM

To me the loopiest part of the loopy laws which surround Absinthe/Wormwood/Thujone, is that it is, I guess, completely legal to manufacture and sell, as an herbal supplement, the fairly toxic wormwood extract.

It just boggles my mind.

This all reflects a longtime radical contradiction (long predating the recent growth in absinth interest) within USFDA's formal classification of thujone-containing herbs, which I've summarized elsewhere as follows.

US FDA's massive EAFUS index (Everything Added to Food in the US) lists wormwood (A. absinthium) and its products as banned, beyond trace amounts, on the basis of containing thujone, whose 1869 French stigma as toxic was the technical rationale for banning absinthium-flavored liquors internationally (1910-1915). Thujone was later understood to be part of "many essential oils" [1940s source] including of common cooking sage, an ancient food herb with thujone levels like A. absinthium's and classified in the same EAFUS list as having the highest possible safety rating.

More, if you're interested: If you smell a jar of reasonably fresh ground sage, you are sensing camphor and thujone, its two major principles and chemically related (as are menthol from mint and thymol from thyme, by the way). And be careful always to quantitatively define "toxic." Sometimes overlooked by current hobbyists and journalists is that natural thujone's lethal dose (available for decades in reference books in any library) resembles those of other physiologically active components in foods including caffeine (mouse LD50s both about 135 mg/kg), which, like thujone, kills by convulsions in gross overdose. Very gross, because for a human-sized animal that's around 100 cups of coffee for caffeine, or a staggering quantity of cooking sage for thujone, or 150-300 bottles of even thujone-rich absinthe liquor (and 1-2 bottles of any distilled liquor contain a human-lethal amount of alcohol). Besides which, traditionally-made absinthe liquors can lack any thujone in the finished product anyway, and have been boasting of it for about a century. All of this information has been available to anyone who'll read read the literature on the subject, though some of it is overlooked or "rediscovered" lately.

Cheers -- MaxH

#235 paulraphael

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:52 PM

According to the speaker, Dr. David Weir, it is illegal to sell absinthe, but not illegal to be in possession of it.


And of course, illegal to make it. I have a friend who used to be a high end moonshiner. She only sold her booze to friends at underground parties, for fear of getting caught. Among her creations was a very authentic absinthe, and also opium- and marijuana-based liqueurs.

I can absolutely say that I got a strange buzz off of the Absinthe. It wasn't exactly pleasant ... kind of like alcohol plus cold medicine. But I can see how some people would be into it. There are kids who party with Robitussin, after all.

Her beverages are very high quality. I trust her not to poison anyone with methanol (which evidently happened with some bargain brands of absinthe in Europe, leading to the myth that absinthe-level doses of wormwood could be toxic).

#236 MaxH

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 03:07 PM

... methanol (which evidently happened with some bargain brands of absinthe in Europe, leading to the myth that absinthe-level doses of wormwood could be toxic).

A good point worth repeating. Methanol seems to've been a star in the crowded constellation of 19th-c. health problems associated with absinthe and misattributed. More below* from a summary I assembled of absinthe myths. Much of the misattribution story is in Barnaby Conrad's 1988 Absinthe book (reissued 1997), the standard modern US introduction to the subject.

-- Max

* Magnan, the French physician, branded absinthe a convulsive toxin in 1869, securing some of its notoriety (on early work and conclusions considerably discredited later). Some context helps to understand 19th-century stories of absinthe's ill effects. Early firms such as Pernod Fils made a premium product from grape alcohol and quality ingredients, aimed at connoisseurs. As a fad for absinthe developed in France and Europe, many firms entered to compete. Some of them employed industrial alcohol of uncertain composition, others used crude coloring materials for the emerald green hue Pernod got from herb leaves. (Food and drink adulteration were commonplace in those days.**) These shortcuts had health effects separate from those of quality absinthe. Anti-absinthe propaganda and absinthe lore (even now) have not always been particular about the distinctions.


** Get ahold of the common Crown 1961 (English-language) Larousse Gastronomique and look up Reverdir, the "re-greening" of vegetables by blanching with copper salts, which were seriously toxic but gave a fine green color. This, by the way, is typical of many interesting information tidbits absent from later editions of the same book.


#237 Sneakeater

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 03:23 PM

I can absolutely say that I got a strange buzz off of the Absinthe. It wasn't exactly pleasant ... kind of like alcohol plus cold medicine. But I can see how some people would be into it. There are kids who party with Robitussin, after all.

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See. This is exactly how I felt when I started drinking absinthe. But I think the problem was that I underestimated the need to dilute it. That stuff is seriously high-alcohol.

#238 jmfangio

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 06:59 PM

Has anyone ever seen this stuff? I just ran across it today, and I can't find much information. I'm wondering how it would be in cocktails that call for a dash of absinthe, such as a Corpse Reviver #2 or a Monkey Gland.

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"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

#239 eje

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 08:17 PM

Has anyone ever seen this stuff?  I just ran across it today, and I can't find much information.  I'm wondering how it would be in cocktails that call for a dash of absinthe, such as a Corpse Reviver #2 or a Monkey Gland.

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Absente sells wormwood extract to add to their not very convincing Absinthe-a-like.

The idea is the addition of wormwood extract will make it closer to real Absinthe.

This is bullshit.

You can also buy Wormwood extract at health food stores etc.

The problem is that when (real) absinthe is distilled most of the bad stuff in wormwood is left behind, leaving only the scent.

Wormwood extract, on the other hand, is poisonous, and has no real relation to Absinthe.
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Erik Ellestad
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#240 jmfangio

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 08:44 PM

Thanks, Eje - at first I thought it might be a more concentrated version (as, say, Elixir Vegetal is to Chartreuse), but I think you're right. What little information I could find on this emphasized the thujone content, which tends to be code for bogus absinthe marketing. Oh well...the bottle still looks cool.

Edited by jmfangio, 24 March 2007 - 10:41 PM.

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham