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Lord Michael Lewis

Absinthe: The Topic

533 posts in this topic

what about the narcotic effect?

Absinthe is made from 5-10 different ingredients. The famous narcotic effect is due to "thuyone", coming from a root. In high doses, it can lead to neuronal effects similar to epilepsis, I learned. Absinth was forbidden due to this. Or better: this was the official justification. I heard that some of the old Absinth had considerable methanol level, something that helped to increase and alterate the effect of aethanol, but can be highly dangerous (getting blind, for example).

Today, concentration of thuyone is limited to 35 mg/l. I have no idea how much the threshold dose needs to be for a narcotic effect, but I guess after consuming 1 liter of absinthe your'e going to have about the same narcotic effect like after drinkin 1 liter of bourbon.

Many times when a drug becomes fashionable, there are a lot of stories. If you read the first reports about the narcotic effect of coffee, you think they consumed something like LSD.

BTW, I tasted it once (illegal absinthe from the original place) and it was like the aforementioned Ouzo, Pernod, Ricard or Pastis.


Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Could never drink enough to experience the "narcotic effect" which, strictly speaking, is not narcotic at all. Its actually supposed to be hallucinogenic. Rimbaud reportedly had debilitating hallucinations following all night drinking bouts of absinthe. Incidentally, his hallucinations were green! :biggrin:


Jay

You are what you eat.

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Regarding the other link, absente is definitely NOT absinthe. Not made according to the same technique, and not made of the same stuff. I always have a bottle at home, of the real stuff either made in France for exportation only, or the Swiss 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

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As an aside, the Swiss absinthe I've seen is clear--evidently a lot of the green coloring one sees is exactly that, coloring in the name of marketing.

:smile:

There exist blue variants also. Hence sometime it's called "la Bleue". Which made nice headlines in the press yesterday: "Green light for La Bleue".

Coloring in the name of marekting is maybe the oldest and most successful marketing method in food history :biggrin:


Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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From an article in today's Times:

For three years Claude-Alain Bugnon has competed with his wife for space in the unfinished concrete basement of their home here, she to do laundry, he to make absinthe.

Armed with plastic containers of dried herbs, tubs of pharmaceutical ethanol, a homemade still and a secret recipe from a friend's grandmother, Mr. Bugnon has used his skills as an oil refinery technician to produce the powerful herbal elixir long blamed for driving people mad.

In January a new law takes effect in Switzerland aimed at rehabilitating the reputation of absinthe, whose distillation, distribution and sale were banned after an absinthe-besotted factory worker killed his wife and children nearly a century ago.

The new law will allow Mr. Bugnon and dozens of other underground absinthe makers to "come out," as one Swiss newspaper put it, seek amnesty and produce absinthe legally.

Isn't there already commercial production of Absinthe in Switzerland? Anyway, the article makes it sound like the new law will pave the way for more "historical" absinthes with higher thujone concentrations.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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One source that I know, Jade Liqueurs (absinthe@bestabsinthe.com).


Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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The Absinthe available from Jade Liqueurs is absolutely fabulous!

Nouvelle-Orléans, is the result of many years of exhaustive research and preparation by Ted Breaux to create an absinthe that is as close as possible to the absinthe that was made back in the 1800's. The various modern brands available pale in comparison.

The website for more overall information about this is: http://www.vintageabsinthe.com, and if you are interested in purchasing some, you can do that here: http://www.absintheonline.com/acatalog/Jade.html

I ordered several bottles a while back, and they arrived in just a matter of days.

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They sound really interesting. Of course, at $97.35/bottle plus shipping, they had better be! :smile:


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'll second Drinkboy on purchasing absinthe through LdF (www.absintheonline.com).

While I haven't tried the Jade varietals yet, my previous orders (Un Emile brands) arrived quickly by courier without any fuss.

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So what is the buzz one gets from drinking absinthe?

As a chemistry teacher, I worry about the effects of the thujol (what a difference 30 years makes - when I didn't worry about anything).

Four of us recently tried a bottle of czech absinthe a friend brought back from Kos, Greece. It was pleasant, but I think most of the effect was from 120 proof alcohol, not thujol. We noticed tight foreheads and a tendency to smile a lot.

Nice chilled with ice, but had a good burn neat. Pretty blue color.


--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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I've sampled some of the "Un Emile 68" created by Emile Pernot distributed by Absinthe Online (http://www.absintheonline.com, who also distributes the Jade Nouvelle Orleans and the jade Verte Suisse 65) as well as rare 19th century Absinthe side by side (eGullet member pierreverte was nice enough to send me a small sample to try at the time). I thought the Un Emile was a very close recreation of the 19th century stuff I tried. I'd be very interested in trying the Nouveau Orleans one to see how it compares.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I am certainly not that informed about absinthe.. But i normally order mine from this website when my friend who makes his own runs out.. Its good stuff, it gets to my apartment in less the three days.. I really like La Fee and its a lot less expensive http://www.eabsinthe.com/

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I am interested in trying some Absinthe myself, but my understanding is that some varieties contain the real thujone (from real wormwood) and some don't. I would be interested in ordering a bottle witht he highest possible thujone content (hey, if you're gonna do it, might as well jump in with both feet). Any ideas of resources where I could find which bottle I want?


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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try this www.absintheonline.com/acatalog/Jade.html


Edited by winesonoma (log)

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I've tried many different brands of Absinthe, but not the two you list (Logan Fils, Absinth King of Spirits). Sabor was the first brand I had tried many years ago, and I still find it to be "good enough" when compared to many of the rest.

But hands down, my favorite has got to be Jade Liquor's new Absinthe... (as already recommended by winesonoma)... yes, at about $100 a bottle it is expensive, but if you are going to do it, I would recommend doing it right. This stuff is fabulous!

Forget trying to go for the highest possible thujone content. That's sort of like wanting to try a great cocktail, and then reaching for the EverClear because it has the highest possible alcohol content. "Real" Absinthe, back in the days when they were really making it, wasn't about the high thujone content, except perhaps in the rot-gut varieties.

-Robert Hess

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I've tried many different brands of Absinthe . . . But hands down, my favorite has got to be Jade Liquor's new Absinthe... (as already recommended by winesonoma)...

-Robert Hess

I'm assuming that the Jade Liquor's Nouvelle-Orleans is the appropriate selection if one was planning on using it for Sazerac's (at least on occasion). Is this correct?

If it's possible to put into words, can anyone who has tried both please give a brief idea of the differences between the Nouvelle-Orleans and the Jade Vert Suisse 65?

Also, do any of the usual suspects (Herbsaint, Pernod, Ricard, Absente) really come close in flavor to a "good" absinthe?

Thanks.

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

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I've got a bottle of the Vert Suisse 65, but haven't opened it yet :-> Of the two, I'd buy the Nouvelle-Orleans. Primarily because it has a beautiful label, while the Vert Suisse is essentially unlabeled, with just a little gold sticker on it.

For a Sazerac, with how little Absinthe is really used, I don't think it makes much of a difference, as long as you use something good. Of the Faux-Absinthe (aka. "Pastis") I prefer Absente.

-Robert

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Of possible interest re absinthes and thujone and further info sources. On the assumption that you have some patience, and further that this site doesn't mind an occasional cross-reference to another. (I've no connection there, other than supplying some of the absinthe info.)

It was a recent and unusual thread on the WCWN wine site that began with meat stocks and moved to absinthe, with a segue via Beano and its many benefits and also the chemistry involved. (Frank D. is academic chemist in residence on that site. Many online wine fora, if not too large, seem to have their resident chemistry professor, it is a long tradition.) Here is a compressed link to the entire "stock" thread:

http://tinyurl.com/5exv4

Absinthe enters at the bottom of the first "page," at least on my display. (This may not, though, address the original question here.)

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La Fee is really good Absinthe and it's liqourice finish, while burns like a mothersucker, is so well worth it.

Wormwood is overrated but the taste neat or over ice cold water and sugarcube is exotic.

Hope it helps.

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Can an experienced Absinthe drinker tell me what the experience is like with the real thing?

True confessions, at the age of, nearly 41, in the past* I've been f'd-up on tequila, weed, shrooms, LSD, X, and poppy-flour tea, so my standards are pretty high. My only perception of Absinthe is Nine Inch Nails videos and Francis Ford Coppala's Dracula. I just want to know if $100+ is worth the experience. If it's worth it, I'll keep it on my list of things to try before I die (like Fugu).

*I'm not nor have ever been a "druggy" but still smoke the herb on occasion and have cocktails once or twice a year.


"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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It is a matter of some dispute as to whether the wormwood or other herbal constituents absinthe have any substantial psychoactive effects over and above those of the (quite high) alcohol content. This is not to say, of course, that people who drink absinthe won't experience such effects, as the mind's ability to produce various intoxication effects based on expectation is well documented.

There are four areas to consider concerning the intoxicating effects of absinthe: alcohol, herbs, wormwood and adulterants. Fortunately for us, we only have to be concerned with the first three today with respect to commercial products.

Alcohol: Absinthe is quite high in alcohol -- often around 70%. As far as I know, people didn't start to attribute hallucinations and other psychological effects to absinthe until it started to be produced in cheap rotgut varieties for the masses. Most of the reported psychological effects of absinthe from history can probably be attributed to alcohol poisoning, especially when one considers all the non-ethyl alcohols and other contaminants (both deliberate and due to poor distilling methods) that were making their way into absinthe at this time.

Herbs: It is a fact that some herbs have a psychotropic effect, and it is possible that the various herbal infusions in absinthe could cause or contribute to a characteristic intoxication. However, there are plenty of alcoholic beverages out there infused with just about every herb under the sun (Chartreuse and Benedictine come immsdiately to mind, as do all the various Italian amari . . . as does vermouth, for that matter). Understanding that, it's hard to believe that the herbs in absinthe would make you "high."

Wormwood: The main supposed psychotropic constituent of wormwood is thujone. Thujone is a fairly powerful convulsant and is commonly supposed to be responsible for absinthe's hallucinogenic and other unique psychological and perceptual effects. Most commercial absinthes have a thujone content somewhere around 10 mg/l. This maximum level was mandated by law, although I think the maximum lavel may now be higher. One often hears claims that historical levels of thujone were along the lines of around 250 mg/l, but the latest scientific evidence seems to indicate that it was lower than 25 mg/l. In any event, the "no effect" level for thujone in animals has been found to be 12.5 mg/kg/day in scientific experiments. If we reduce that level by one hundred times to be extra safe, we get a "no effect" dose of 0.125 mg/kg/day (approximately 0.057 mg/lb/day) for humans. Working with this extremely conservative "no effect" dosage, a two hundred pound human would need 11.34 mg/day to feel anything at all. This means drinking around a liter of absinthe at 70% alcohol, and I think it's pretty clear that any effect the thujone might possibly have at that dose would be obscured by the effects of the alcohol.

Adulterants: Common adulterants of the cheap stuff were things like antimony trichloride to provide the cloudy quality and cupric acetate for the green color. It is simply amazing to read about the stuff people used to dose alcoholic beverages with back in the day. In addition, as mentioned above, old rotgut absinthes probable contained toxic contaminant levels of non-ethyl alcohols due to poor distillation practices.

To my thinking, it is most likely that the historical reported (and also overblown by the temperance movment) hallucinogenic and psychological, not to mention allegedly moral effects of absinthe were largely due to the alcohol content and adulterants/contaminants. Does this mean that the book is closed on absinthe now? Not really. It is somewhat possible, if unlikely, that there is some kind of herbal/wormwood synergy going on that has a mild psychotropic effect. Since we don't hear this about Chartreuse, etc. I think it's not likely, but it can't be ruled out. And, of course, one cannot discount the mind's own ability to produce such effects due to expectation.

Note: The Fée Verte website, which has much more interesting reading, was a primary source for the above.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thanks slkinsey for a succinct synopsis of much of the current informed US thinking about absinthe. The feeverte.net site cited in your posting was also the information source that I mentioned in the dialog linked in my previous posting on this thread. That site has grown in activity in recent years. To the synopsis let me add a few personal observations.

Some years ago (before egullet was active and feeverte was as conspicuous as now), a bibliography and partial summary of existing pharmacological sources, widely accessible to the general reader, was posted online by a staffer at UCSF Medical School named Baggott. I last downloaded it in 2000 and it was an evolving document but it has been on and off line, and I don't know its current status. (This is not the 1993 "Baggott absinthe FAQ" that has numerous recent links online, but a later compendium.) The subject is a specialized one, showing up (in depth) more in contexts like ethnobotany than in practical pharmacological texts that I have seen, such as the mainstream Goodman and Gilman.

Also in 2001, I put some notes on amazon.com in connection with Barnaby Conrad's popular 1989 book on this subject (reprinted 1997). Updated observations from practical absinthes are in the very recent thread I linked in the previous message. The standard current explanation for an unusual subjective effect from this cordial concerns interaction of multiple herbs, it is certainly not from thujone alone, which as explained elsewhere is also the active component in sage.

Absinthe queries are traditional on Internet forums, I remember answering one circa 1987. My first experience with commercial absinthes was in 1982.

The last few years saw an explosion of interest in $100 imported absinthe products from people in the US (especially in their 20s). My own opinion is that many of these products are bogus (in the sense of departing from the spirit of the original Swiss-French Pernod product) but that does not stop people from buying them. (I also think that the stuff even at its best is mainly a novelty: For flavor, I'd always prefer a good single malt, which is apt to be better value too.)

My two cents' worth. -- Max

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The standard current explanation for an unusual subjective effect from this cordial concerns interaction of multiple herbs, it is certainly not from thujone alone, which as explained elsewhere is also the active component in sage.

To be honest, I am still inclined to believe it is largely psychosomatic. But I intend to pick up some bottles of Jade's absinthe as an xmas present and try it out for myself.

The last few years saw an explosion of interest in $100 imported absinthe products from people in the US (especially in their 20s).  My own opinion is that many of these products are bogus (in the sense of departing from the spirit of the original Swiss-French Pernod product) but that does not stop people from buying them.

If there is one thing that never ceases to amaze, it is the college-age American male's willingness to spend big bucks and/or drink horrible-tasting beverages if he thinks there is something in there that will produce a "special high." In my opinion, this is absolutely the worst reason to buy absinthe (or any alcoholic beverage).


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thank you for such a quick and honest answer. Since I am not a big licorice or Pernod fan, I guess I'll pass on the Absinthe since the only attraction was the potential for hallucinations. I will save my money and buy an expensive vodka (like Ultimat) or a very old rum, and if I want to hallucinate there is always shrooms.


"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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