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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.

It's not really all that extreme--it's just a slight floaty feeling and some weird spots you see in front of your eyes, at least for me. I suppose if I pushed it I might say there was kind of a palpable sense of wellbeing too, but I was pretty relaxed at the time anyway and it MIGHT have just been the alcohol content on top of that. Heck, it's entirely possible (likely) that was what caused the floatyness and visual effects too, since those are hardly strange reactions to strong booze.

And real absinthe? The stuff I've seen is very pale green, not these freaky shades the artificial crap seems to have. Then again, I've only really had the "real" stuff twice, from a single bottle.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I tried it a few times. I got very drunk. That was about it though. There are more reliable things to get high on out there, you drink absenthe for the history of it, I guess. You can get more interesting highs from cough syrup IMO, and that's perfectly legal.

Anyway, more interestingly, we found a big difference between french and czech versions. The czech one was very bitter, like a sugar-free campari. (We needed to add a LOT of sugar to make it even barely drinkable.) The french one was milder and more drinkable, much like Pernod once sweetened. I don't know if it was a quality issue or if the recipes just differed (very) greatly.

edit: $100?! save up a little more and travel to Europe, where it is legal!

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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Some good details about Absinthe can be found here:

http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/ABSfaq.html

There is a broad spectrum of Absinthe out there, some is crap... no, a lot is crap. And I haven't had a "home-made" Absinthe yet that has been worth the effort.

Of the Czech Absinthe, only Sabor is worth taking the trouble with. Hills should be avoided at all costs. One nice benefit about Sabor, is that it's available at the Duty Free stores at the London-Heathrow airport. I usually pick up a few bottles on my way back to give to friends.

In my opinion, the Jade Absinthes are the best currently on the market.

And the whole "burning of the sugar cube" method is one of those new "trendy" ways of doing Absinthe, and to the best of my knowledge was totally unknown back in the "real" days.

-Robert

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... the whole "burning of the sugar cube" method is one of those new "trendy" ways of doing Absinthe, and to the best of my knowledge was totally unknown back in the "real" days.

This introduction of flames and cigarette lighters suggests still harder drugs. Maybe that's why people do it. Surely absinthe would have less appeal without the extra sweetness of forbidden fruit.

Bits about traditional absinthe and its rituals appeared, scattered in all sorts of writing and images, for decades before new mainstream interest in this subject crystallized in the US and elsewhere just a few years ago. Conrad's 1989 book, which preceded that new interest, collected many images and stories and is valuable reading if you are interested in the history and rituals. The common ritual according to these sources was to put some absinthe in a distinctive stemmed glass, place a slotted flat absinthe spoon over the top, put a long flat sugar cube over the spoon, and drizzle water through the sugar into the liquor which (like many liquors containing dissolved oils) turned cloudy. (No flames.) The Old Absinthe House in New Orleans, Louisiana was one of the bars equipped with drip faucets for this ritual. Saintsbury in his Notes on a Cellar-Book (the classic introduction to wine, which most serious wine enthusiasts relish sooner or later) describes a variation with rich imagery -- from the 19th or early 20th century when absinthe had yet not been restricted. The classy 1956 movie Lust for Life, the biodrama on Vincent van Gogh, has various scenes with the distinctive stemmed glasses and pale-green contents. Another film, with lurid representation of absinthe, is the 1966 US remake with Lana Turner of the perennial stage melodrama Madame X.

Conrad's book includes a photo from the old Pernod Fils absinthe works showing wooden shipping cartons marked for destinations around the world. These include Saigon, Tahiti, Montreal, Cayenne, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

-- Max

--------

The eccentricities of the Jura streams are vertical as well as horizontal. They have a disconcerting habit of suddenly disappearing into sinkholes ... and at last, when the ground drops away, of gushing forth again from the side of a cliff in what is known as a resurgence... This phenomenon was dramatized in 1901 when dwellers near the “source” of the Loue were delighted to discover that it seemed to have turned to absinthe -- weak in flavor, but nevertheless quite palatable. Two days before, the Pernod factory at Pontarlier, where absinthe was made, had burned down, and some 200,000 gallons of it had poured into the Doubs. It was therefore deduced that the Loue was a resurgence of part of the waters of the Doubs.

Waverly Root, The Food of France, Knopf, 1958 (LCC 57-10310)

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Some good details about Absinthe can be found here:

http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/ABSfaq.html

There is a broad spectrum of Absinthe out there, some is crap... no, a lot is crap. And I haven't had a "home-made" Absinthe yet that has been worth the effort.

I think all of the "home-made" stuff is just herbal infusions not distillations, right? I would think if one were to distill one's "home-made" Absinthe it might be worth the effort. Have you experienced otherwise?

regards,

trillium

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Absinthe isn't illegal per se in the US. Possessing it and drinking it are legal, it is just illegal to produce or sell, and buying it is a fuzzy matter.

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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Absinthe isn't illegal per se in the US.  Possessing it and drinking it are legal, it is just illegal to produce or sell, and buying it is a fuzzy matter.

Right. The distinction is that if someone just sends it to you from outside the U.S. you are probably okay. Actually, I wonder if they have to give it to you in person to avoid some obscure interstate shipping regulations or something like that. :raz:

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Absinthe isn't illegal per se in the US.  Possessing it and drinking it are legal, it is just illegal to produce or sell, and buying it is a fuzzy matter.

That's what I understand.

A few years ago, maybe around when eGullet started, an article appeared elsewhere explaining (as I recall) the absinthe prohibition under the food-safety (rather than the drug) portions of the US food and drug laws, and another article reported a willingness at US-FDA to revisit that ban, if full safety tests could be made. Which presumably is expensive and may not be justified by a niche product. (Whose appeal might well fall anyway if it's less "forbidden.") All of that is from memory with the usual cautions.

Note that the absinthe prohibition is country-specific and absent in those European countries that did not have a heavy history of use and controversy over it. The vigorous temperance/prohibition movement of the 19th century seized on absinthe as its poster beverage (Conrad's book reproduces gothic anti-absinthe propaganda, as well as advertising posters). That movement was notably successful in France, Switzerland and the US. (A particular murder was highlighted as part of the campaign -- the murderer had consumed some gallons of alcoholic drinks before turning on his family in a rage, and among the drinks was a shot or two of absinthe, precipitating choruses of j'accuse!)

Much has changed in understanding absinthe since those wild days. Thujone, the active wormwood terpenoid, was identified in 1963 by German chemists as identical to Salvanol, a main principle principle in sage leaves, and as Baggott has pointed out online for many years, sage is Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS). The other herbs in the liquor are used elsewhere in food. Some of the health problems associated with absinthe in France (where it was something of a first truly popular distilled spirit) have since been attributed to such problems as poorly distilled starting spirits containing poisonous methanol etc.

But traditional absinthe is still strong liquor at circa 70 percent pure alcohol. That makes it a hazardous drug and requires respect (no less than a dangerous chemical or powerful machine). Such respect isn't always in good supply among some of the same people in the US now fascinated with absinthe (judging from the accounts of fatal binge drinking, "party schools," etc.)

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I have had the pleasure of tasting a bit of American-produced absinthe distilled as an experiment by a boutique distiller whose name for obvious reasons I will not reveal. Needless to say, it is not for sale.

It was delicious.

--

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A friend brought me a bottle of Sebor Strong Absinthe from Czechoslovakia (or whatever it's now called, if not that) and from what I read online it was supposed to be top notch. To me it was horrible.

I think it had the highest available wormwood content which would lend credence to the theory that more wormwood (thujon?) isn't necessarily better. The absinthe also wouldn't turn white whith water (another website said not asll absinthe does.

I don't know if the Sebor is very good and my palate commited suiced years ago, or it was liquid dreck. I'd probably try other absinthe, but it's not readily available and $100 a bottle just to try it is a bit much. I wonder if absinthe miniatures are available in Eastern Europe.

Thanks,

K

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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I'll probably be visiting England this summer.

I've never tried Absinthe; but, enjoy many of its tamer derivations (Herbsaint) and some of it's coarser ancestors (Arak). I suppose it would be interesting to at least give it a whirl, if not pick up a bottle.

But, is nice Absinthe really worth the money? $75-100 is two very good bottles of bourbon or one bottle of Sazerac Rye. Those are things I know I will enjoy having around the house.

Curious about people's opinions...

Erik

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I'll probably be visiting England this summer.

I've never tried Absinthe; but, enjoy many of its tamer derivations (Herbsaint) and some of it's coarser ancestors (Arak).  I suppose it would be interesting to at least give it a whirl, if not pick up a bottle.

But, is nice Absinthe really worth the money?  $75-100 is two very good bottles of bourbon or one bottle of Sazerac Rye.  Those are things I know I will enjoy having around the house.

Curious about people's opinions...

Erik

Not sure what your definition of very good bourbon is, but I really like Knob Creek, consider it to be very good, and pay only $19 or $20 on sale for the 750 ml bottles. Even expesive stores (I'm in the Washington, D.C. area) usually have it for $25, so the $37 to $50 per bottle you refer to sounds brutal to me, but you may also be talking about super-ultra premium bourbon, or liquor is higher in your area. (I don't mean this to sound mean in any way, please know this).

If you can sample several brands of absinthe in England that would give you the chance to decise if the expense is worth it. Based on my Sebor experience, I'd say "no way", but I'd love to try several brands to see. That's how I picked Knob Creek.

Thanks,

K

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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Not sure what your definition of very good bourbon is, but I really like Knob Creek, consider it to be very good, and pay only $19 or $20 on sale for the 750 ml bottles.  Even expesive stores (I'm in the Washington, D.C. area) usually have it for $25, so the $37 to $50 per bottle you refer to sounds brutal to me, but you may also be talking about super-ultra premium bourbon, or liquor is higher in your area. (I don't mean this to sound mean in any way, please know this).

No mean-ness taken. Guess I should have said, "at least two bottles of very good bourbon". The price for Knob Creek, is about the same here as you describe. I guess I had something like the Van Winkle 12 yr reserve in my mind when I wrote that. Was thinking more of a special occasion splurge Bourbon. Which would be what the Absinthe would have to be.

Erik

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Absinthe is quite pricey yes, and I still haven't poneyed up for a bottle... but I will this summer when a friend who also really wants to try some is in town, that way we can split the cost. After all, what other beverage has the history, mythology, and romance of absinthe?

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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  • 2 weeks later...
Absinthe is quite pricey yes, and I still haven't poneyed up for a bottle... but I will this summer when a friend who also really wants to try some is in town, that way we can split the cost.  After all, what other beverage has the history, mythology, and romance of absinthe?

Greetings Absinthe explorers. There is a new Absinthe available in NY, CT & FL, and June in NJ, it's called Absinto Camargo and is from Brazil. It retails for around $33 and you can buy it online at www.astorwines.com or www.bevmax.com. Both of these retailers can ship to around 30 states. I am the importer, and I also assisted in the formulation of the finished product. If interested I can give more information on the product or go to my web site www.belezabrazil.com

there is a photo of the bottle - Oh, Steve Olson thought that this was one of the best Absinthes he had ever tasted. Hopefully I can put together a tasting in NYC for interested parties :biggrin: The product was made according to the old recipe with the exclusion of wormwood, we increased the mint and where very careful not to make it too sweet - I think it has a great balance. I hope to hear what others have to say.

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Do you have a website? To post as links?

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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Greetings Absinthe explorers. There is a new Absinthe available in NY, CT & FL, and June in NJ, it's called Absinto Camargo and is from Brazil...

Olie, since your product apparently is available for sale in the US, doesn't that mean that it isn't true Absinthe? (ie. no wormwood/thujone)
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Greetings Absinthe explorers. There is a new Absinthe available in NY, CT & FL, and June in NJ, it's called Absinto Camargo and is from Brazil...

Olie, since your product apparently is available for sale in the US, doesn't that mean that it isn't true Absinthe? (ie. no wormwood/thujone)

That is correct. If we are saying that a "true absinthe" has to be made with grand wormwood and contain thujone, then Absinto Camargo is not a true absinthe. Olie says:

The product was made according to the old recipe with the exclusion of wormwood. . .

(Emphasis added.) I would put this product (which I have tried, and it's interesting) in the same category of absinthe substitutes as Absente, etc.

--

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Hi folks, I run the Wormwood Society absinthe website and forum. This is a lot of words, so I apologize in advance.

"Absinthe" is merely the French word for Grand Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium. You can't take out the main ingredient, which gives the drink its name, and still call it absinthe; that's misleading.

In the same way that Bourbon must be made from particular ingredients in proper proportion, authentic absinthe must contain these ingredients:

Grand Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Green Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum)

Most authentic recipes call for coloration using:

Petite Wormwood (Artemisia pontica)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).

There are various other ingredients added in regional styles, but these six remain the defining elements of absinthe.

There are all manner of absinthe substitutes and outright fraudulent absinthes (i.e. 99% of the Czech brands) who are taking unfair advantage of the trendiness of absinthe and the ignorance of the populace. Some, in order to secure their niche in the market, are trying to redefine what constitutes "absinthe". People continue to support this by demonstrating that they care more about the word "Absinthe" on the label than what's in the bottle.

Drinkboy thoughtfully posted a link to our Absinthe FAQ earlier in the thread. I recommend giving it a good look-over if you want the straight dope.

Olie: I know that in the past Camargo has produced what was sold as a traditional absinthe, including wormwood; is this the same product, minus the wormwood? According to the information given on the website, this may be a pleasant and flavorful beverage, a pastis even, but it is not absinthe.

I'd also like to comment on the tired old "sex, drugs and creativity" line included on your site:

Absinthe inspires brilliance, it does not provide it. It's just herbal booze.

The most well-known absinthe drinkers of the Belle Epoque were the painters, musicians and poets. We know of their absinthe drinking only because they became well known for their other talents. We never hear about the millions of ordinary people who were drinking absinthe at the time in over 30,000 cafes all over Paris.

At its height of popularity, the people of France consumed over 36,000,000 liters of absinthe a year. Everyone drank absinthe. It was almost as common as beer and nearly replaced wine as the national beverage (hence the lobbying against it). There were thousands of absinthe drinkers all over France. Do we really believe the entire drinking population of France was walking around tripping every day? Absinthe is not, nor has it ever been an hallucinogenic drug.

On thujone: it's part of the anti-absinthe lobbying myths. Very little thujone is present in authentic absinthe, as it is mostly left behind during distillation.

It is popular to say that the old, pre-ban absinthes were stronger and higher in thujone that the modern ones, but the indredients in the best made absinthes today are precisely the same in strength and recipe as the pre-ban absinthes. Modern tests show that neither these nor samples of pre-ban absinthe contain any more than trace amounts of thujone. All of the traditional ingredients of absinthe contribute to the "effect" not just the wormwood.

Cheers! abs-cheers.gif

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On thujone: it's part of the anti-absinthe lobbying myths.  Very little thujone is present in authentic absinthe ...

Greetings Hiram, since you are familiar with the subject then you will likely have read the following from Conrad’s Appendix (1997 reissue edition, ISBN 0811816508):

In 1963, German scientists Gildemeister and Hoffman proved that Thujone was identical to the tanecetone of tansy and the salvanol of sage.

The theme was developed further in Baggott's compendium that I mentioned earlier (the main substantive online source on the subject as of 2000, or at least the one with the most links and hits, though various colorful sites have sprouted since on this indeed fashionable topic). Baggott pointed out that sage, a common cooking herb, is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). If Thujone and Salvanol are indeed the same, this has rendered the magnitude of Thujone content a non-issue, except legally, since 1963.

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Yes, I'm familiar with Baggot. Most versions are way out of date, although a few have been updated a little. His FAQ is pretty much considered very old news in the absinthe community. If you read the information on the link I posted, you will see that the uneven and often illogical way in which these laws are enforced has been addressed.

Considering that the FDA is required to demonstrate that an item is hazardous in order to enforce a ban, there is hope for litigation, should anyone have both the funds and drive to pursue it. The issue wouldn't be to prove that thujone is harmless, which it's not, only that there are insufficient amounts of it in authentic absinthe to warrant concern.

Amount of thujone is an issue; no one ever said thujone wasn't poisonous in large quantities, only that there's not much of it in distilled absinthe. That's why we try to keep people from drinking homemade steeped concoctions: they're poisonous.

Edited by Hiram (log)
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Yes, I'm familiar with Baggot.  Most versions are way out of date, although a few have been updated a little.  His FAQ is pretty much considered very old news in the absinthe community.

I'm pleased to hear that there's now an "absinthe community." Surely that reflects the newfound fashion for the subject. (In contrast, five years ago there was very little online indeed on this subject, compared to other beverages; the most substantive thing online was Baggott's UCSF compendium.)

The Baggott document I refer to (and earlier in this thread) was not I think the "1993 FAQ" but his collection of pharmaceutical references and sources, which had serious depth (more anyway than what I've seen online since). Though surely not the last word it was a pioneering online resource on the subject. (Maybe that is equivalent to "old news.") (By the way the first absinthe query I answered publicly on the Internet was in 1987 or 88. The first commercial absinthe I tried, in the early 80s as mentioned on amazon, was from Portuguese Macao and may have been opiated. And yes, I was in my 20s at the time. :smile: )

Amount of thujone is an issue; no one ever said thujone wasn't poisonous in large quantities.

I don't understand this in the context of the salvanol equivalence that I cited. No one ever said anything wasn't poisonous in large quantities. The point I made (actually Barnaby Conrad made it, in 1989, and he was citing chemists, and Baggott's compendium explored it further) is that thujone is established as the same terpenoid that is a major principle in sage. On this basis, whatever arguments apply to Thujone apply to sage, and vice versa. Sage is not widely considered "poisonous." Is anything wrong with this reasoning?

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I would rephrase it to read "whatever arguments apply to wormwood apply to sage", but even that's inaccurate since they're not equivalent. In general principle however, we seem to be in agreement.

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