”Let me be mad…mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world.”

                                                       

The Green Fairy.  The Green Muse.  I have something of an obsession with Absinthe, an anise-flavored liquor perhaps most famous (but famous for many reasons) because of its supposed hallucinogenic properties and green hue that come from its infusion with the herb, wormwood.   It was even thought to have caused an epidemic of psychosis in late 1800s France, and was thought to be the reason Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear.  I have only had it one time  when it was allegedly the real thing, and it was in Mexico.  My head did spin…but it could have been the cocaine. 

Absinthe is highly alcoholic with between 45-93% alcohol.  Absinthe was originally intended as a health elixir, like cocaine and heroine, but was later banned by many countries, including the U.S.  You certainly can buy Absinthe in the U.S. today in the wormwood-free variety, but it remains to be proven if it can be found in its original recipe which includes wormwood (and the substance thujone, which causes the hallucinogenic effects).  Apparently, Canada distills the real thing in traditional European style, but only one brand makes it, and it’s called Taboo.  I want it.

                                                   

                              

Absinthe, in its raw form, is said to be very bitter and so it is joined by sugar and water in a ritual that is characteristic of drinking the liquor, and is called The Louche.  The Louche ritual itself is a part of what makes Absinthe such an intrigue.  The following steps are usually performed:

1.  Absinthe is poured into a glass, over which a special spoon is placed

2.  A sugar cube is placed on the spoon and ice cold water is poured over the sugar, until the drink is properly diluted. 



3.  During this process, the drink becomes cloudy as the components that are not water soluble come out and apparently the herbs come alive.

I have also seen it lit on fire…which is how I drank it in Mexico, but it must be one of several variations on the ritual.

The mystery and allure surrounding it is in itself intoxicating.  It is said to have consumed many an artist, many a poet by its “poisonous embrace”.  It makes me think of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway and the Bohemian culture in Paris in the late 1800s.  It makes me almost uncomfortable to think about for wanting so much to be there, a twenty-something ex-patriot living in Paris as a writer or an artist.  The image in my mind, the streets at night softly lit, the outdoor cafes, surrounded by fascinating people and drinking an emerald intoxicant…everything about the image is seductive. 

”When the poet’s pain is soothed by a liquid jewel in the sacred chalice, upon which rests the pierced spoon, the crystal sweetness, icy streams trickle down.  The darkest forest melts into an open meadow.  Waves of green seduce.  Sanity surrendered, the soul spirals toward the murky depths, wherein lies the beauty of madness.” 

I feel an overwhelming desire to go on a quest in search of the real thing.  What fun it would be to do a documentary film traveling around the world to different countries in the search of genuine Absinthe and drinking it according to the rituals used in that locality and researching the history and mystery around it…I think it would be the most fun.

                                                                     

Advertisements