Ah, the mysteries of the green fairy. From the dusty apothecaries of 19th century physicians to the hippest cocktail lounges of the 21st, this is indeed one rich alcohol. Let’s talk about what absinthe IS NOT first, shall we?
#1. It is not a psychedelic. Yeah, sorry to burst your psychedelic bubbles but no one will be tripping balls here. Easy to understand how one might think that, what with all the misinformation and the hallucinatory depictions of absinthe drinkers out there. The unique ingredient in absinthe is thujone which is actually a convulsant. But no worries, you’d need to drink 50 bottles before you might have a convulsion–but you’d be long dead from alcohol poisoning before then! More on the experience later.
#2. It’s not something you should ever drink straight. Absinthe is STRONG, up to 85% alcohol strong (170 proof!). It is most likely the strongest stuff out there next to Everclear. Tough-guy shenanigans aside, drinking absinthe straight is just a waste. The intense burn of the alcohol obliterates any taste of the complex botanical flavors the distiller has gone to great lengths to create. To actually experience these wonderful flavors you’ve got to cut the stuff—1 part absinthe to 3 or 4 parts clean iced water.
#3. It is not supposed to be ignited in any way, shape or form. Fire is certainly cool, but not anywhere near high-proof alcohol. Yes, there is this thing called the “bohemian method” and if you’re drinking really crappy absinthe you might want to add some burnt sugar flavor. However, if you’re about to enjoy some decent to exceptional absinthe don’t sully the experience with burnt sugar. It will be your loss.
#4. Keep the fire away and it is not dangerous. Refer to #2. There’s nothing about this stuff that’s any more sinister than your typical gin/whisky/vodka/run scenario, unless of course you add fire to the mix. Sure, you’ll run the risk of getting intoxicated sooner than the other stuff but that’s it. It was a different story centuries ago when the market was cluttered with cheapo knock-off versions that where nothing more than poisonous chemical concoctions, combinations that contributed to such famous activities as ear removal and family killings. No such worries in modern times however, thank you very much!
#5. It is not illegal. From 1912 to 2007 absinthe hit a little rough spot. In the US, as well as several other western nations, it was illegal to sell (fine to possess or consume). All that rotten history had indeed poisoned the minds of regulators across the world. T’was some simple science that showed real absinthe, created with wholesomely produced alcohol and naturally occurring herbs, was actually safe for consumption!