Wednesday, August 01, 2007


While travelling in London I tried to find a place that served absinthe, a drink that I had always been meaning to try out. Absinthe always had mysterious connetations and was a popular Bohemian drink, rumours about its halucinogenic properties led it to being banned by most European nations in the 1910s, the "reefer Madness" of its day. Nowadays the hype has died down and it is legal in many countries.

I didn't have any luck in London but it Paris it was more common (makes sense I guess, Paris was where absinthe was all the late in the late 1800s-early 1900s). I tried it at two restaurants and both served it properly: glass of green absinthe, glass of ice-water, sugar cube, & slotted absinthe spoon for the sugar cube.

Absinthe is a strong spirit, usually around 50% alcohol, but I was fine after drinking it. I did have some strange dreams that night after the first one and I wondered in the absinthe played a role, but I had no problems sleeping after the second time so I doubt it.

What does it taste like? Would you like it if you ordered it? Whether one would like absinthe or not really depends on how much you like sambuca since they taste very similar (both being anise-flavoured). I like sambuca so absinthe was a pleasant enough experience.


Geosomin said...

I've tried it once when I came across it, as I figured I'd never get another chance to try something so odd and obscure. Knowing the active ingredient was wormwood, a poison, I just had a taste - the biochemist in me got the better of me. I think it's such a strong alcoholic drink that you'd really have to chugalug to have any effect. And then you'd just be really I'm confused as to it's appeal.
I don't know, maybe I had "fake" I got nothing either. And it tasted rather assey so I'd not drink it again for pleasure.

personally I call shinanegans!

Tall Bri said...

Geo, the biochemist in you needs to calm down. :)
Absinthe doesn't make you hallucinate. It never has. All of the bad press was due to the same people who brought you prohibition. While wormwood itself can have some nasty side effects if you ingest enough of it, you'd never be able to take in enough by drinking absinthe to feel any negative effects. You'd die from alcohol poisoning LONG before you'd reach that point.
Absinthe's appeal has nothing to do with getting 'high'. Those college partiers who try it for that purpose come away disappointed. The appeal is the tradition and the ritual involved. When I drink absinthe, it brings me back to the belle epoque. It's almost nostalgic (although I'm nowhere near that old!).
Part of the issue is that there are so many BAD absinthe's out there that give the real stuff a bad name. All that thujone hyped Bohemian style absinth is terrible. If you want to try an authentic absinthe, check out the buyer's guides at either or Pick up a Jade or a Duplais. You won't be disappointed.

Glen McKay said...

Someone beat me to it. I believe thujone, the poisonous ingredient in absinthe, is mostly removed in the distillation process so absinthe doesn't really cause hallucinations and craziness (like I said, the Reefer Madness of its day). If it did it sure wouldn't be available in most countries now. I wasn't trying it to see if I'd start hallucinating, it was more to try it: a) properly, with the sugar cube and slotted absinthe spoon & b) because I was in London and Paris where it was at its most popular back in the 'Bohemian' days. I was glad to have it in Montmartre, it just seemed to fit the atmosphere of the neighbourhood. That, and I'm a fan of Touluose-Laurtec's art.

Magnus said...

Paul Chattaway got a bottle of legitimate absinthe, but as I usually never imbibe enough to get drunk I noticed nothing too unusual aside from a peculiar warm buzz.
I did blend it into vanilla ice cream, though.