The Green Fairy


The_Absinthe_Drinker_by_Viktor_Oliva

You have writers block.

You’re sitting at your desk, head swarming with thoughts, but you can’t seem to put the thoughts into words.

You think, “I need her help. I’ll have a little Absinthe to help me relax and focus.”

Once again, the green fairy arrives to help you put your thoughts into words.

Now the writings  flowing, as if you never had been struggling at all.

You can always rely on her.

Absinthe:

This highly alcoholic naturally green colored Hallucinogenic spirit is the rage in Prague. It is everywhere you turn.  I have read that Czech Republic is one of the only country’s that can legally produce the authentic version of this product; however, I am not sure how up to date my facts are. Absinthe has a mysterious, addictive, alluring and intriguing stigma attached to it, which is shown in it’s eventful history. I had never heard of the drink until I visited Prague and although it is not proven that it actually gives a person hallucinations, especially the current watered down versions of it, I chose not to try it while I was there! 

History:

Absinthe was first created as a healing medicine in the late 1700’s by a French doctor in Switzerland. It was known to be used on soldiers and after the war, the soldiers brought the taste for the drink back with them. Shortly after, the drink was produced commercially. 

Absinthe originally grew popular in French cafes and became so popular by the late 1800’s that the hour of 5 p.m. became known as “The Green Hour.” By 1910, absinthe was the drink of choice in France, consumed at far greater rates than wine or any other liquor. I found it interesting that the drink that was made so popular in France was nowhere to be found when I visited the country and I didn’t see it as readily available in any other country I’ve traveled other than Czech Republic. 

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Absinthe inspired many prominent artists, writers, poets and intellectuals in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of the best known include Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Manet & Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Ernest Hemingway is said to have written his famous work, “For Whom The Bell Tolls, “ under the influence of “The Green Fairy.” Absinthe is primarily derived of herbs and is claimed to have a cannabis effect. The feeling of relaxation and clarity of the mind is said to be why it had such a creative effect on artists and writers. 

Trouble with Absinthe:

In the early 1900’s, Absinthe became the blame for alcoholism, madness, insanity, crime and even murder, although the incidents that resulted from the consumption were all done by  known alcoholics under the influence of other alcohol as well.  Nevertheless, due to these events, the drink was banned nearly everywhere in the early 1900’s.

The chemical that’s taken the­ blame for Absinthe’s hallucinogenic reputation is called Thujone, which is a component of Wormwood. The truth is that by the end of the distillation process, there is very little thujone left in the product. Modern science has estimated that a person drinking absinthe would die from alcohol poisoning long before they would be affected by the thujone. On top of that, there is no evidence that thujone can cause hallucinations, even in high doses. It is theorized that the Absinthe that was being consumed in the late 19th century likely had an additive that caused these effects. Czech Absinthe is advertised to have an extremely high level of Thujone, to the point that it is illegal to sell is some countries.  

Is it legal now?

Most countries don’t have a legal definition of Absinthe unlike wine, beer and spirits, making the bottlers free to label their product in any way they like, regardless of how closely the recipe matches the traditional blend. Absinthe is now legal in every country in which alcohol is legal and there are many different versions now offered on the market. In 2007, the United States lifted its 100-year-long ban, provided that the absinthe is free of thujone. This of course added to the long lived debate whether the newest versions of the drink is truly authentic.

How to drink it:

The traditional way to prepare Absinthe, or the French Method is by putting a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon and placing the spoon on a glass filled with a shot of Absinthe. Iced water is poured or dripped over the sugar cube slowly and evenly, distributing the water into the Absinthe. As the water dilutes the spirit, the components with poor water solubility come out of the solution and cloud the drink. The drink is said to “bloom,” at this point, bringing out the subtleties that you cannot taste on its own.  Once Absinthe’s popularity rose so highly in Parisian cafe’s, Absinthe fountains were created. The fountain  slowly dripped the ice water over the Absinthe for the patron.

There is also a more modern way to prepare the drink called the Bohemian or Czech Method. This method produces a stronger drink than the French Method and is sometimes referred to as the “Flaming Green Fairy.” The sugar cube in this Method is per-soaked with Absinthe, then set on fire. The sugar cube is then dropped into the Absinthe, igniting the drink. A shot glass of water is then added to douse the flame. Although fun, this method can ruin the absinthe flavor. True Absinthe drinkers do not recommend Czech Absinthe or the Czech Method as it is said to ruin the flavor of the drink. It is important to note that there are bars in Prague that offer high quality Absinthe and serve it in the traditional way. 

 

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