Absinthe (also absinth, absynthe, absenta) is a distilled, highly alcoholic (45%-75% ABV), anise-flavored spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the medicinal plant Artemisia absinthium, also called “grand wormwood.” Absinthe is typically of a natural green color but is also produced in both clear and artificially colored styles. It is often called “the Green Fairy.” Natural green absinthes take their color from chlorophyll, which is present in some of the herbal ingredients during maceration.

Although it is sometimes mistakenly called a liqueur, absinthe is not bottled with added sugar and is therefore classified as a liquor. Absinthe is uncommon among spirits in that it is bottled at a high proof but consumed diluted to the strength of wine.

 

The "ritual" (preparation)

Traditionally, absinthe is poured into a glass over which a specially designed slotted spoon is placed. A sugar cube is then deposited in the bowl of the spoon. Ice-cold water is poured or dripped over the sugar until the drink is diluted to between a 3:1-to-5:1 ratio. During this process, the components that are not soluble in water, mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise, come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche.

The addition of water is important, causing the herbs to "blossom" and bringing out many of the flavors originally overpowered by the anise. Originally a waiter would serve a dose of absinthe, ice water in a carafe, and sugar separately, and the drinker would prepare it to his preference.

With increased popularity, the absinthe fountain, a large jar of ice water on a base with spigots, came into use. It allowed a number of drinks to be prepared at once, and with a hands-free drip, patrons were able to socialize while louching a glass. Although many bars served absinthe in standard glasses, a number of glasses were specifically made for absinthe. These had a dose line, bulge, or bubble in the lower portion denoting how much absinthe should be poured in. One "dose" of absinthe is around 1 ounce (30 ml), and most glasses used this as the standard, with some drinkers using as much as 1 1/2 ounces (45 ml). In addition to being drunk with water poured over sugar, absinthe was a common cocktail ingredient in both Great Britain and the United States, and continues to be a popular ingredient today.

One of the most famous of these is Ernest Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon" cocktail, a concoction he contributed to a 1935 collection of celebrity recipes. His directions are as follows: "Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly."

 

Effects of Absinthe

Absinthe has long been believed to be hallucinogenic. This belief got a contemporary boost in the 1970s when a scientific paper mistakenly reported thujone was related to THC, the active chemical in marijuana, which has hallucinogenic properties.

Ten years after his 19th century experiments with wormwood oil, the French Dr. Magnan studied 250 cases of alcoholism and claimed that those who drank absinthe were worse off than those drinking ordinary alcohol, and that they experienced rapid-onset hallucinations.

Such accounts by absinthe opponents were embraced by its most famous users, many of whom were artists and bohemians.

In one of the most famous accounts of absinthe drinking from the 19th century, Oscar Wilde describes the feeling of tulips on his legs after leaving a bar.

Other famous artists and writers who helped popularize the notion that absinthe had powerful psychoactive properties included Vincent van Gogh, who suffered from mental instability throughout his life and Toulouse Lautrec. Today it is known that absinthe does not cause hallucinations, especially ones similar to those described in 19th century studies.

Thujone, the supposed active chemical in absinthe, is a GABA antagonist and while it can produce muscle spasms in large doses, there is no evidence that it causes hallucinations. It has been speculated that reports of hallucinogenic effects of absinthe may have been due to poisonous chemicals being added to cheaper versions of the drink in the 19th century, to give it a more vivid colour. However, the debate over whether absinthe produces effects on the human mind additional to those of alcohol has not been conclusively resolved. The effects of absinthe have been described by some artists as mind opening.

The most commonly reported experience is a 'clear-headed' feeling of inebriation — a form of 'lucid drunkenness'. Some modern specialists, such as chemist, historian and absinthe distiller Ted Breaux, claim that alleged secondary effects of absinthe may be caused by the fact that some of the herbal compounds in the drink act as stimulants, while others act as sedatives, creating an overall lucid effect of awakening.

 

How To Prepare History's Most Notorious Drink

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-- Source: http://food-handler.blogspot.com


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Date: 31 Oct 2008 | Author: mesmerX | Category: News | Views: 5454

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