The Return of the Green Fairy
Remember Absinthe (la fée verte)? Probably not. Or maybe you’ve heard of it, but have never tried it. That’s because Absinthe, a French spirit made from wormwood was banned in most countries about a hundred years ago. Why, you ask? Because wormwood has hallucinogenic properties! Well, guess what?
Lately, Absinthe has seen a huge surge in popularity in Western Canada where it’s being made by distiller, Okanagan Spirits. Named Taboo, presumably in honour of its outlaw history, Okanagan Spirits is now distributing Absinthe throughout Ontario and Quebec. Wondering if it still boasts its delirium-inducing qualities? Frank Dieter, Master Distiller and owner of artisanal distillery, Okanagan Spirits, says “Taboo Absinthe is made to a traditional European recipe, including the much scrutinized wormwood.” “Scrutinized” is the operative word, here. It turns out that wormwood never really was a hallucinogen. Absinthe is, however, extremely alcoholic sporting up to around 70% alcohol. The ingredients don’t need to be, ah, mind-expanding. A few shots of that much alcohol will accomplish that very nicely, indeed.
The first studies into wormwood’s properties were undertaken in the 1800s and were used to support the arguments put forth by temperance movements around the world. All manner of crimes were attributed to Absinthe. In the latter half of the 20th century, the chemical thujone was mistakenly linked to THC (that fantasy-inducing aspect of cannabis). Actually, modern science has discovered that there’s actually nothing at all hallucinogenic about wormwood. Like anything, too much is not at all a good thing.
A couple of years back, when I visited Italy, I found an Absinthe-flavoured chocolate bar. It was dark chocolate and had a slight anise edge to it. It was delicious.
If you’ve never tried it before, Absinthe is green and anise-flavoured. To enjoy it, pour a shot into a glass (a grappa glass would do just fine). Sit an Absinthe spoon (a slotted spoon made just for this task) over the top of the glass. Place a sugar cube on top of the spoon, then pour cold water over the sugar cube. I’m not convinced that the sugar actually adds any sweetness to the drink; but it does force the water to disperse widely into the Absinthe, turning the drink into a cloudy, milky-white concoction.