Monday, October 15, 2012

Making Some Gaw Damn Absinthe

I watched a documentary on Absinthe and decided I better pick up the trade.

What really interested me about Absinthe is that it is completely made of herbs and spices. Setting it apart from any other liquor I know. The taste is licorice (anise) and hints of lemon and mint. It leaves a layer of thick flavor on the tongue even after sending it down the throat. It's quite strong (>140 proof) but when one drink's absinthe it is usually necessary to dilute it with water in equal parts - that is for 1 shot of absinthe, it should be mixed with 1 shot's worth of water! If made correctly, with intense flavor, the green liquid will turn from crystal clear to a cloudy solution, indicating the water mixing with the oils from the herbs.

The interesting stuff:
1. Properly made absinthe is not a hallucinogen (from Thuljone) in any drinkable quantities.
2. No it isn't illegal in the United States.
3. Poorly made (or purposefully made) absinthe is a hallucinogen and toxic, depending on potency.
4. The psychoactive is found in wormwood, and is called Thuljone.
5. Thuljone has an EXTREMELY sharp toxicity curve. In a recent study, mice were given 30mg/kg of thuljone and had 0% mortality rate, while doubling the dose to 60mg/kg killed 100% of the rats.
6. Distilled absinthe would require around nearly 100 liters of alcohol to be ingested to reach toxic levels of Thuljone (Hahaha... 100 liters.)

Absinthe was banned in France under false-pretenses. It wine industry was well established in the country, and after the emergence of Absinthe, vine-yard owners lost large amounts of business. Absinthe became one of the most popular drinks, and they would actually have an hour of the day where people would meet and talk over a drink or two of absinthe. It wasn't until quantities became tight that the emergence of the psychoactive absinthe came into history.

It was because of high demand and low quantity of the "Green Fairy" that illicit manufacture would come to engulf the business. The illegal factories producing the absinthe did it at any cost - including bypassing distillation as well as using methanol instead of ethanol (makes you go blind, kills you, is used in anti-freeze). As would be assumed, people started to "hallucinate" and mortality spiked in conjunction with the drink. The vineyard owners made their case: Absinthe must be banned - and so it was. The rest, well, is history.

There are very little credible accounts that Absinthe or Wormwood are actually hallucinogenic. Thuljone does have effects on the brain, but the biggest is in causing convulsions - not something most people would seek. Yet there are many fantastical writings by poets and artists that describe absinthe as much more than just an alcoholic drink - describing the effects as "wonderous visions" or "...the world becomes quite different".

At any rate, I do not plan on testing the undistilled drink, however I would like to see if larger quantities have a noticeable effect on the mind, beyond that of alcohol. I am prone to believe it so - as this numerous combination of aromatic herbs into an single glass definitely seems to lighten the senses just by the smell.

In the meantime, here is the video of how I concentrated the absinthe (it tastes quite nice). P.S. It is my secret recipe now.

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