For 95 years, Americans wanting a taste of absinthe had to sneak it in from Europe or Mexico – and risk getting the high-proof herbal liquor confiscated by U.S. Customs.
In May 2007, government officials lifted the ban on the drink once blamed for causing hallucinations and psychosis. A year later, Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved one brand for sale in the state.
Since June, Kubler Swiss Absinthe Superieure has been appearing on shelves at select ABC stores, including 13 in Hampton Roads. A 1 -liter bottle, the only size available, costs $59.95.
Absinthe has long been thought to produce hallucinatory affects. Wormwood contains thujone which produces effects similar to marijuana or opium. Recent studies have shown symptoms that were blamed on the thujone content, are actually attributable to the high alcohol level found in absinthe, something drinkers may be unprepared for.
Today, thujone still is thought to produce secondary effects similar to marijuana or opium. Dr. Chris Holstege, a medical toxicologist with University of Virginia Health System, called that a myth. “My concern over the thujone is minimal,” he said. “The only thing I worry about with the public is that they’re not going to understand the high content of ethanol in it.”
Absinthe is diluted before drinking. The preparation is almost ritualistic with specially designed glassware and slotted spoons. I'm curious. I'd be willing to have a taste, purely in the name of research of course, but probably won't be spending $60 on a bottle in order to do so.
Illustration: The Absinthe Drinker, Pablo Picasso, 1901