Monday, July 21, 2008

Absinthe in Virginia

After being banned in the U.S. for 95 years, absinthe is now available *legally* in Virginia. Absinthe is made from alcohol and distilled herbs, including wormwood and anise. Also known as "the green fairy", it has been long associated with a bohemian lifestyle. From The Virginian-Pilot:
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.


  1. The "preperation" is everything with this drink. Otherwise it comes out as the most mint flavored drink you've ever tasted. The sugar (heated using the special spoon) go a long way, but I still think it's pretty strong.

    (Now where'd I put that spoon? Time to partake in my now legal booty from Europe).

  2. Gotta say, I do like my absinthe. Never tried the Swiss variety, though I've heard it's superb. My brand is MarĂ­ Mayans from Ibiza. Don't go near the Czech versions unless you're in need of Windex.

    And none of this spoon-and-sugar nonsense: just ice and cold water. Lovely.

  3. The famous story of how in 1865 the German chemist August Kekulé claimed to have dreamed of a snake eating its own tail, which led him to visualize the ring structure of benzene is incomplete, as while he had been drinking the night before, he had in fact been drinking Absinthe when he dreamed of the snake eating its own tail.

    1. Absinthe, like most alcohol, has an interesting and often surreal history. Cheers!


Comments on posts over 21 days old are held for moderation.