Sunday, January 4, 2009

Debunking Myths: Absinthe

"Absinthe Drinker" - Viktor Oliva


I was reading the online version of the NY Times today and I came across a story on the herbal liquor (not a liqueur!) Absinthe. The story talks about the recent legalization of real Absinthe and its rise in popularity among bars and "people in the know" in NYC. It also gives some history on the liquid including its association with the French Impressionist movement, Van Gogh, Balzac, and Oscar Wilde, among others. An interesting sidenote: Hemingway drank the hell out of some Absinthe, and even invented his own Absinthe based cocktail.

Recently Virginia's arcane ABC system decided to legalize authentic Absinthe and my bar decided to start carrying it. Up until then my experience with Absinthe has been interesting and a bit mixed. Twice I vomited from drinking the fake Absinthe at Mars Bar (A great Richmond bar), once I mixed some with many other illicit substances during an ill-fated night in Williamsburg Brooklyn and ended up getting my face bashed in, and another time while consuming a pilfered bottle of the real stuff I somehow organized a semi-foursome (don't ask). Needless to say, that shit is bad (or good) news depending on how you look at it.

People tend to associate the liquid with hallucinating and strange and mystical substances, but people are wrong. I'm here to debunk this myth.

There are two reasons why Absinthe makes for a crazy drunk and "mind-altering experiences". 1.) People associate it with the things that I mentioned above and even before they start drinking it, they tend to prepare their head for something completely different and 2.) Absinthe is 68 percent alcohol or 136 Proof, with some brands going as high as 75 percent and 150 Proof. Jim Beam is 80 Proof, you do the math. Add the requisite sugar that goes with the traditional method of consuming Absinthe and we're talking about some serious hard liquor here. Anyone is gonna act bat shit crazy after consuming a few glasses of Absinthe. It has nothing to do with wormwood or heroin or anything else. I'm not saying that whatever Van Gogh was consuming didn't have all sorts of old-timey drugs in it like Laudanum and Morphine and Ether and whatever else those people drank, I'm just saying that today's Americanized distilled Absinthe is not the same thing.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's Sunday and the lord is demanding that I go out and do harmful things to my body (which may or may not involve sipping on a cup of Absinthe).


Next up in the series: Debunking Myths: Anal Sex (seriously, I'm already putting the final touches on it)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the vitriol towards the RTD. This is a company that employs hundreds of people in the Richmond area. Why would anyone who cares about this town want a Richmond company to fail? It's astounding. Be careful what you wish for, Jack.

frankie jane said...

An absinthe-fueled "semi-foursome"? You really think you're going to just let that slide by?

I'm asking.

Jack Goes Forth said...

Anon- I wouldn't call it vitriol. I'd call it bemused bewilderment?

Frankie- I'm pretty open with stuff, but this one could destroy lives... not mine of course...

Anonymous said...

I once drank some absinthe. Next thing I know I'm naked in the middle of South Richmond with a hooker named Felicia and a dirty handle of anal beads and a jar of what I believe was my own urine. We walked to Mickey Dee's, dumped the urine, bought a quarter pounder for felicia (which she didn't eat) and called a cab. Then I came to and said, "Wait, is it possible that this isn't real and that it could be the peyote you've been taking for the past three days talking?"

It was...I've never even been to south richmond.

S. Preston Duncan said...

subtle as it may be, I do think the herbal components of absinthe do something. I used to order the shit from spain, the bottles were cheap and the shipping was expensive...and I always vomited. Still love the stuff. If it was good enough for Hemingway, it's good enough for me.

Titus said...

Alcohol and thujone are opposites - as alcohol is a GABA agonist and thujone is an antagonist. Alcohol stimulates the production of this GABA neurotransmitter and causes drowsiness and sleep. Thujone on the other hand prevents alcohol from performing that functiom. Real absinthe is actually a 'speedball', it's constituents promote the production of GABA and open its receptors, while at the same time closing those receptors off. This is why the lucidity of an absinthe drinker contrasts to the state of normal drunkness and the experience has been described using the metaphor of the green fairy. Absinthe in the States is "thujone free" - you should try some from Europe -- *100mg thujone*

Jack Goes Forth said...

dammit, anon was right. I made the executive decision to remove the potshot at the RTD.

What the hell do I care if they're dying??

Jocelyn Testes-Harder said...

"America's in a state of renewal. We've gotta have the strength to tie a few factories to a tree and bash 'em with a shovel"

the one and only ridor said...

Hey Jack, do tell me about the absinthe semi-foursome!!

You spill the beans, you gotta tell all about it!

R-

Benedict Smith said...

i remember two words from that post : absinthe and anal. :) Cheers.

Robot Boy said...

Anal absinthe?
Give us some narrative, Jacko. Enough of the talking head.