Also referred to as the “Green Fairy” (Fr: “la fée verte”), Absinthe was banned in France, Switzerland, the United States, and many other countries in the early 1900s.
Authorities accused this high-alcohol drink of turning children into criminals, promoting immorality and inspiring murders!
It was claimed that what caused this was that Absinthe was hallucinogenic and thus showed people things that were not real (for example, “fairies”).
This situation caused Absinthe to gain a deep-rooted place in popular culture.
However, Green Fairy went through the same processes as any alcoholic beverage produced during the period when alcoholic beverages were prohibited in the United States.
Today we know that Green Fairy, an anise-flavored and very high alcoholic beverage, is not structurally more dangerous than other liqueurs if produced according to standards.
By the way, it should be said that Green Fairy is a spirit, not a liqueur, as it is not bottled with added sugar.
Sold for $29 to $140 in the U.S. by 2022, depending on quantity and alcohol content.
It is not the unusualness of the ingredients used in its production, but the extremely high alcohol content, that has made Green Fairy popular and is dangerous if not consumed carefully and makes it comparable to hallucinogens.
There are tales of hallucinations (for example, the claim that green fairy booze drinkers are running around the streets like crazy) in which green fairy liquor is to blame.
Oscar Wilde and his imaginary tulips, the notion that it was the drink that drove Van Gogh crazy, family massacres and sudden deaths caused by people are all due to the very high alcohol content of the green fairy drink, measuring between 45% and 74%.
These ratios correspond to 90 to 148 degrees. Some green fairy drinks are produced with an alcohol content of around 90%.
Considering that even a hard alcoholic beverage such as whiskey has an alcohol content of 40% (80 degrees), it will explain why the consumption of green fairy drink should be done carefully.
Green fairy drink is not a hallucinogenic by definition.
But its alcohol ratios and herbal flavor clearly distinguish it from other alcoholic beverages.
How Is Absinthe (Green Fairy Drink) Produced?
The traditional Green Fairy drink is made by mixing anise, fennel, and various other ingredients with the wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) that gives the drink its name.
Anise, fennel and wormwood are soaked in alcohol and then this mixture is distilled. The distillation process causes the vegetable oils and alcohol to evaporate, and the water and bitter extracts are separated from the herbs.
The fennel, anise, and wormwood oils are then re-condensed with alcohol in a cooling area, and the distiller lowers the resulting liquid to the alcohol grade that should be Green Fairy (this ratio varies by brand or local law). At this point the Green Fairy drink is crystal clear.
Many manufacturers add some herbs to the mix after distillation to achieve the classic green color of their Green Fairy drink.
What gives this green color is the chlorophyll structure of the plants.
Looking at modern analyzes of the drink and its ingredients, it turns out that the deaths associated with absinthe are actually due to alcoholism or the consumption of cheap products that may also contain toxic ingredients, such as alcohol poisoning and counterfeit drinks.
If you buy absinthe from unreliable vendors (“under the stairs”), the chances of you drinking fake alcohol are very high and you could die of poisoning.
Similarly, if you don’t have a distiller in your garage, do-it-yourself kits sold online will have you making a lousy herbal soft drink instead of absinthe.
Legal Regulations For Absinthe
In 2007, the United States lifted the 100-year ban on Absent. European distillers have started importing Green Fairy again into the United States.
However, this time, cocktail and absinthe enthusiasts are debating whether the new absinthe is still true to its original form.
There is no such thing as “true Absinthe”, although there is a common myth today that “real Absinthe is banned in many countries”. For example, in some countries, such as the USA, drinks such as bourbon have very clear definitions.
The bourbon drink must meet the following requirements:
- Must have been manufactured in the USA
- Must be made of at least 51% corn
- Must be aged in new and carbonized oak barrel
- Alcohol higher than 125 degrees and less than 80 degrees should not enter the barrel.
- Nothing should be added except water
There is no such recipe for absinthe.
Only beverages to be marked as Absinthe in Switzerland must be distilled, do not use natural colorants, and must not contain certain additives. but this is a very loose definition compared to the definition of other alcohols.
Therefore, today it is possible to drink the same Absinthe as Van Gogh drank (The fake).
Absinthe is not clearly banned in many countries today, as it does not have a very clear definition.
If only beverages above certain alcohol levels are generally banned, Absinthe will likely fall within those bans as well.
Allegations Of Hallucinations
The active chemical that gives Absinthe the title of “hallucinogen” is a substance called thujone found in wormwood. In fact, high doses of thujone are toxic.
That’s because thujone is a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) blocker.
When taken enough, it can cause involuntary contractions by inhibiting gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors in the brain.
Although this substance is found naturally in many foods (thuja, cypress, juniper, sage, mint, etc.), it is not in a dose to harm you in any of these plants.
At the end of the distillation process in absinthe production, a very small amount of thujone is left in the product. In the United States and the European Union, the level of thujone is limited to 10 milligrams per liter.
Thanks to modern science, we know today that a person will die from alcohol poisoning long before they are poisoned by the thujone in Absinthe.
Moreover, there is no evidence that thujone has a hallucinogenic effect, even when taken in high doses. For example, an article was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
Although high consumption of thujone, such as 0.28 milligrams per kilogram, has been shown to make it difficult to concentrate, no effects different from normal alcohol were found at low doses of 0.028 milligrams per kilogram.
Even with high consumption, the subjects could not distinguish between normal alcohol and alcohol with high thujone content.
For example, when the records of the man who caused Absent bans and killed his family in 1905 are examined, it is seen that the person consumed alcohol throughout the day from the moment he got up that morning, and at one point also consumed absinthe.
In other words, the massacre in question has nothing to do with Absent, it has to do with alcoholism.
What about Oscar Wilde? Undoubtedly, the poet saw the walking tulips leaving the bar in the first light of the morning after drinking absinthe all night or described his situation in a creative and artistic language.
It is impossible to prove that Absent actually showed him walking tulips.
So claims about the hallucinogenic or “abnormal” effects of Absent are probably all fabrications. In particular, the dangerous chemicals mixed in the absinthe, which is described as “true Absent” and produced in “under the stairs” in ancient times, may be the source of these myths.
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