The Null Device

Devil in a bottle

This article debunks some myths about absinthe, the fabled madness-inducing demon drink. If is to be believed, there is no such thing as "real absinthe". Oh, and what you heard about modern legal absinthe being so lacking in thujone as to be nothing more than overpriced yuppie liqueur is only half-true. It is true that thujone is limited, but apparently vintage absinthe contained much less than the myths would suggest, and thujone's psychoactive properties were largely mythical; then, as well as now, the absinthe mystique was born mostly of self-delusion and pretentiousness:
Drinkers of today's absinthe who expect a unique mind-altering experience usually are disappointed. Yet recent tests indicate that absinthe contains at least as much thujone today as it did during La Belle Époque: Turn-of-the-century Pernod Fils absinthe had six milligrams of thujone per liter, substantially less than the 10 milligrams permitted by current European Union rules in countries where absinthe is legal.
King of Spirits Absinth boasts "100mg of psychoactive thujone," the sort of claim that is mocked on La Fée Verte, which dismisses the "glorious descriptions of absinthe highs in 19th century literature" as "so much flowery hot air." Although "thujone is assumed by modern-day druggies to lend some sort of buzz," says the site, "it does not."
The absinthe-connoisseurs' site in question is here, and contains detailed reviews of available absinthes and information on the substance in general. Some of the things revealed are that absinthe isn't necessarily meant to be bitter, and most of the trendy Czech absinthes (and, indeed, anything whose name is spelled "absinth") are of dubious quality at best.

There are 3 comments on "Devil in a bottle":

Posted by: substitute Thu Sep 22 20:11:34 2005

As I recall from previous reading, the absinthe served in turn of the century France was very high in alcohol, which contributed more to its danger than the thujone. Its replacements are less high-test. Chuck Taggart's Louisiana Food site has a good discussion of the history here:

including some hilarious letters he got here:

Posted by: Paulo http:// Fri Sep 23 12:19:01 2005

What I don't understand is the "myth" around absinthe *at that time*. Now I can understand, it's all a question of marketing stuff but then ... Maybe thujone has nothing to do with it but it can have had something special about the absinthe back in 1900 ... I tasted Czech absinthe in Praha and it was quite tasteful anyway.

Posted by: Paulo http:// Fri Sep 23 13:23:35 2005

> substitute: I read the letters, jeez! Impressive. Funny, yeah, but kind of scary too. Some half-witted people would do such things! I wonder to what extent you can hold yourself responsible for giving 'ideas' to less-minded people ... The guy says they're morons, right, but that's what morons do ... ;)