Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Seeing Green


Happy New Year! We hope you ended 2007 with plenty of delicious libations; we certainly did, including enjoying some newly legal absinthe, which seems to be on everyone's minds these days. We've had so many requests for information on absinthe, so we're very excited about our Jan/Feb cover story by our friend Paul Clarke. If you haven't gotten the latest issue yet, what are you waiting for? Paul did a great job of demystifying this classic spirit and revealing its more modern incarations.

One of the best things about having access to absinthe is finally being able to make many of the classic cocktails that call for it. The Jan/Feb issue has some great recipes, but you can also head over to the new online bonus recipe section of our website, where you'll find instructions for the lovely Morning Glory cocktail. Give it a try, and keep sending us your letters and questions about your own absinthe discoveries—we love hearing about your experiences!

9 comments:

jmk said...

I was so excited to get this new issue since I've been hearing so much about absinthe but not knowing what to buy and how to even drink it. I'm surprised how expensive it seems to be, but then I suppose one bottle will probably last while. I just got a bottle of Lucid that I'm looking forward to experimenting with, maybe the Monkey Gland? (love that name!) Thanks again for the great info (and gorgeous pictures)!

Scott said...

Every year we have a themed NYE party where we make up new names for old drinks (based on the theme), and also a few new drinks. This year's theme was "Super Heroes/Super Villains". We had some absinthe from trips to Estonia and Prague, so we created a "Lex Luthor":

Lex Luthor
2 oz Bourbon
1-2 tsp Absinthe
5 dashes Orange Bitters
Rocks or Neat

I've estimated the absinthe amount as we would just do a tiny pour. Just don't put too much, of course.

It is a powerful drink where you taste every ingredient, but with a nice balance.

Anonymous said...

I love the absinthe spoon on the cover. Where can I get one like that?

imbibemagazine said...

We sourced that spoon from La Maison d'Absinthe. They are a great resource for all things absinthe, including glasses, fountains, coasters. etc.

http://www.lamaisondabsinthe.com

steve said...

I finally got my hands on some absinthe and had a little tasting party with some friends. We tasted it on its own and made a few cocktails including the monkey gland and the sazerac. The consensus seemed to be that most people preferred it in a cocktail, but its awfully fun to drink on its own.

Anonymous said...

"Written by our own Paul Clarke" (Wormwood Society thread) Well done on being the latest victim of the well oiled spin machine.

I am guessing the "thujone free" nature of all USA absinthe is not covered or dismissed.

Are you playing pretend? or being hoaxed:

"But the biggest controversy surrounding the liquor--once dubbed "one of the worst enemies of man"--is about not its resurgence but rather its authenticity. Enthusiasts claim the thujone-free brands, which contain less than 10 parts per million (p.p.m.) of the chemical, are made with the same relatively small amounts of thujone as the old brews. But scientists wrote in the British Medical Journal that absinthe bottled before 1900 packed up to 260 p.p.m. of thujone--which may not sound like much, but consider that only 15 parts per billion of lead in drinking water is enough to scare regulators. "They are playing pretend," study co-author Wilfred Arnold says of the liquor's new cheerleaders. "It is nothing like the old stuff."

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007 Time Magazine

imbibemagazine said...

Anonymous,

Paul's article does cover the issue of thujone levels in U.S. absinthes. For more information, read the sidebar on page 38.

Gwydion Stone, aka Hiram said...

Speaking of Spin Doctors ...

Dr. Arnold's theoretical calculations, untested by practical study, have been demonstrated by numerous modern analyses of pre-ban absinthe and modern absinthes made to precise pre-ban recipes and protocols, to be in error.

Details may be found in this excellent article:

Systematic Misinformation about Thujone in Pre-ban Absinthe.

Here is a relevant passage:

"The first and foremost mistake about absinthe is the theory about significant thujone content in the spirit. One of the most widely cited articles about absinthe is entitled “Absinthe: what’s your poison” by Strang et al.. The authors of the article claim that “the thujone content of old absinthe was about 0.26 g/l” and Duplais’ French distilling guide is given as reference...

As there was no mention of 0.26 g/l in Duplais’ book it can only be presumed how Strang et al. derived this concentration. Most probably they meant by the 1855 citation, that an educated guess as to the thujone content of absinthe can be made from Duplais’ recipe. This becomes clearer by the fact that such a guess was made by Arnold (a co-author of Strang’s article) in his book “Vincent van Gogh: chemicals, crises, and creativity”.

On the assumption that 100 l of pre-ban absinthe employed 2.5 kg of dried Artemisia absinthium L. (1.5 % oil, of which 67 % is thujone; corresponding to 251 mg/l of thujone in the final product) and 1 kg of dried Artemisia pontica L. for colouration (0.34 % oil, of which 25 % is thujone, corresponding to 9 mg/l of thujone in the final product), the concentration of 260 mg/l may be calculated... "


However, Arnold failed to take into consideration that thujone does not readily distill along with the other volatile oils, and did not know that there is a wide variation in the oil content of wormwood and even wider variations of the thujone content in the oil. There are in fact naturally thujone free chemotypes of absinthium wormwood growing in Europe, including France. This indicates that thujone content is not, and never has been, a reliable indicator of the quality or authenticity of absinthe.

Thujone has simply been fetishized by the the drug subculture and capitalized upon by unscrupulous marketers of fake "high thujone" absinthe.

Don't take a questionably affiliated and anonymous critic's word for it, there are more informative and authoritative articles in the Science Section at the Wormwood Society web site: www.wormwoodsociety.org

I'd like to thank Paul (a regular writer for Imbibe, btw, Doc) and everyone else involved for a beautiful article.

Cheers!
~GS

Paul Clarke said...

Anonymous--

I'm familiar with the work of Dr. Arnold; as a matter of fact, it's pretty hard to miss, considering that for much of the past year near-identical comments have been left on many absinthe blogs, websites, and food-and-drink web forums that have mentioned the current revival of real absinthe.

So prevalent are these comments that in his recent 2007 review, Alan Moss, a representative of Absinthe-Suisse and publisher of "The Real Absinthe Blog," selected "Anonymous" as Absinthe Writer of the Year:

Ultimately there can only be one winner of this: for sheer volume of materials, all written by a person/people who professes/profess no commercial link to absinth(e), but who nevertheless has time to participate on countless blogs (including his/her own), on Wikipedia, Tribe, etc etc. The winner is .... Anonymous, otherwise known as Absintheur, DrAbsinthe, Dr. Sam, Dogtanian, RedSalmon etc. All that is publicly known about this person is that he accesses the internet in the Czech Republic ....

(Use of the "DrAbsinthe" moniker is the reason Gwydion referred to the anonymous commenter as "Doc" in his above comment.)

These comments invariably reference the research of Dr. Arnold, and question the integrity and competence of absinthe producers, historians, aficionados and journalists who profess skepticism about the marketing claims from makers of high-thujone absinthe-type beverages. In other words, to quote anonymous, it's the product of a "well-oiled spin machine."

As Gwydion mentioned in his comment, Dr. Arnold's research was done without the benefit of samples from pre-ban absinthes; research which supports the low-thujone content of pre-bans did actual testing of these absinthes. The links Gwydion provided have a great deal of useful information that delve into the thujone question, and I recommend that readers wishing to dig deeper start with these documents.

Another excellent resource for exploring the realities of absinthe, complete with accurate thujone information, is The Virtual Absinthe Museum.

The contemporary world of absinthe is complex, and as I mention in my story, untruths about the spirit--whether spread through honest naivete or through willful misinformation campaigns--is rampant. My thanks to Anonymous for livening up the conversation and helping to underscore several points I made in the article.