Blog Master G

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Thursday, March 9th, 2006 · 2 Comments

I learned in a New Yorker story (Issue of 2006-03-13: Green Gold by Jack Turner, pages 38-44), which I read last night about the modern revival of absinthe, that I wasn’t actually breaking the law when I brought a bottle of Absinthe back into the U.S. from London.

It seems that the 1912 ban by the U.S. Department of Agriculture only bans the selling and distilling of absinthe in the U.S. Although my bottle could have been taken away from me, the act of bringing absinthe into the country is not illegal: “Travellers returning to the U.S. with a bottle or customers buying it from Europe on the Internet are not guilty of any crime, though they could have their bottle confiscated” (page 42).

The New Yorker piece focuses on displaced New Orleans native Ted Breaux, a chemist who’s spent years perfecting the original absinthe recipe of the 1800s through a series of trial and error experiments using antique distilling equipment and all natural ingredients — wormwood (“the second most bitter substance on earth”), green anise, and fennel, along with sop, melissa, star anise, and coriander — in an old French distillery. He’s perfected the recipe and his company, Jade Liquers, now offers three varieties of absinthe and sells about 5,000 bottles per year for just under $100 each.

The Bulgarian Hapsburg absinthe I purchased in London probably isn’t nearly as good quality as those absinthese produced by Breauxer, but I did enjoy my first absinthe experience over New Year’s Eve (the small samples Jen and I had in London notwithstanding). And I continue to be intrigued by the mysterious green elixir, enjoyed by the likes of James Joyce, Edgar Degas, Oscar Wilde, and Pablo Picasso, and often blamed for causing insanity in many: “In 1907, four hundred thousand French citizens signed a petition, to the effect that ‘absinthe makes one crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menances the future of our country'” (page 41).

That’s a lot of power packed in a small green bottle.

Tags: anecdotes

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Devin Lander // Mar 11, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Hello Gabe,
    My name is Devin and I work with your father. We have met a couple of times. Anyway, I have had some experience with the “Green Fairy” as absinthe is often known. In fact, a group of friends and myself often partake of the elixir. We consume it in the Old World tradition which includes a sugar cube, a spoon and a fire source. If enjoyed and not abused, absinthe is a safe and remarkable little concoction. Talk to you later.

  • 2 rodu // Mar 13, 2006 at 12:43 am

    check out Book of Absinthe : A Cultural History— sun also rises great tribute