Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Green Fairy

Who? Is this just another Marvel comic book character?

No, it's Absinthe. This highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit is distilled from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium. The resulting liquid is typically green in color, hence the name “the Green Fairy.” Absinthe is uncommon among spirits in that it is bottled at a high proof but is diluted with water when it is consumed.

Absinthe’s popularity grew through the 1840s, when it was given to French troops as a malaria treatment. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe with them, and it became popular at bars and bistros. During the late 19th- and early 20th-century, it was associated with bohemian culture and notable imbibers included Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde. Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive due to the chemical thujone, present in small quantities. Secondary effects of absinthe were caused by some herbal compounds in the drink acting as stimulants, while others acted as sedatives. By 1915 absinthe had been banned in most European nations and the United States.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, when countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. No current evidence has shown it to be any more dangerous than ordinary liquor.

Traditionally, absinthe is poured over a sugar cube that rests in the bowl of a slotted spoon. Ice-cold water is dripped over the sugar until the drink is diluted to a ratio between 3:1 and 5:1. During this process, the components that are not soluble in water, mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise, come out of solution, resulting in a cloudy drink. The addition of water is important, causing the herbs to “blossom” and bringing out many of the flavors originally overpowered by the anise.

Most shades of green speak to my soul. But, the "Green Fairy" whispers to my wild side.