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Robert (DrinkBoy) Hess

In Today's San Diego Union-Tribune

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Absinthe, potent liquor of 1890s' Paris, returns

 

By Onell R. Soto

 

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

 

July 2, 2006

 

TIJUANA - U.S. officials are surprised to find that absinthe, a wormwood-laced liquor banned in the United States more than 90 years ago amid concerns about its drug-like effects, is resurfacing at the border.

 

Young adults returning from Tijuana are bringing back bottles, say customs officials who are now on the lookout for the liquor renowned in its heyday among writers and artists in bohemian Paris.

 

Known as la fée verte - "the green fairy" - because of its color and the hallucinations it is said to produce, absinthe is legal in Mexico and has been legalized in much of Europe over the past 10 years.

 

At San Ysidro, border agents started seizing bottles about a month ago and have confiscated about 30 since then, a supervisor said last week.

 

"There was nothing a year ago," said Chief Christine Schneider of Customs and Border Protection, who is now training border inspectors to look for the liquor.

 

(more...)

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Makes sense, of all the things we need to worry about coming over the border, alcohol is one of them. :rolleyes:

This is the danger of the hallucination marketing myths, it makes them worry about it as if it's some sort of illegal drug.

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And, aside from the twin effects of alcohol and thujone, part of absinthe's allure over the centuries is the ritual of sweetening and diluting the bitter liquor, according to a 2002 article in Modern Drunkard magazine.

 

“There is a certain sense of superiority that goes along with the ritual,” the magazine said. “While the peasants in the corner merely pour their booze in a glass and lap it down like wild animals, we, the smart people, the insiders in the know, are engaging in nothing less than alcoholic alchemy!”

Just imagine the "certain sense of superiority" the writer would have had if he hadn't been drinking some Czech :poop: !

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Just imagine the "certain sense of superiority" the writer would have had if he hadn't been drinking some Czech :poop: !

You don't get that from the Czech stuff??? shrugs.gif

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So did anyone notice the part about Mex-sinth? It must be bad if the guy selling czech calls it a bad "concoction." If I have nothing to do I can try to go and see what they're selling.

 

P.S. I'm surprised no one is raising hell at the article's poor research. Are you all getting soft? or you just don't bother with these publications anymore? This might be the place for the start of some type of U.S. legalization. Just a thought.

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Ha, like I would trust the taste buds and opinions of a czech importer that probably saw this as an opportunity to bash the competition. I've heard of mexican absinthe before. Don't know about the quality but I don't remember hearing the same visceral "lets have a funeral for my stomach" response most czech absinth has received.

 

I think others have sent e-mails, I might as well. The problem is this quality of research has become common place. In general it has lowered my opinion of journalism when many seem to see a local bar tender or rumors their drunk friend heard as research. Ironically I've seen a couple college newspaper writers that have better research skills than the "big boys."

 

Edit: Yes you are right, importer not manufacturer.

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I thought it was an importer of Czechsinth that was being interviewed.

 

So, do we know anyone in Mexico who can start making a nice La Azul?

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The problem is this quality of research has become common place.  In general it has lowered my opinion of journalism when many seem to see a local bar tender or rumors their drunk friend heard as research.  Ironically I've seen a couple college newspaper writers that have better research skills than the "big boys."
That's because they're young & idealistic. Any zeal goes once they go pro because investigative journalism in the major media has gone the way of the buttonhook.

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I'll see if I can find some of that mexican absinth (I assume it's without the 'e' ?)

 

Absinthe still has this cloud of mystery in the general public, and I'm surprised that journalist have not taken the opportunity to do some myth-busting. That technique is very useful in creating articles and attracting readers yet very few have taken upon that task with absinthe in the mass media. I'll probably send an email asking for a follow up article which relates to facts and myth-busting.

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I think journalistically it is a bit of a double-edged sword. Busting the myth tends only to be popular at the apex of the myth's arc. Approaching it too soon may simply paint the writer as an apologist, and given the climate the media measures for civic reaction to alcohol...well, talking about a little cocktail may be one thing -- "defending" a banned substance another. Oh it can and will happen eventually - but not before the arc in the perception in the Public's favor. That's where Fee Verte and the WS come in. Here is the voice of reason that will lead to the changing of minds in time. First things first.

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Actually, the Onion is where to really make fun of the stereotypes.

 

"College Student Tries Absinthe; Paws Date!"

"Absinthe Made Me Trip Ballz": William F. Buckley, Jr.

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Or, "Absinthe Doesn't Cause Hallucinations! Frat Boys Sue Czech Republic for False Advertising"

 

"Marilyn Manson was so cool, I thought," begins Penn State junior Matt Dorschmitt. "If he drank La Fee and said absinthe made him trip, then I thought I should try it, too!"

 

Matt was in for a big surprise. When he and his housemates spent $500 to import four different brands of absinthe -- La Fee Bohemian, Logan Fils, Absenta Serpis, and King of Spirits Gold -- through a Mexican smuggling troll, they thought they were going to have a great party, see green fairies, and get laid. Instead,

 

"The best of the bunch tasted like Black Licorice, but the others were more like vomit in a glass," Matt complained, "and none of them got us high. Joey even smoked the herbs from the King of Spirits, but the only vision he had was of the inside of the toilet!"

 

Housemate Jeff says he liked the Absenta Serpis. "It's red, so I thought I could try mixing it with red Slurpee from the 7-11. Cuz, y'know, red things go together. Tasted pretty good, I'm gonna call it a Slerpis." Interestingly, the only one anyone liked, the Spanish-made Serpis was by far the least expensive, and made no mention of "thujone" content or hallucination in its advertising.

 

Matt and his friends learned a rough lesson. Absinthe doesn't make you hallucinate any more than smoking dried banana peels, and the absinthes geared toward making you hallucinate -- which they won't do anyway -- taste awful.

 

What of the girls, you ask? Well, Joey set one of them on fire using the 1990s-era Czech Light-it-on-fire-and-maybe-it-will-burn-off-the-taste ritual. She was treated and released, and is now suing Joey for physical damages and mental anguish.

 

The three other girls are hanging with Jeff in the hot tub, enjoying a cool, frosty Slerpis. Hey, it won't get ya high, but it just might get ya laid!

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Maybe the place to start is by sending a copy of the FAQ to the author and editor of the very ill-informed article. I know, you're saying, Dakini, no one reads the FAQ. But I read the FAQ. There are people in the print media. They're supposed to READ, aren't they? And if they're going to make the effort to read ModernDrunkard.com (gack!) well perhaps they might even make the effort to click over here.

 

Have a press release about the Wormwood Society. How we're, um, what words do I want here? We're smart™ and sophisticated™ and a Broad Section of America®. We're absintheurs. Who could resist people with online names like Grim, Dr. Cocktail, DrinkBoy and all the cute little avatars. OK, I'm an optimist!

 

I know there are some serious downsides to this line of thinking. Price of Jade triples due to demand. All the other good absinthes increase in price and go out of stock quickly. Lots of Americans start drinking absinthe until only Warren Buffet and Bill Gates can afford it. So unless Seagrams and friends decide there's money in the Green Fairy (it is the American Way™)... Customs decides that looking for bottles of the evil beverage is as important as stopping Osama's buddies. Courier shipments are seized to great public fanfare. And on...

 

OK. You've convinced me. Maybe it's just better if we keep it a nice little private club. But damn! If only we'd gotten those Louisiana senators to add a line legalizing absinthe in those hurricane reconstruction bills. For rebuilding lost business... Helping the city recover.

 

I'm sure I'm on everyone's "Ignore User" list now :D

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I'm curious, though. Where exactly did the writer go wrong? Rereading the article, it seems to be accurate, in as far as it goes. A reasonably good thumbnail of absinthe history, even if it does repeat the probably false story of the its origins via the French physician. And it does toss around some hyperbolic words, but usually preceded by "it is said" and the like. What are the other specific complaints?

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TrainerAZ: Hahaha, nice.

 

InAbsinthia: I didn't see anything amazingly horrible in this article (at least they weren't talking about aging it in wormwood barrels). What I noticed was the standard hallucinogen and thujone does it and a less standard Pernod is based on the old pernod recipe. Also that Van Gogh cut off his ear while "using" it.

 

The big problem I see is the California Mexico border has troubles with illegal drug and prescription drug smuggling and painting absinthe in a similar light as a drug illegal in the US is not a good thing IMO.

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I didn't think this next article deserved it's own thread and since it came from the same newspaper, here it is:

 

For those of you who enjoy cooking:

 

Pernod a perfect accent fortuna dish

 

July 5, 2006

 

Ninety-nine years ago today, Switzerland banned absinthe. The main manufacturer of this spirit was the Pernod Fils Absinthe Company, a Swiss-French company.

 

Known as The Green Fairy, this liqueur was the toast of the Belle Epoque during the heyday of the Moulin Rouge. In Paris, New Orleans and other cities, there were bars devoted almost exclusively to serving absinthe.

 

This liqueur was made with a small amount of wormwood, which may or may not have had a toxic effect on drinkers. The exploits and eventual mental illnesses of Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec have sometimes been attributed to absinthe.

 

It is difficult to separate fact and legend. Was it over-consumption of alcohol in general or of absinthe specifically that caused the problems?

 

Absinthe is still legal in Spain and the Czech Republic. However, wormwood is no longer an ingredient.

 

After absinthe was banned, the Pernod family created a new liqueur similar in flavor but without wormwood. Known as Pernod, the drink has a sweet, licorice-like flavor that is something of an acquired taste.

 

Although I personally am not fond of Pernod, I find it especially useful in cooking. It is frequently used in the French seafood stew bouillabaisse. Pernod has a sweet, aromatic quality that combines well with saffron, fennel, tarragon and basil.

 

I like to serve this baked tuna with asparagus, spooning a little of the Pernod sauce over the vegetable.

 

 

 

Oven-Roasted Tuna and Fennel With Pernod

4 servings

 

4 tuna steaks

 

1 large bulb fennel, cut into slivers

 

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper, for garnish

 

 

PERNOD DRESSING

 

1/4 cup dry white wine

 

2 finely chopped Roma tomatoes

 

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

 

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 

2 tablespoon Pernod

 

2 cloves minced garlic

 

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron

 

 

Place the tuna steaks in a baking dish. In a bowl, stir together the dressing ingredients and spoon over the steaks. Marinate 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

 

Sprinkle the fennel slivers over the fish. Bake 12 minutes. Turn the tuna and spoon the sauce over the fennel and fish. Cook another 10 minutes.

 

Serve garnished with diced red bell pepper.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Arlyn Hackett is a cookbook author and food historian. He welcomes e-mail at chefarlyn@cox.net

 

 

I already emailed about the statement "However, wormwood is no longer an ingredient" when it's writing about Spanish and Czech absinthe. However horrible the majority are, a newspaper should get facts right. They could say cheap or crappy wormwood but should not brush all Spanish and Czech brands as not using wormwood.

 

About the recipe, sounds tasty. I might just try it with a blanche.

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Dakini, more press of a positive nature would, I hope, have two effects:

 

1. Flaming Frat Boy types would realize it ain't gonna get them high, so they'd not buy it.

 

2. Intelligent people, possibly even in politics (if that's not an oxymoron) might realize it's not poison.

 

So, there'd be less chance of the Big Absinthe Customs Crackdown people often worry about, because there'd be fewer Flaming Frat Boys setting themselves on fire or dying of alcohol poisoning and blaming absinthe, and intelligent people would also know it's not poisonous.

 

I don't see the price going up, because it's already legal throughout the EU. As its popularity grows over there and productivity ramps up, prices should come down.

 

That said, perhaps a WS press release wouldn't be a bad idea . . . or maybe a better choice would be an absinthe lobbying group, not (officially) affiliated with a particular website or producer? You know, a PUPPET!

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So I emailed the lady that provided the recipe, and the short absinthe history, about the paragraph concerning no wormwood being used in Spanish or Czech absinthe. Wanna see what she replied? She courteously replied and tried to correct what I had written, and since she was kind I politely corrected her again:

 

***

Thank you for correcting me. Now let me correct you.

In 2001, I was in the Czech Republic and the man at the liquor store told me that wormwood no longer was used. I should have known not to accept that as gospel. Now let me share what I have learned with a more thorough check.

 

There is no regulation that specifically states what has to go in absinthe. Some makers use wormwood; some do not. Some makers are using calamus instead of wormwood. Some people claim that calamus is a hallucinogenic. As is the case of all liquor and wine, makers do not have to tell you specifically what is in it. If a substance is banned, it of course can't be used. Some people say they get a hallucinogenic effect with absinthe, others do not.

 

As an absinthe enthusiast, do you know what is in the brands you use? Would you consider it hallucinogenic? How do you think, beyond taste, absinthe varies from other alcoholic drinks?

 

Finally, thank you for responding. It's great to learn from readers and to know that someone cares about what I say. Thanks! Arlyn

###

 

So she still thinks that a true absinthe can be made without the wormwood. I attached the "La Fabrication des liqueurs" and since she brought up the hallucination part, I also attached the study "Myth, reality and absinthe" by Ian, along with links to this site and oxygenee.com

 

Hope I get through to her.

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HE thinks. You'll not do the cause much good if you refer to hims as hers.

 

I'm sure eventually he'll cut through the myths. Knowing that there is so passionate a base may well inspire him!

 

--Doc.

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Technically he is right, most countries don't have a definition of "absinthe" so although we wouldn't consider it absinthe, you could add green dye to vodka and slap "absinthe" (more likely "absinth") on the label and legally sell it in most EU countries.*

 

It sounds like he has put weight behind the "it's hallucinogenic" and instead of questioning the myth is making excuses. The common one is that modern absinthe is a tamer version of the original ballz tripping beverage. You might ask him exactly who says they have hallucinated, what were the settings, what were they doing, did they know of absinthe's history, etc. A number of cases seem to be people assuming they will hallucinate so they do, or they add to the story. Others have people doing LSD with absinthe. Of course lets not forget pink elephants and the real and documented hallucinatory effects of alcohol (under certain circumstances).

 

Maybe a bit long winded.

 

*Exceptions being france who doesn't like the blatant use of "absinthe" and Switzerland which I believe has a definition of what can be called absinthe. The US might have some issues too

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Damn, so it's a guy. Well no harm. I don't think I called him a 'she' in my email.

 

But again, he is painting every country with the same brush in claiming that there is no regulation on what goes into an absinthe. Didn't Switzerland want to trademark absinthe? or still does? As you said Ari, "most countries..." The exception of France and Switzerland, which are only the 2 countries who have the biggest cultural history when it comes to absinthe.

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As far as I know the Swiss are the only ones who regulate what ingredients absinthe must contain. France only says not to call something "absinthe" (in too large a print). Besides the majority of absinth/e aren't created in france or switzerland but other countries like the Czech republic and Spain. I would agree that saying they don't contain wormwood is a broad brush, it would be better to say to check the label. Of course for many of the products it's the anise that is missing.

 

I haven't read the actual paper and don't know if it names names but I have heard of one study by Emmert, et al that uses thujone content to question whether a number of lower quality brands contain any wormwood.

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