National Absinthe Day

National Absinthe Day - Vampfangs
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National Absinthe Day

WHAT IS ABSINTHE?

March 5th is National Absinthe Day. We thought it would be fitting to dive in and have some fun learning about the history of Absinthe and how it came to be associated with Vampires. Let’s dive in! La Fée Verte- The green fairy. The green muse, the green oblivion. Absinthe is mixed with anise, fennel and wormwood, then distilled. The result is a clear beverage that earns its color from the chlorophyll of herbs added after distilling. 

With its ethereal hue and centuries worth of surrounding folklore, an air of mystery and wonder fills our minds when we think of the bitter, faintly licorice tasting spirit.

WHERE DID ABSINTHE COME FROM?

"The Absinthe Drinker” by Viktor Olivia - National Absinthe Day
“The Absinthe Drinker” by Viktor Olivia, depicting a softer image of the green fairy as a pleasant muse

The green muse wasn’t born yesterday. Absinthe hails from 18th century Switzerland, becoming popular in France and then throughout the globe. Strangely enough, the drink was first used medicinally before it became wildly popular as a recreational drink in the 19th century.  The Greek physician Hippocrates used the wormwood infused beverage to treat menstrual pain, jaundice, and anemia, to name a few things. The spirit gets its name from one of its main components: wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium.

WORMWOOD YOU SAY? DOESN’T THAT MAKE YOU HALLUCINATE?

Nope. Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t be seeing any devils and spirits (at least not from the absinthe). The reputation of absinthe as a hallucinogen can be owed to a belief that the wormwood, containing “thujone”, a psychoactive, could lead one to hallucinate and induce states of wild mania. The notion that absinthe’s wormwood causes hallucinations can be traced back to 19th century psychiatrist Valentin Magnan fed a dog a highly concentrated wormwood oil which caused it to go berserk and bark at a wall for a half hour, forming a general conclusion that the thujone containing wormwood in the average glass of absinthe yields the same results.

 However, absinthe does not contain enough thujone to have any significant hallucinogenic effects when consumed. What then seemed to ignite, bewitch and mystify anyone who chased the green fairy?

Simply put: It’s the 45-74% alcohol content. 

CELEBRATE NATIONAL ABSINTHE DAY WITH THE “FORBIDDEN DRINK”

1910 Swiss poster, depicting the prohibition of absinthe - National Absinthe Day
1910 Swiss poster, depicting the prohibition of absinthe (the ban was not lifted until 2001!)

The rumors of its ability to induce powerful hallucinations along with its knockout of an alcohol content lead to absinthe being banned in the US in 1912, eight years before prohibition began. Way to put a damper on National Absinthe Day, you fun-suckers.

Add a few urban legends of absinthe drinkers going on mad killing sprees, only to ‘awaken’ afterwards completely unaware of what they’ve done, and absinthe claimed its title as a dangerous spirit. 

Remember how Claudia bests Lestat in Interview? She tricks him into draining two absinthe drunken victims, inebriating and throwing him at the mercy of the green demon. Louis also enjoys a glass promptly before being turned.

DRACULA’S DRINK 

“I never drink wine,” Drac tells his unsuspecting estate agent. Perhaps, if he had been a bit more chatty with Renfield, Dracula’s next statement would have been “but I do dabble in absinthe from time to time.”

While absinthe didn’t quite agree with Lestat, it was Count Dracula’s beverage of choice when courting his dear Mina in Coppola’s 1992 film adaptation “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” 

“Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the soul. The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul, but you are safe with me,” he explains as he pours her a glass. 

Dracula serves absinthe to open the mind to the fantastic, the bizarre, and the darker parts of oneself: all things that the vampire celebrates with open, leathery wings. After all, Mina finds herself wishing to join him as a creature of the night (could you blame her? We’re talking Gary Oldman Dracula, here).

HOW TO DRINK ABSINTHE.

Vintage French poster depicting the dangers of absinthe, particularly madness - National Absinthe Day
Vintage French poster depicting the dangers of absinthe, particularly madness

Legalized again in the U.S. in just 2007, you can have a little taste of the green muse yourself. The traditional French way to enjoy absinthe requires some specific tools and preparation. Due to its strength, the alcohol is poured into a glass and then diluted by water, which one pours over a sugar cube which rests on a specific, slotted spoon. 

The water helps dilute its notorious potency while the sugar counteracts its natural bitterness. Consider it Dracula’s ritual – a slow, mystical preparation that blends the bitter and the sweet to measure up to a drink of such power and reputation. 

 

FANCY ABSINTHE SPOON? WHERE DO I BEGIN TO LOOK?

Want to celebrate National Absinthe Day with a drink of your own? If you don’t have the means to serve a traditional glass of absinthe, worry not! 

With the “drip” method, simply fill a glass halfway with crushed ice and then pour in an ounce of your absinthe. Place a sugar cube in the glass and then slowly pour in a soda or alcohol of your choice. Stir it well, strain it into a cocktail glass, and then enjoy! 

If the sugar cube route isn’t your thing, why not mix up a traditional, New Orleans based absinthe cocktail: the notorious sazerac, a stiff, deeply herbal drink that would make any vamp long for the streets of Louisiana. 

What you’ll need:

  • 2 ounces cognac
  • Absinthe, to rinse
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Garnish: lemon peel

To start, you’ll want to rinse an old fashioned glass with absinthe. 

From there, fill the glass with crushed ice. Add your remaining ingredients to a separate mixing glass with some ice and stir until it’s well-chilled. Discard any excess ice or absinthe from the initial old fashioned glass and then strain in  your mixed ingredients. Garnish with a lemon or orange peel and then sit back and enjoy an absinthe classic.

Always remember to drink responsibly, and if you see the green fairy: wave hello, Vamps. She’s a friend of Dracula and a friend of yours.

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