What's the green fairy like?
May 24, 2006 12:17 PM   Subscribe

One of these days I'll be going to Amsterdam and would like to know what I'll be in for with Absinthe.

I've never had absinthe. Could anyone who has had it describe what it's like to drink and specifically to get drunk on? How does it differ for you from just being very very drunk on more traditional alcohol?
posted by shmegegge to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How about Wikipedia (and references)or even Erowid.
posted by kcm at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2006

I remember feeling like I was very lucid when drunk on absinthe, as opposed to feeling drunk. I was very giddy as well. Finally, I remember reaching the street where I was living at the time, extending my arms, running down that street towards my home, and instead of running, I was flying.
posted by ND¢ at 12:27 PM on May 24, 2006

You'll notice very little, probably just very drunk with a lucid kind if feel. If anything Red Bull and vodka is more of a high, if you can even call it that.
posted by geoff. at 12:28 PM on May 24, 2006

La Fee Verte has always been my favorite resource.
posted by occhiblu at 12:31 PM on May 24, 2006

I agree with ND¢. The times that I've had absinthe, I've felt very giddy and lucid. Do not be fooled by the old wives' tales of seeing crazy things. That doesn't happen when you are on absinthe. Also please, don't do the burning sugar thing - that's just wrong.

For me, after a glass, my mood is slightly elevated. After 2, I start getting the giddy talking going. After 3 or 4, I feel like there are fireworks going off in my brain.

Here are a few sites for you:
la Fee Verte - has good forums
wormwood society - has good reviews
LDF - decent place to buy from
posted by o0dano0o at 12:34 PM on May 24, 2006

I puked so hard it burst the bloodvessels around my eyes & I was left with big red blotchy ‘goggles’ for a couple of days…
posted by misteraitch at 12:35 PM on May 24, 2006

I was giddy and lucid and kept going and going and then woke up in a cab hours later, lucid and talking on my cellphone, blacked out again, woke up on the floor of my bathroom (cellphone long gone), went out to a club, blacked out, woke up in bed, vomitting. Worst hangover EVAR.

"Assenzio" is absinthe in Italialn.
posted by mattbucher at 12:43 PM on May 24, 2006

All you people who were puking, blacking out, and having the worst hangovers evarrr, did you drink it diluted with water? Or did you do like 6 shots in a row?
posted by o0dano0o at 12:46 PM on May 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's a very lucid, talkative sort of buzz. Definitely a social drink, to sip with interesting people, rather than something to get wasted on.

Oh, and unless you like anise, it tastes very medicinal. I recommend the coldest water possible for dilution.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2006

Yes, what oneirodynia said.
posted by o0dano0o at 12:48 PM on May 24, 2006

When I tried it, it was very pleasant, with that lucid feeling that others have describe. It was closer to how I feel when drinking wine than when drinking spirits (but I bet I was about as drunk as I'd have been with an equivalent amount of spirits). I woke up feeling positively sprightly the next day. No hangover to speak of.

I have, however, seen other people act pretty crazy when drinking the stuff. No hallucinations or anything, just energetic and loud.
posted by lackutrol at 12:52 PM on May 24, 2006

My own experience was pretty tame. It was like any regular alcohol, just far, FAR sweeter, even after the apropriate watering-down ritual.

Ultimately, I didn't like it and I feel it doesn't deserve the hype.

The hangover was worse than any other alcohol I remember though, and I only had one glass spread out over an hour. And I typically never get hangovers, either. =(
posted by Imperfect at 12:53 PM on May 24, 2006

o0dano0o—I’d had a few shots of it straight up, but then I had been drinking a fair amount of red wine & guinness too, earlier the same night, so I can hardly pin all the blame on to the fugly fairy.
posted by misteraitch at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2006

Absinthe tastes very strongly of black liquorice candy.

I've gotten drunk on it a few times, and it hasn't been any different than getting drunk on anything else. Then again, I always drink it diluted (five or six parts water to one). Like o0dano0o, I wonder if some of the other posters were doing shots.
posted by liet at 12:57 PM on May 24, 2006

I found the secret of a happy life in the movie Slam and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. I don't remember what it was, but I think I made a convincing arguement at the time. Maybe.

I remember it was being like drunk and stoned at the same time. Like, the best qualities of each. I had about 2 beers and about 2 servings of absinthe. With sugar and water, sipped.

On preview, this was drinking in out of the way dive bars in Prague. I also bought some "absinthe" to take home, that was just really strong alcohol, as far as I could tell, although labeled as real absinthe. I have no tips for making sure you get the real thing.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 1:03 PM on May 24, 2006

Wired ran a fantastic article on absinthe recently: Here it is
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:04 PM on May 24, 2006

"I have no tips for making sure you get the real thing."

Do some research on sites listed here and other places. Buy from a reputible source. Also, be prepared to spend some money.

p.s. I'm pretty sure that I remember reading that you should avoid most czech absinthes, as they are usually just macerations or something like that. A notch above the ebay recipes....
posted by o0dano0o at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2006

The New Yorker ran a piece by Jack Turner you can read here (pdf).

I’d had a few shots of it straight up, but then I had been drinking a fair amount of red wine & guinness too, earlier the same night, so I can hardly pin all the blame on to the fugly fairy.

Jesus misteraitch Christ, no, I'd say you can't! "Yeah, after I had the scotch and the rum and the wine and the keg of beer, I had a glass of sherry—man, that sherry left me with a nasty hangover!"

posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on May 24, 2006

For some background info, the New Yorker had an interesting article on absinthe [PFD] focusing specifically on this manufacturer. I intend to pick a bottle up soon.

Beaten to the punch, on preview.
posted by lekvar at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2006

Like others, I found it like being drunk, but more energetic and chatty. I had four drinks, about a shot each, with a sugar cube and very cold water - the taste was strong, but not horribly unpleasant.

On the other hand, the people at my (Victorian Absinthe Binge) party who decided they didn't care for it, so they should chug it, were hurting. Despite its reputation, it's a sipping drink from a civilised time.
posted by hilatron at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2006

Sounds interesting. I'd like to try it. Seems like there's a lot of hype surrounding it though - where's there's hype there's fraud. Can anyone of the experienced users recommend a reputable online dealer and brand that's the real thing?
posted by any major dude at 1:23 PM on May 24, 2006

I remember feeling energized, talkative and vivid. I was not feeling as drunk as I, in hindsight, obviously was.

I liked the taste of it but I can see how it is not for everyone; it is a very strong taste of licorice and alcohol.

Also, don't believe the hype. It is not that different from being drunk off regular booze.
posted by sveskemus at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2006

It's a nice stoney-high for about 15-30 minutes, then it's just a vodka-drunk. Drinking more doesn't bring back the stoney-high, just adds to the vodka-drunk. You can order it if you want to try it before you go abroad. The most recent kind I got was Un Emile, a French one. It was less of a NyQuil flavor than some of the Czech ones I've had. I have never had any problem mail-ordering it ... and let's hope I haven't jinxed it by mentioning it!
posted by macadamiaranch at 1:35 PM on May 24, 2006

Can anyone of the experienced users recommend a reputable online dealer and brand that's the real thing?

I've dealt with LDF before. They are a UK based company. They ship using a courier service. As a result, shipping is pricey, but it gets to you in like 3 days.

I ordered a two pack of swiss absinthe from them in November, and it lasted me until a few weeks ago. If you go to the specials section, you will see the package I'm refering to.

As far as 'good' brands go, look at the reviews section of the Wormwood Society for information.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:40 PM on May 24, 2006

I've had several different absinthes from Spain, liked them all, was pleasantly chattily drunk with no hangover.

The couple Czech absinthes I've tried were nasty horrible things. I would certainly avoid them at all costs.

(And yes, it's a sipping, talking, hanging out and creating philosophy drink, not a chug-till-you-see-fairies drink.)
posted by occhiblu at 1:55 PM on May 24, 2006

Yeah, I was chugging it. I did the whole light-the-thing-on-fire-routine and it just felt like such a shot combination: light fire, stir spoon, chug, repeat (profit?). Also, I had about ten small airplane bottles of van gogh absinthe that I was pounding between shots. No dilution. I guess it didn't matter if it were rum or vodka or absinthe at that point. Also, all of this occurred while drinking with a somewhat famous Russian-American author and there was some of that macho I-can-drink-more-than-you BS. Still, it was the worst drunk I've ever had.
posted by mattbucher at 2:34 PM on May 24, 2006

Language hat beat me to the New Yorker piece. I recommend it. It's got great information about how people are attempting to reconstruct absinthe from the recipes, etc. (Modern absinthe is not the same absinthe that might have been present at the time of Moulin Rouge...)
posted by jdroth at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2006

I once drank Absinthe in the centre of Prague and zooooooommmmed up (on foot) to the hill overlooking the city like I had feet like that Roman god (Apollo?) you know the one I mean with fire coming out of them anyway you get the idea
posted by criticalbill at 4:08 PM on May 24, 2006

I had some real-wormwood absinthe. The flavor was extremely strong and only part of it was that typical anise-licorice taste. However, it was quite pleasant, and it was nice to drip water into it and see it get cloudy and sip it.

I sipped somewhere between 4 and 6 shots of it (hey, who's counting?) and mostly just got drunk. However, it didn't make me sleepy the way that much, say, vodka usually would. I was very chatty, very animated, and walking home I noticed that the mercury-vapor streetlights were leaving weird pulsing blue trails in my vision, something neurologists call 'palinopsia'.

I was not hung over the next day. Overall it was a pleasant experience, probably mostly because I was sharing it with good friends.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:13 PM on May 24, 2006

Absinthe is a beautiful drink. One of the best and funniest nights of my life happened after just 4, properly drunk with ice cold water dripped through a sugar cube. Myself and three friends laughed ourselves silly for hours. The odd thing was that the barman and a couple of sober friends also said they had the best night too and said the conversation was so far from the banal banter of normal drunks. It felt, as others have said, like very lucid drunkeness. A sharp mind, quick wittedness and a very definite loss of inhibition. Drink it properly, don't chug and take your time and enjoy the buzz. And don't fear the Green Fairy, I've yet to see her on it.
posted by brautigan at 4:18 PM on May 24, 2006

It was just liquor, to me- the buzz wasn't anything different from what I'd enjoy from any other liqueur, and I found the taste rather unpleasant even watered and sugared. It's like drinking black licorice, so if you don't like anise, skip it. I have to say, I was pretty disappointed- I didn't expect to be transported to Ozymandias' living room or anything, but a plain old drunk was a total let down.
posted by headspace at 4:28 PM on May 24, 2006

It's pretty much the same as any strong booze that gets you high rather than pissed, really - makes you feel quite shimmery and happy to talk, and you're not as likely to get sleepy or slur your words. You could probably simulate the effect quite accurately by doing a tiny line of coke and drinking Pastis (though there's a funny, slightly acrid undertaste to Absinthe and a thin texture - sorry, don't know the booze tasting terminology - that you don't get with the pastiche).

Also, what's the Amsterdam bit of your question about? It's completely legal everywhere in Europe, and legal to possess and consume the US. In fact, the Wikipedia entry on Absinthe seems to suggest that it is no longer legal in the Netherlands (though the wording is unclear, surprise surprise) so you might want to try it before going to Amsterdam.
posted by jack_mo at 5:17 PM on May 24, 2006

As an aside to my fascination with Matisse and Picasso, I learned quite a lot about this drink. And it's quite obvious to me that absinthe is a self-reinforcing cultural phemonenon, no more.

Properly distilled absinthe is no different from other spirits except in (admittedly unique) flavour. The supposed "drunk but lucid" feeling cannot be differentiated from placebo effect in double-blind, controlled studies.

The myth surrounding absinthe most likely originates with the trace amounts of thujone (a toxic compound) that is derived from wormwood. But modern studies of absinthe (including composition of vintage absinthe) reveal such low concentrations of thujone in the drink that one would die of alcohol poisoning long before the thujone had any effect on the body.

So what's the big deal? Basically a myth about thujone spread, leading to mass hysteria about absinthe back in the 1800s, leading to the criminalization of its production. Once absinthe was no longer legally produced, black market production took over which for which of course quality control did not exist. Most commonly, methanol poisoning would happen due to improper distillation. Thus the myth (and the cultural fascination) grew, amplified by the drink's interesting colour and taste. Just like the htype about your Uncle Neds moonshine.

And, naturally, everyone gossiped about some dangerous drink that wouldn't get you drunk but would take you for a real acid trip. If you were man enough and survived, that is. Who could resist embellishing the stories of their walk on the wild side? Especially when elaborate rituals evolved for drinking the drink, like those silly slotted spoons, and those ice-water dispensers that look like crystal chandeliers. Highfalutin indeed.

It definitely tastes cool, so go ahead and try it. But any other effects you experience are most likely imagined.
posted by randomstriker at 6:05 PM on May 24, 2006

(aside from being drunk, that is)
posted by randomstriker at 6:12 PM on May 24, 2006

Shucks, from what I've read, if you take out the wormwood ingredient, you get Pernod. Mix with cold water, and you've got a pastis. Which, according to Peter Mayle is still quite a popular drink in the south of France. So at least you can "taste" absinthe on the cheap, without all the claptrap.

randomstriker hit the nail on the head.
posted by valkane at 7:20 PM on May 24, 2006

(Modern absinthe is not the same absinthe that might have been present at the time of Moulin Rouge...)

It depends. If you're talking about the Czech rubbish or mouthwash like Hills, then no, it's not. If you're talking about artisanal absinthes like Un Emile or Verte de Fougerolles 72, then it's exactly the same - it's made from the same recipes, after all.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:48 PM on May 24, 2006

randomstriker, have there actually been double-blind controlled studies of absinthe? how would you do that, inject it? I can't think of a way to administer absinthe that would (a) hide from the taker the nature of the drug (the wormwood flavour makes it pretty different from pastis, valkane) and (b) ensure that any psychoactive (say) ingredients had the same effect on the body as they do when taken orally.

I certainly would believe it has been conclusively demonstrated that thujone is not responsible for any unique properties that absinthe may have (though has the effect of thujone taken in conjunction with alcohol been explicitly studied, or is the understanding just based on a combination of known toxicity levels for thujone, together with its concentration in alcohol?). But it seems quite plausible to me that there is something else in absinthe causing its supposedly unique effects, and what that thing is just isn't understood.

(I'm saying all this with an open mind -- I would love to learn more about what is known.)
posted by louigi at 5:14 AM on May 25, 2006

Randomstriker: do you actually drink much? There is categorically, 100%, no way that my absinthe drinking experiences are imagined. It's my business (literally) to know and drink alcohol and absinthe is one of the very few drinks of that strength to cause a very specific and unusual "drunk high". Many drinks affect the mind differently. Personally, whisky makes me aggressive, red wine makes me horny, good vodka gives me boundless energy, bourbon makes me mellow and so on. Highfalutin, absinthe drinking maybe but the tales of lucid drunkness are very real nonetheless.
posted by brautigan at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2006

I want your job.
posted by lekvar at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2006

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