Everyone was seeing green (but not in a hallucinogenic way) at Crush's first-ever absinthe tasting last Thursday night.
Over 200 people came out to participate and we thank you all for your curiosity, good spirit and support. The representatives pouring were wonderful and the absinthe truffles provided by Nunu chocolates were delicious and great compliments to the absinthe being poured. Yes, the night was a resounding, absinthe-inspired success!
At the tasting customers enjoyed four different absinthes, two absinthe fountains and absinthe truffles...all free. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening.
Absinthe is one of the most storied spirits in the world; it's what the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and writer Oscar Wilde turned to as a source of inspiration. Degas even featured the glowing spirit in his 1893 painting "L'Absinthe."
However, absinthe was also fingered as the cause of dereliction and delinquency, leading to its near-universal ban in the early part of the 20th century. While the ban dramatically curbed absinthe consumption around the world, the lore surrounding it continued to grow.
In 2007, legal absinthe became available for sale in the US and now, for the first time in nearly 100 years, we can legally experience and enjoy this complex spirit.
Which begs the basic question for those of us who didn't travel to the distant corners of the planet to chase the contraband "green fairy": What is absinthe, really, and what does it taste like?
Essentially, absinthe is strong distilled spirit infused with a combination of wormwood, anise and fennel, as well as an array of herbs unique to each producer. The anise and fennel make it similar to pastis or ouzo, but it's the wormwood that has gotten absinthe into hot water, with rumors of hallucinogenic effects.
The flavor of absinthe will at first remind a taster of black licorice and to be sure the flavor of some lower quality products ends there. However, finer absinthes provide a much different, much more complex experience: They reveal a broad network of interlacing flavors including sweet and savory herbs, spruce and woodsy notes and peppery spice. Click here to learn how to prepare absinthe.
These spirits are wonderful aperitifswhen diluted with water though, for you mixologists out there, absinthe can also be used in the construction of any number of historical cocktails like the Sazerac, or Ernest Hemingway's favorite cocktail - Death in the Afternoon! Check out some of our favorite Absinthe cocktail recipes here.
But is Absinthe LEGAL!?
The short answer to the question of absinthe's legality is: "Yes!" A longer (and more complicated) response is that absinthe has not been illegal per se in many years.
While a decision passed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1912 banned the production or sale of absinthe, that ban focused specifically on any food or beverage containing thujone, a chemical derived from wormwood and thought to be responsible for hallucinogenic properties in absinthe.
A product was considered thujone-free (according to the FDA) as long as it contained 10 parts per million or less of the chemical, and it was assumed that the thujone content in European absinthes was well over that threshold.
In May of 2007, after some extensive research into the chemical composition of absinthe, it was proven that the actual level of thujone in many products that were thought to be riddled with the banned substance were actually below the FDA's threshold, making them legal for sale in the United States, and paving the way for last week's tasting at Crush!