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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sirène, the green fairy from Chicago

The Green FairyI’ve been interested in Absinthe for quite some time. It’s a legendary drink — the green fairy, Van Gogh’s muse. It became a scapegoat in the battle against alcoholism and was banned in the United States and a few other countries.

More specifically, a certain component, Thujone, was banned. Thujone is a component found in a number of plants, including some junipers, mugwort, common sage, tansy and wormwood — most notably grand wormwood, Artemisia absinthium. It is Thujone that has been singled out, fairly or not, as the component responsible for Absinthe’s reported psychedelic effects.

While Absinthe was banned in the United States, several brands grew up that contained no thujone but had all the other characteristics of the beverage, including its green color and anise flavor. The real thing was contraband from other countries, sort of a liquid hashish verte.

A few years ago Absinthe accidentally became legal in the United States when some laws were recodified, and the ones that banned the beverage slipped through the cracks. Since then some famous brands have been appearing on these shores, and domestic producers have started making artisanal blends, sometimes from old, traditional recipes.

One new world Absinthe that deserves your attention is Sirène, which is made in Chicago by the North Shore Distillery. After consulting my local rep and verifying his opinions with the Wormwood Society, I chose Sirène to be my first green fairy.

I went with the traditional method — an ounce of Absinthe, diluted with three ounces of water drizzled over a sugar cube placed on an Absinthe spoon. (Where did that spoon come from, anyway?) The ritual is fun, and the drink is delicious, as long as you like licorice and green herbs. A couple of glasses don’t bring up anything psychedelic, but at 120 proof I’m sure it wouldn’t take many more to resurrect the 1960s, if not the 1890s.

Bottom line? If you haven’t already, give Absinthe a try. Google can provide you with plenty of information about its history and use, and your local purveyors can guide you to some good examples. And that multicolored Triceratops out in the driveway? You just never noticed it before.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:49 PM


At freakin' last, Finch!
Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 PM  

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