Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Article and photos by Elizabeth Fiend
There was a war in a far away place that had a strange religion called Islam and a lot of boys were getting killed, and maimed, and messed up in the head and the war dragged on a lot longer then expected until no one really remembered why it started. 1830-1847, the war where the French colonized Algeria. The one where soldiers were issued Absinthe as a fever prevention.
Back home things started looking real down especially for the middle class. A farmer goes crazy, shoots his whole family dead with his army issued rifle. But the biggest disaster is a plague, grape phylloxera, which destroyed two-thirds of the vineyards on the continent of Europe.
The rich were the only ones who could afford to buy wine. The Feds and lobbyists spin it so their failed policy’s aren’t called into count. A call is raised “support the troops support the troops” and since there was no wine left, the bourgeoisie took whole heartedly to drinking this intoxicating, green beverage that all the soldiers love, Absinthe.
And so goes the story of Absinthe.
The national shift from drinking wine to consuming hard liquor was swift. By 1852 the word alcoholism is first coined. The cure for alcoholism was a stay at the insane asylum and a treatment of wine. Wine, beautiful wine, a source of national pride in France. Doctors felt one liter of wine a day was a healthy amount for a hard-working man to drink each day. How much more for the insane?
As Absinthe’s popularity grew, so did public hysteria over it. It had a lovely, very social aspect to its buzz which was first attributed to the flavoring herb anise. Later it was credited to the psychoactive ingredient in wormwood, thujone. Thujone creates what’s called a lucid-drunk effect, combined with booze it’s kinda like doing some coke and then drinking a shot. Current science says thujone increases and randomizes the firing of neurons in your brain. This tends to make you a bit more imaginative, old things look new, everything looks crisp. Creative people just love that. But this is a secondary effect. The primary effect of Absinthe was that people were getting wasted, wasted like never before. Why, because Absinthe’s a distilled spirit, it’s liquor, and the middle class was chugging it down like wine.
It wasn’t the thujone that made that farmer kill his family, it was the liquor. He had two glasses of Absinthe for breakfast, followed by two liters of wine and a bunch of brandy – only then did he take up that gun. But the government, wine lobbyists, rich and powerful cognac manufacturers, and prohibitionists didn’t want to ruin their bottom line.
It’s the drug, the Green Fairy it’s all her fault that country, the whole damn continent is going to hell. Absinthe became the scapegoat, something to focus on, something to blame. The middle class is hard enough to control, I mean what would happen if the lower class started to imbibe? One could only imagine, chaos.
This story is a classic example of the way things work. 1.) Governments, they make laws based on all the wrong reasons. 2.) Rich people, they suck, and will screw the lower classes whenever they can. 3.) And science, is not a science it’s an art and lots of things science believes in and says are “definitely true” become not so true with time.
So why was Absinthe banned here in the U.S.? There’s no good reason. Basically it’s because The Man doesn’t want you to get high; he was being lobbied by religious fanatics; and there’s a another war on the horizon, a big one, a world war (but the U.S. definitely’s not going to get in on this one.)
On July 25, 1912, the Department of Agriculture issued Food Inspection Decision 147, which banned Absinthe in America. Seven years later all alcohol was banned in the U.S. (Can you imagine if we lived then? Fuckers!) But you could always still grow Artemesia absinthium, (which I do) and while it was illegal to distill and sell beverages made of wormwood, it’s never been illegal to infuse a beverage with wormwood (which I do.)
Making Absinthe at home:
Start by infusing the woody stems, dried leaves and tiny yellow flowers of the plant Artemesia absinthium aka wormwood in some grain alcohol aka Everclear. This is a very strong liquor and is also the only one that will actually remain as the name implies clear after infusing with herbs.
Infuse the wormwood for about two weeks, strain.
Add in flavors of other dried herbs like anise hyssop, lemon balm, sage flower, various mints. Infuse as long as you like, strain.
Wormwood is a bitter herb. Make simple syrup by melting sugar in hot water and add for desired sweetness.
Add water for desired alcohol content.
Finally infuse the whole thing with chopped fresh parsley. In about a week the parsley will be leached white. And all it’s chlorophyll will color the beverage a beautiful green.
Strain a final time using cheesecloth to make the Absinthe entirely free of particles.
Enjoy with friends.
What to expect from drinking or smoking wormwood? A mild sense of euphoria, a slight adrenal kick, a crispness in (eye) vision. Generally feeling very good. Oh yes, extreme talkativeness and friendly feelings. Plus the alcohol.
Wormwood Other Uses:
Why the name wormwood? The herb was used in medieval times “to remove worms from the guts.”
Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite pipe-full was wormwood. Yeah, you can smoke this sucker too!
You can also make a tea from wormwood and skip the alcohol.
Or you can stick some wormwood in bottled wine for about two weeks, for a quick and easy beverage.
Grow your own:
To purchase Artemesia absinthium seeds (make sure you buy the correct seeds, read your Latin carefully.) These seeds are freaky. They like to do it with the lights on. That is to germinate, they need light, other wise this is an easy herb to grow. I start the seeds in a container so I can keep my eye on them. Water the soil; place the seeds on top of the dirt; if you want, cover the container with saran wrap so the seeds don’t blow. After they germinate remove saran. Transplant to the ground when a few inches high. The plants is a small sized bush. Harvest just as the tiny yellow flowers start to bloom. Cut branches about 12-20 inches long and hang upside down in a dry place away from sunlight until leaves are crisp.