This was drink of choice among artists, poets, and writers, and of course the common man of late 19th century. Some of these "art" types even claimed that the drink enhanced their creativity, to which I call "shenanigans!" Others of the time said the drink was the cause of the societal woes in in some cases pure madness and debauchery, which led to the drink becoming banned in many countries.
Absinthe, or commonly known by its nick name "the green fairy" was banned in the US prior to prohibition. The drink was/is made with "grand wormwood" as one, of its several ingredients. This herb contains a compound called thojune. It was purported, at the time, that this compound made imbibers "mad and or insane", and for those creative types gave a spark of creativity. There has been no scientific proof to back either theory up, though many high profile court cases, and celebrities behavior at the time were said to have a basis with the drink. For example it was said Van Gough cut his ear off after sampling some absinthe, of course he was just plain crazy too! The other instance, usually referred to that cause outraged and led to the direct ban in Switzerland, was that of a swiss farmer who killed his wife and unborn son, then turned on his two daughters after drinking two glasses of absinthe. Of course it was never mentioned that A) he was a raging alcoholic, and B) that same day he had also consumed 6 glasses of wine, 1 glass of creme de menth, 1 cup of coffee w/brandy, as well as other liquors. You see absinthe is typically between 50-60% Alcohol which is 100 to 120 proof! This is the only thing that I see would cause any societal woes when consumed in large quantities and where grand wormwood was mistakenly given its allure and damnation.
If you wish to read more about the history of absinthe please check out the wiki entry here: Absinthe Wiki
Recently the swiss makers of "3 Kubler Absinthe" hired a lawyer and took on the various legal systems in the various countries where the drink was banned. With much success they were able to get the drink removed as a banned liquor.
With that success it opened the gates to allow American distributors to import the European brands of Kubler and Lucid, and one American maker to start providing the drink domestically.
The American maker sold their first batch the day after my birthday Dec 21, 2007. St.George Spirits located in Alameda, CA. They are known for the premium vodka called Hanger 1, as well as some other spirits.
I was able to acquire a bottle of the 1st batch late Friday night around 6pm or so after 45 min of waiting. I was only able to get said bottle by the kindness of the owner, Lance, breaking open his personal stash and allowing 20 additional bottle to be sold which I was lucky number 17. All totally with their local distribution to a few liquor stores as well as their sales at the distillery they sold over 3500 bottles for around $75. each.
At the distillery I was able to sample some while waiting in line and must say that the st.george is a very pleasing and complex absinthe and is my favorite out of the three I've tried so far.
BevMo here in California sell at least two other kinds of absinthe.
3 Kublar Absinthe
All of the absinthe louche very well, or create a precipitate that is suspended in the liquor after adding ice water which depending on the starting color will create a jade like color or in the case of the Kublar an opal/white color.
When purchasing absinthe be wary of the Czech brands, as i've heard they are more licorice and alcohol than any true complexity what absinthe should be and should be avoided.
The Kublar is clear in color, and is the weaker of the three in taste and complexity. It has a more of a black jelly bean flavor. Oddly enough is about midpoint in price 53.99 and purported to be one of the better absinthe. Myself I didn't care much for this brand.
The Lucid is akin to the st.george, but not as complex. It is green in color and louches nicely. The price is about $45.00. This would be a good starting point for most people if they wanted to try the drink and never have before. Then if they like the drink they should then move up to the St. George Absinthe Verte.
All of the Absinthe were taken with equal parts of water to absinthe and a standard sugar cube using the traditional method of drizzling ice water over the cube on a spoon. I myself don't own any of the "special glasses or spoons" so I used an everyday large cordial glass of about 8 oz and 1 oz of absinthe and 1 oz water using a slotted "serving spoon" (finally have a use for that piece of silverware) from my silverware set.
I've taken some video of the louching of each in the glass but the videos are fairly large and I'll need to compress them to post them. After that I'll post them here.
So now that I've got 3 bottles of absinthe I believe I'm going to invite some friends over for an absinthe tasting party!
If you have any questions please let me know.