Meet the Green Fairy tomorrow


For those looking to get their hallucinations on, the recently reopened Dixie Liquor is hosting an absinthe demonstration/tasting tomorrow from 4-7 p.m. As far as I can tell, or at least according to the New York Times, the absinthe they’ll be serving, Lucid, sounds pretty legit. The makers of Lucid managed to get around the U.S.’s ban on absinthe by omitting thujone, a chemical in modern absinthe, the Times says, which Lucid’s absinthe chemist claims wasn’t even a big part of old-school absinthe. From the Times:

Mr. Breaux knew that removing thujone entirely might harm the taste. “I had to get a handle on the whole thujone issue without compromising the character and the flavor of the drink,” he said. To accomplish this, Mr. Breaux blended the grand wormwood with green anise and sweet fennel from Europe, instead of using more-affordable imports from East Asia. Using herbs from Europe, absinthe’s native continent, he said, gives the drink an earthier essence.

Mr. Breaux also had to keep the American palate in mind while developing Lucid. “In the U.S., anise is a sort of a strange flavor,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of exposure to it.” So Mr. Breaux made sure that Lucid had a slightly cleaner, crisper taste than its European peers.

I’m not much for the flavor of anise, but if I were (and if I were 21), I’d probably be hitting this up tomorrow. Hallucinations aside, Lucid is 62% alcohol, so if you do end up going, watch out for yourself.

Photo courtesy

11 Comments on “Meet the Green Fairy tomorrow

  1. Yup it’s “thujone free” if it’s on sale in America.

    You write: “which Lucid’s absinthe chemist claims wasn’t even a big part of old-school absinthe”

    Wonder who that “chemist” is? Ted Breaux the guy selling it? Of course absinthe of old had thujone in it as real scientists have recently said:

    “The manufacturers of “new absinthe” claim that they are in compliance with the European Commission ruling that no foodstuff should contain more than 9 ppm thujone. Perhaps to raise the titillation for the current product, and to increase sales, they now claim that the “old absinthe” also had very little thujone in it!” Dr Wilfred Arnold, Boston Herald November 12, 2007

    They are playing pretend,” study co-author Wilfred Arnold says of the liquor’s new cheerleaders. “It is nothing like the old stuff.” Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007 Time Magazine

    So there you have it I am afraid. Absinthe with thujone is what you got America and whilst the taste may be similar there will none of the renowned absinthe effects….no green fairy’s so to speak. If you have tried a high thujone absinthe you’ll know what I am talking about.

    The level of thujone in Europe is 35mg/l and there are even some with 100mg thujone. Thujone is a natural constituent of artemisia absinthium (grande wormwood) and the French word for wormwood? Absinthe.

  2. I must respectfully disagree with the preceding post.

    The growing number of fine absinthes available here and in Western Europe are competing with an equal number of inauthentic beverages hyped by less-than-scrupulous vendors. If you’re new to absinthe, please do some homework before buying…..for the sake of your wallet, not to mention your tastebuds.

    Dr. Arnold’s so-called “study” has been debunked.

    Sites such as the Wormwood Society and The Absinthe Museum are excellent sources of up-to-date, level-headed information on absinthe — modern and vintage. You’ll find history, the latest research on thujone (MINUS the hype), reviews, and a list of reputable vendors:

    Wormwood Society

    The Absinthe Museum

    Wormwood Society’s “Top 10 absinthes” poll (to help you narrrow the field!)


  3. Except that Paul neglected to mention that Dr. Arnold’s work, “A Search for Santonin in Artemisia pontica, the Other Wormwood of Old Absinthe”; Journal of Chemical Education, 1992,

    he clearly confesses:
    “An analysis of 19th-century absinthe would provide the answer but was not available.”

    This reveals what better informed absinthe enthusiasts already know, that Arnold’s blurbs are entirely based upon conjecture, and not analysis of the actual spirit. Of course, Arnold conveniently omits this fact in his blurbs. Fortunately, analyses of 19th century absinthes conducted by more reputable researchers in recent times have indeed provided the answers, and those analyses directly contradict Arnold’s 20 year-old speculation.

    Likewise the more recently published studies by Emmert, Lachemeier, et al reveal that no sample of vintage absinthe, nor any recent distillation of absinthe using even the most exacting original materials has yielded thujone in any concentration remotely close to Arnold’s estimates. There’s more pending publication at this time, but understandibly, Paul wouldn’t be aware of this either. And as for the highly exaggerated effects of thujone itself, Dettling and Grass’ important work put things into a proper perspective. Funny how that wasn’t mentioned either.

    And as for the notion that because absinthium contains some thujone that the finished, distilled absinthe must contain significant amounts as well, well, I suppose we should all assume that because castor beans contain the deadly poison ricin, that castor oil must contain significant concentrations as well? Of course not, but facts like this which are clearly explained by simple physical chemistry aren’t evident to most persons, like Paul.

    Modern researchers have put vintage absinthes to the test in recent years, and the old bottles have spoken. It is the results of this research that have caused the U.S. government to reconsider their age-old beliefs in the fairy-tales associated with absinthe. The fact that a few uninformed souls go around repeating old myths doesn’t change the facts.

  4. Arnold was wrong. He never did any analysis, HE ESTIMATED. He’s unqualified to make definitive statements about what the old stuff was like.

    One REAL study showed that 22 out of 25 people were unable to correctly identify drinks with 0, 10, or 100 mg/l of thujone. That’s how important 100 mg/l thujone is, people can’t tell the difference.

    Other REAL studies have demonstrated that pre-ban absinthe contained very little thujone; less in fact than some modern, quality absinthes. Some of the premier pre-ban brands would have been legal in the US by today’s standards.

    One REAL scientist, Dirk W. Lachenmeier, who actually has analyzed pre-ban absinthe, and modern absinthe made to 19th specifications, said this:

    “The media coverage about absinthe, a bitter spirit containing wormwood (Artemisia absinthum L.), continues to repeat unsubstantiated myths and legends and the public is systematically misinformed. Especially, the theory about a significant thujone content in absinthe must be put into perspective as there are a number of different wormwood chemotypes with a large variance in thujone content (0–70.6 % in essential oil) from which a mean thujone content of about 20 mg/l in distilled absinthe with a large standard deviation of up to 20 mg/l may be calculated.

    However, a higher thujone amount of 260 mg/l derived from erroneous and out-of date calculations is generally presented as “historical content” in addition to reports about unsubstantiated psychoactive or aphrodisiac properties.”

  5. …I was unaware Georgetown was home to so many absinthe experts (alcoholics?)

  6. I’m willing to bet none of the above commenters go to Georgetown. Vox Populi is enjoyed by a broad audience, including members of the Georgetown community, fellow bloggers, and people who receive a Google alert for the words absinthe, wormwood and thujone.

  7. “He’s unqualified to make definitive statements about what the old stuff was like”

    Yes… that’s right a Professor of Biochemistry and a serious academic at University of Kansas is “unqualified”

    We better listen to you (a modern absinthe manufacturer) and Ted Breaux (another absinthe manufacturer)

    The Great American Absinthe Hoax rolls on………

    Lachemeier? You mean the obscure German scientist who said:

    “Wormwood macerated with ethanol 20%vol for 30 days contained only 0.2 mg/I of thujone, while the maceration of wormwood with ethanol 95%vol for 6 months contained 62 mgll of thujone. The consequence for the absinthe manufactures is that traditional recipes and methods have to be modified, in order to avoid thujone contents, which exceed the limit”


    Oh dear….enjoy the show while it lasts. Roll up…roll up…it’s just like the old stuff…honest…wanna buy some? It never had thujone in it you know. Pleeeez!

    “We do not trust the CADs (Commercial Absinthe Distillers) or their groupies as far as the content of thujone in traditional absinthe. They want to sell absinthe. Not in the past, but now. We want the truth”

    dr_ordinaire (Jun 12 2007)

  8. Yes, that is right. A professor of biochemistry who never tested so much as a single sample of ANY absinthe, old or new, is absolutely unqualified to make definitive statements concerning its contents. To do so is not only presumptuous, but is scientifically irresponsible. Note: Being an academic does not make one infallible. Now that actual tests have refuted Arnold’s speculation without exception (with more on the way), there is little to debate.

    Macerated for 6 MONTHS? (LOL) 62mg/L at 95%? Well let’s see, reduced to 70% bottling strength, that 62 is suddenly reduced to 46. And 46 is only ~17-18% of 260 as predicted by Arnold. Last I checked, that puts Arnold off by 1,400%. Additionally, that ASSumes that 100% is recovered in the distillate (which doesn’t happen for reasons of physical chemistry). And finally, as Dettling and Grass have conclusively demonstrated, 45mg in a liter doesn’t mean diddley squat – not by a long shot.

    And as for “Dr. Ordinaire”, I suppose because the ramblings of a drunken salesman appear in a blog, they must be true? (LOL)

    If you want to argue, at least get some facts and bring a calculator.

  9. “Using every bit of information I’ve processed over the past seven years, my calculations indicate that quality original Pontarlier labels contained anywhere from 50-100mg/kg total thujone. I do agree that I feel that thujone is not the only player in the secondary effects, although I’m convinced it plays an important role. I also have some evidence that indicates that the presence of other essences and even manufacturing methods is influential”

    T.A. Breaux

    “As we are preparing to market a (non-EU compliant) authentic recreation of Pernod, and as we have the original pre-ban products to comapre it to, our product will be in the 90 mg/Kg class.”

    Don Walsh

    Explain please, Veritas. I don’t understand and you are clearly a man of high learning and intellect from whom we all – including a Professor of Biochemistry and published expert – can learn much. I am very interested in your idea of what constitutes “secondary effect” as described by Ted Breaux.

    I am sure he has changed his mind about thujone content in old absinthe now that he is selling a thujone free absinthe to Americans – but does he also deny the secondary effect as well? Where do you think it comes from?

    Could it be that: Alcohol is a GABA agonist that stimulates the production of a neurotransmitter which causes drowsiness and sleep? Thujone is a GABA antagonist. It prohibits alcohol from performing that part of it’s function. Absinthe is therefore really a type of ‘speedball’, it’s chemical constituents at once promote the production of GABA and opens its receptors, while also closing those receptors off. Could this explains the green fairy effect that absinthe has, as oppossed to just normal drunkenness, which is associated with drowsiness?

    If this is the case I presume there are no secondaries (the term used by Ted Breaux) in thujone free absinthe in the USA?

  10. Paul provides quotes that are apparently almost 10 years old, before the most revealing research was conducted. Paul conveniently omitted this fact, but a quick search revealed it. Surely Paul cannot expect anyone to assume that 10 year-old blogs reflect the state-of-the-art. They certainly do not.

    10 year-old blog posts only reveal is what bloggers were thinking 10 years ago. Breaux apparently made his own estimations, and did so independently of Arnold (Breaux’s were much lower). Subsequent testing (the first tests apparently conducted by Breaux) revealed that both had overestimated (Arnold severely so). Other researchers have since confirmed these results. Breaux changed his thinking to reflect the results of the findings (as does any respectable researcher), Arnold did not.

    A further bit of research reveals that Breaux did not become a commercial distiller until years AFTER he made the discovery, and AFTER others had corroborated them and published the findings. Paul incorrectly claimed otherwise.

    Just about any rational individual would trust a physician who depends upon the latest findings to evolve his practices, not one who would rely upon old beliefs that have since been debunked. Apparently, Paul disagrees.

    The latest research has spoken volumes. Whatever was believed in the past, has passed.

  11. Didn’t answer the question about “secondaries” did you? Why was that?

    “A further bit of research reveals that Breaux did not become a commercial distiller until years AFTER he made the discovery”

    When was Jade Liquers Co Ltd of Bangkok, Thailand incorporated? Please clarify. When Walsh says “we are preparing to market a (non-EU compliant) authentic recreation of Pernod” who does he mean by “we”? He means himself and Breaux, doesn’t he? Correct me if I am wrong please.

    Of course these new mutant Amerisinths -designed exclusively for America – and not absinthe as it once was:

    “It’s not the true absinthe of Victorian lore,” Walding said. “That’s still banned by the federal government.”
    Lynn Walding – Iowa Department of Alcoholic Beverages.

    April 4, 2008 (yesterday)

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