Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder ....

“Let me be mad … mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world.”  

Saturday, March 5th,  has been declared   'Absinthe Day'   in America.  Not surprisingly, as Absinthe has informed Poetry & works of Literary Fiction over centuries, and the lives of their creators. Not surprisingly, maybe ... but definitely controversially.  This blog asks ... Why?

Absinthe's history can be traced back to Ancient times where the key herb, Wormwood, was mentioned  in early Hebrew texts, ~ including some considered to be biblical ~ but also in Egyptian and Syrian texts. In the 16th and 17th centuries Wormwood helped protect against the Plague. Its use has been noted throughout history as an herbal treatment for a number of ailments.

It was in 1792 that a Frenchman, Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, created a digestive tonic using Wormwood and other medicinal herbs. Wormwood is a very bitter herb, and Dr. Ordinaire reduced the bitterness through the process of distillation.  Soon enough, this new tonic was nicknamed "La Fee Verte" or the Green Fairy and in no time caught the interest of a certain Mr. Dubied. The first full scale production of absinthe began when Mr. Dubied teamed up with his son in law, Henri-Louis Pernod.  And Absinthe was born!

During the mid to late 1800's, French army doctors prescribed official rations of Absinthe to help with 'fevers'. Soldiers brought their love of absinthe home after battles in North Africa to Passionate Paris.

Absinthe apparently absconded with the hearts and minds of French society,  & especially with notable artists like Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Picasso and Manet partaking of the Green Fairy's pleasures.  The great French poets of the era, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, were all prodigious Absinthe drinkers,  although direct references to the drink in their poems are surprisingly rare.  The popular master of light verse, Raoul Ponchon, however dedicated several poems to La Fee Verte.

Does Absinthe Make Writers, Artists, And Bohemian Hipsters More Creative?
Or Does Absinthe Make Them Crazy?

Absinthe and creativity are linked in the popular imagination.  Thujone compounds in Wormwood are responsible for Absinthe’s creative buzz. There are also other herbs and spices in Absinthe that contribute to the feeling of happiness and well being that absinthe drinkers experience. While absinthe has a very distinct buzz, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn't make anyone crazy, though many absinthe drinkers were crazy and tragic figures, was it really at the behest of the green fairy girl??

Part of absinthe's claim to fame (or notoriety) is having what is called 'secondary' effects besides that of just drunkenness that a typical alcoholic drink might elicit. Some people report having true hallucinogenic effects such as seeing fairies or ghosts, or having hallucinically lucid and vivid dreams. This could all be debatable since most absinthe drinkers (up to 70%) claim no special or secondary effects while dancing with the green fairy.   My personal predilection is that the 'fault' ~ if that is what it is ~ lies with the drinker, not the drink!! 

Amongst the 'Absinthe' Artistes I Adore Are ..... 

Edgar Allan Poe
(Boston, Massachusetts, Jan 19,1809 ~ Baltimore, Maryland, Oct 7, 1849)

Though the Master of the Macabre had some problems with Alcohol the claim that he drank Absinthe, from Barnaby Conrad III’s book Absinthe: History in a Bottle, appears to be unsubstantiated. First, Baudelaire, who claimed that “alcohol was essential for Poe’s writing”, never actually met or corresponded with Poe. Second, since Absinthe became popular amongst Parisians, the mythical heure verte, only after French troops returned from the conquest of Algeria (1844-1847), it means that Poe was nearing death as it was entering the USA. He had moved to New York in 1844 and would have had no contact with his alleged co-drinkers.  Though the notion of Poe as an Absinthe Artiste is appealing, it just doesn't appear to be based in fact!  His death, however, was odd. He was found delirious in the street in Baltimore, wearing another man’s clothes. He died three days later without having divulged what had happened. 

Oscar Wilde
(Dublin, Ireland, Oct 16, 1854 ~ Paris, France, Nov 30, 1900)

Oscar Wilde came from a well-off Dublin family and was an outstanding classics student. During his studies at Oxford, he became part of the Aesthetic movement, which believed in making an art of life. He was also associated with the Decadent movement and began to wear his hair long and decorating his room with objets d’art such as peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers and blue china. Wilde became one of the most prominent Aesthetes in England,  and a "terrible Absinthe drinker, through which he got his visions and desires.”  Oscar Wilde’s love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas ended in a scandalous trial in which he was sentenced to two years hard labour for gross indecency, homosexuality being a 'criminal' activity in Victoriana.   Upon release, the broken and broke Wilde lived his final years in Paris under the name Sebastian Melmouth, “enjoying the pleasure he had been denied in England.” On his deathbed,  he “insisted on drinking absinthe. ”  if popular rumour is to be believed.  Wilde died in Paris. 

Johnny Depp
(Owensboro, Kentucky, June 9, 1963 ~ Future Unknown!)

Johnny Depp went to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career and ended up becoming an actor. After becoming a teen idol for his role in the TV show 21 Jump Street, Depp settled into a career of playing quirky, iconic roles in film.  In the movie  From Hell,   Johnny Depp plays the role of detective Frederick Abberline, an historical character who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders. Depp’s Abberline is addicted to opium and absinthe. Of Absinthe, the real Depp was quoted as saying in the Swedish magazine Expressen ... “I hated cocaine but I used to like Absinthe, which is like marijuana; drink too much and you suddenly realize why Van Gogh cut off his ear."

I would like to include also Hemmingway, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rimbaud, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Baudelaire, Manet & Marilyn Manson.  And Me!!!!

Many Movies have lauded Absinthe .....  From Hell,  Bram Stoker's Dracula, Moulin Rouge, Lust for Life, Van Helsing, Murder by Numbers & For Whom the Bell Tolls.  I'm sure there are many, many more, but I mention only those I have actually seen!

As with all truly intriguing vices, there is a ritual. There are myriad shapes of absinthe glasses to collect, hundreds of beautiful latticed absinthe spoons, and absinthe fountains of varying degrees of elegance.

Amazing Absinthe Accoutrements  .....

Absinthe Fountain

And the above accessories are essential items in the Art of Absinthe consumption. First the Fountain ..... which is designed to dispense not absinthe, but rather iced water. The idea being that once the dose of absinthe has been measured into the glass, the fountain delicately drips ice water over a sugar cube perched on an absinthe spoon. The icy water turns the clear green absinthe to a milky white liquid called "la louche".  Absinthe Milk!!  And the Green Fairy is released in this Magic transformation!
Absinthe Glass with 'bulb'
Alternatively, one places the sugar cube atop the spoon perched on the glass and lights it. As it flames it is dropped into the alcohol and the glass is covered until the flame is extinguished.  Then the fumes are inhaled .... this apparently increases the potency & poetic heights of the resulting intoxication!!  And Calls the Green Fairy to Life!!!
Absinthe Spoon

I so Love collecting Pretty things!!

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were.
After the second, you see things as they are not.
Finally, you see things as they really are,
which is the most horrible thing in the world.”

 ~ Oscar Wilde ~


  1. You are a great writer some one with lots of talent. By the way since you drink Absinthe, where can I get some of this stuff? I desperately want to try it.

  2. Thank you, Steve!

    As far as I know there are two, no maybe three places in Southern Cali for to purchase Absinthe. The best on sale in the USA is called 'Lucid', and it comes in a verrrry cool bottle!

    Try BEVMO stores. Or Liquor King. I purchased in Lake Forest at Wine Pavilion off El Toro. They had 2 different kinds & Lucid is the 125 proof. No French imports though .... which is what I had wanted!!!