It's Legal: The Green Drink Absinthe
Reporting: Heather Brown
(WCCO) Champagne might be the traditional glass to tip back on New Year's Eve, but for the first time, a notorious liquor is for sale. It's a green drink called absinthe and this summer, the Food and Drug Administration made it legal in the United States.
Surdyk's in Northeast Minneapolis began selling it last week. Forty people waited in line before the store even opened to buy a $75 bottle.
"It's terribly popular," said Surdyk's Andy Hall. "We've sold out twice now."
Absinthe was banned in the U.S. in 1915 because it's made with wormwood, a root that contains thujone. Thujone has long been considered to cause hallucinations. Van Gogh and Picasso were reportedly fans of absinthe.
However, in 1996, an American chemist tested absinthe drinks and found they didn't contain as much thujone as previously thought.
"Some better science that's been done in the past 15 years or so has shown us that this ingredient is not poisonous or hallucinogenic," said Hall. "If there were any hallucinations that were involved with the use of absinthe in the past, it was probably due to other things."
Earlier this year, the FDA decided to allow regulated absinthe. Three products are now available in the U.S. and have sold out quickly.
Cindy Kangus came to Surdyk's looking for a bottle for New Years.
"We thought this would be a fun liquor to have as a talking point tonight," she said. "It's harder to find than the Wii game."
Thomas Liquor in St. Paul has been selling an imitation version of absinthe for years.
"It doesn't have wormwood in it and it's not made by the strict French rule on how it needs to be made," said Dan Horan of Thomas Liquor.
On Monday afternoon, he had 4 bottles available. The store received a 6 bottle shipment last week. It sells for $65 at Thomas Liquor and $75 at Surdyk's under the brand name Lucid.
"It's got a cult following. It's very much an underground thing," said Hall. "I think it appeals mostly to people who are into the arts scene."
It has a mellow flavor that tastes like licorice. One glass, made with sugar and three parts water, has the alcohol equivalent of a glass of wine.
The Green Demoness... This is great news, even though the thujone is reduced. Perhaps this will open the gateway to real absinthe as originally imbibed at Absinthe Houses, enjoyed by artistic luminaries of note through history. A personal recommendation is Logan Fils for that truly remarkable arcane experience. Lights a wonderfully dark blue/black flame in the shot glass before pouring into The Elixer of Ecstasy... and otherwise as a great indulgence overall, mixed with a sugar cube, the gentle flame melting it into the glass creating that milky nectar...