Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway can’t all be wrong

They all drank, loved and drew creative inspirations from Absinthe, or Absinth, the fabled ‘king of spirits’ of successive generations of artists.

Probably a few, if any, other drink has ever captured the popular imagination and been featured in so many books,  plays, movies and legends. What started as the favorite drink of Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh, soon became the de facto muse of the likes of Picasso and Degas, and extended its sway over many other    celebrities  like Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Jarry et al, and including others like  Bob Dylan and Eminem of our time.

Inevitably with myth comes notoriety, and then abuse and over-indulgence as with many other alcoholic drinks, but with the additional psychoactive ingredient Thujone – a constituent of wormwood – considered unsafe and even poisonous, absinthe was blamed for madness, criminal behavior, epilepsy, blindness and many other real or imaginary problems. The backlash led to the ban of absinthe in many countries in Europe and beyond.

But that was long ago –  the days of superstitious pseudo-science and mass hysteria.
Times, common sense, government regulations and  business ethics have changed
since then. Absinthe is legal now in almost all countries. The main sources now are in Spain, Britain, France, and the Czech Republic notable for its ‘classic’ or more potent versions, known as the king of Spirits, or the “Hemingway absinthe”, “Van Gogh absinthe” etc. Some variations have very high levels of both alcohol and thujone, and prized by some connoisseurs, while some other experts, more out of snobbery and prejudice rather than true judgement, look down upon these ‘Bohemian-style’ products (strictly speaking Absinth not Absinthe!).

No matter whatever spelling you follow, absinthe is back in vogue. There’s even a small niche devoted to absinthe drinking rituals and paraphernalia like the correct absinthe glass or the right absinthe spoon to use. But deep down this “green fairy” in a bottle is still the iconic Bohemian – untamed, complex  and full of many surprises. Careful when you drink!

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