Friday, June 25, 2010

Artists' Nectar

Absinthe, illegal in the US since 1912, is the notorious potion that provided inspiration and, occasionally, dissolution to scads of 19th and early 20th century artists and writers. The peculiar – sometimes hallucinogenic – effects commonly are ascribed to thujone, a substance claimed to be much like THC from the ingredient wormwood. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, this is wrong. Surviving old bottles and newly concocted brews of absinthe were tested. Whatever the consequences to health of the various ingredients, the only one with any significant mind-altering characteristics is alcohol. There is a lot of that. Absinthe is 140 proof. Most modern hard liquors are 80 proof. It seems the old artistes were merely drunk. Their modern counterparts in the places where absinthe is illegal haven't been missing out. They just need to buy another round.

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