The Thrill Is Gone


Absinthe, the reputedly insanity-inducing liqueur consumed by Van Gogh, Baudelaire, and many a bar hopper with no artistic or poetic talent whatsoever, soon will be legal again in Switzerland, the country where the drink was invented and one of the first places where it was banned (in 1910). According to Barnaby Conrad, author of Absinthe: History in a Bottle, "no individual alcoholic drink except absinthe has ever been singled out for prohibition." It was banned largely on the strength of horror stories similar to the tales of madness and mayhem later associated with marijuana, cocaine, PCP, and methamphetamine.

Now that legislators are beginning to reject anti-absinthe propaganda (though not everywhere–the stuff is still illegal in the U.S., for example), the Green Fairy's fans are not necessarily pleased. "I want to preserve the myth that comes with keeping absinthe forbidden and clandestine," one told The New York Times. "The myth is the thrill of breaking the law and not getting caught. The myth is offering as much money as you can and maybe still not finding what you're looking for. Next year you'll find absinthe in all the supermarkets. We're going to have the absinthe of the bazaar."

NEXT: It's the Eternal City, Not the Friendly City

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  1. Last year, while in Amsterdam, I stumbled across an absinthe bar that was open from 11 PM to 3 AM. For those interested, it is located on Spuistraat east of Damm Square. Curiosity got the best of myself and 2 other friends so we went back at midnight. A shot glass was about 12 euros, not bad stuff, a bit too sweet for my liking, kinda harsh going down similar to Wild Turkey 101, and did nothing in the sense of what the propaganda warned of. However, I noticed a buring sensation in my stomach for about an hour after. However, it may have been the dutch food.:)

  2. A little map to help you get around while you’re there.

    What to see while you’re there.

    And remember: If you drink (or whatever), DON’T DRIVE!

  3. I wouldn’t drink that shit, unless I knew first-hand that whoever made it knew what they were doing. From what I understand, the processing it is pretty complicated, and if done incorrectly, you end up with poison.

    Alcohol is bullshit, anyway. Nothing comes close to Mary J.

  4. Oh, there are plenty of places online you can import absinthe into the U.S. from. Outside of the $85-$100 price tag [and the very real risk of Customs finding it as it passes through the border], it’s a very unique experience.

    However, it’s certainly nothing like the hyped-up comparisons to hallucinogens. Anyone who claims otherwise has either consumed an unwise amount or they’re actually doing the hallucinogens on top of it. I compare it to a very, very relaxing drunken state where belligerance just *can’t* exist, which is just fine by me.

  5. Alcohol is bullshit, anyway. Nothing comes close to Mary J.

    This one can savour.

    I’ve never known anyone to sing the praises of le bouquet, le nez, la cuisse of pot.

  6. If you want to try some wierd shit, have some Fernet-Branca. It’s fermented from about 40 different herbs and spices, is bitter as hell and vaguely reminds you of the old sen-sen days. Settles the tummy well after a big meal, though.

  7. It’s all good!

  8. This has some relevance to the drug war here. The prohibitionists like to think that legalization will lead to a lot more usage, but I think it’s likely there would be some people like the guy quoted in the article. The people who are just doing it for the thrill of doing something illegal and rebellious will be flushed out.

  9. Speaking of relevance, dead elvis, could we say Osama and Al Zaqawi are the absinthes of terrorists?
    Is Bush’s war the best way to make them “absent”?

  10. The connoisseur-to-experimenter ratio in Absinthe is far greater than most illicit markets, I’m sure. The nostalgic significance of the still-romanticized drink carries a lot more weight among them than the crowd that wishes to drink for nothing other than the supposed thujone-induced hallucinogenic effects.

    In fact, hit up some of the more popular absinthe sites on the web and take note of where thujone [the active component in wormwood] levels are brought up by n00bs — they’re practically laughed out of the forum, and for good reason.

  11. Thanks, Jacob, for the Waterboys reference.

    And, Gadfly, try an evening of Sputniks: half Fernet, half vodka.

  12. raymond:

    I know someone who brews beer with “it” every so often, one time into a Malt Liquor (!). I got seriously, seriously fucked up, and not in a good way.

    I’m not much of a fan of ingestion. There’s only one true delivery..

  13. I’ve heard that stuff will make you do stupid things like fall in love: Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.


    The legal situation on Absinthe in the US is kind of unusual, so I’ll run it down for you.

    Absinthe is hard alcohol that is brewed together with an herbal extract from the plant wormwood, which contains a psychoactive compound called “Thujone”.

    Thujone is not on the DEA schedules, but it has been declared a “Banned Food Additive” by the FDA, and is thus an FDA regulated controlled substance.

    It is definitely ILLEGAL in the USA to sell or distribute any thujone containing drinks. So be very careful who you give absinthe to because that is illegal distribution. Even if you trust a person not to “rat” you out, you never know what sort of situation might arise – like if your friend gets hammered on absinthe and goes out and gets a DUI with the bottle in the car with him or if somebody has a bad reaction to it or gets alcohol poisoning and it becomes a medical emergency and 911 has to be called – stupid shit like that gets people in trouble all the time with other substances, beware.

    If you’re brewing it yourself or importing bottles of it from Europe, think twice before you decide to set up any kind of home business selling it or something, because that is also obviously illegal and activity such as that on a large enough scale to draw the attention of law enforcement will definitely be prosecuted, the cops will just view you as a drug dealer who is trying to work through a loophole or whatever.

    Here’s the good news – it is not illegal to possess absinthe that is intended only for personal consumption and it isn’t technically illegal to *purchase* absinthe from somebody else like an importer BUT the *selling* part of the transaction IS illegal and whoever sells it to you is taking the risk. Kind of a goofy set up, but that’s the FDA for you.

    So, in summation:

    – It is illegal to sell thujone containing absinthe in the US for human consumption.

    – It is illegal for someone outside the US to sell thujone containing absinthe to someone inside the US.

    – It is not illegal to purchase thujone containing absinthe for personal use in the US.

    – It is not illegal to purchase thujone containing absinthe for personal use from outside the United States

    – Thujone containing absinthe can be seized by US customs (if it appears to be for human consumption).

    And, one final note, even though absinthe has this quasi-legal status, don’t go waving it around or showing it off anywhere because if narcotics law enforcement recognizes it, they will be awfully keen on giving you the once over to find out what other drugs you might be involved in –


    The quickest way to get a legal substnace banned is to try to sell a whole bunch of it or spread it around enough so that the local narcotics agents or the DEA get wind of it, because the DEA can use its emergency scheduling powers to declare substances illegal without having to draft legislation for it or anything.

    The DEA doesn’t just reflexively ban anything psychoactive that they become aware of, they prefer to keep use the controlled substance schedules only for likely drugs of abuse or extremely dangerous ones in their view. They will schedule a substance when it becomes clear to them, through multiple seizuress or a recognizable pattern of distribution or information gleaned from sources, that the substance is trending towards becoming a common drug of abuse or that some “market forces” have gotten behind it and broader trafficking has started.

    So don’t flood your hometown with absinthe, or try to open an illegal after-hours absinthe speakeasy or do anything crazy while wacked out on absinthe that land you in the newspaper, or you’ll ruin it for everybody =-).


  15. Why? Why are Libertarians (yes, I’m using a capital “L” and so should you if you ever hope to be taken seriously)… obsessed with legalization or prohibition of narcotics? (another reason not to take Libertarians seriously.)

    libertarian: One who believe in freedom of action and thought.

    Do you really think Republicans believe in anything different? Is prohibition of Absinthe (a narcotic) really a libertarian platform so shallowly represented as an obstacle to freedom?


  16. “I want to preserve the myth that comes with keeping absinthe forbidden and clandestine,”

    Classic, this dumbass is perfectly fine with trampling liberty for his own amusement.

  17. I repeat myself: GROW UP. This is a NON-ISSUE.

  18. Someone sure woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

    Hey man, it’s Friday. Chill, eh?

  19. B Beatty,
    Because the control of what one puts in their own bodies is at the root of the arguement for individual liberty.

  20. Chilly — Is that so? And Libertarians believe that illegal drugs, foods, herbs and liquids they can or cannot ingest or otherwise insert into their bodies are depriving them of free will?

    You are so misguided. Read it from one of your own, Debra Saunders, self-aclaimed so-called “libertarian.”

    Complete Article

    Excerpt for the lazy or hurried:

    Legalization advocates tend to see few or no negative consequences in legalizing drugs.

    They’re wrong. There is a downside: Legalization would result in increased drug use. For many individuals — children, unstable adults prone to addiction — legalization could be poison, a ticket to degradation and misery. What’s more, the plight of addicts would not occur in a vacuum, but easily could lead to more urban blight, more homelessness, and more despair. An end to the war on drugs would have its casualties as well.

  21. I agree with Gary. Don’t be like Clinton. Inhale. Relax.

  22. Great. Same strawman argument as always, which can be very debunked by the Amsterdam model and studies thereafter. Cute try, though.

  23. Gary. 2 questions. Do you believe in God? Do you have children?

  24. They’re cute too…

    As you have demonstrated, the schism in your “party” is greater than you can bridge with your childish retaliatory comment.

  25. Beatty, there are lots of articles on this website regarding how overhyped the drug threat is. Read them and get back to us.

  26. Batty:

    What does religion have to do with this argument? And I was a child once, I chose not to do pot. What’s your point?

  27. finsh the following with “… for the children.” and you can understand batty’s argument.

    “we need to ban drugs…”
    “we need to stop gay marriage…”
    “we need to prohibit alcohol…”
    “we need to ban fatty foods…”
    “we need to ban guns…”
    “we need welfare…”
    “we need socialized medicine…”

  28. Hmmm, tastes kind of swee y. tdsill no sign od illl ffcts
    wjths thee bi desl?

    jbl hk nfjlwnk


  29. FYI, absinthe did just about nothing for me, other than getting me pretty drunk. And I made sure to get the strong stuff and to drink a good deal of it. Smoking banana peels would be equally ineffective but much cheaper.

  30. “Do you believe in God? Do you have children?”

    Leave Me out of this..

  31. You tell ’em, Pops!

  32. I wasn’t aware procreating was a prerequisite for shaping policy in America. Shame on me for not being up on the Rebiblican policies nowadays.

    Also, would it surprise you to know I’m a Southern Baptist? Oh yes, I am, as is my wife. The difference between you and I, however, is that I just don’t feel the compulsion to invoke God rather than listen to solid contradictory evidence in order to stake out some sort of moral high ground.

  33. Blasphemy..? Obviously you have no moral compass.

    And… I have not seen a single parent post a remark on here disputing anything I’ve said.

  34. I’m not going to launch into some magical tirade here, but suffice it to say that those in glass houses, perhaps shouldn’t throw stones. One of the most disheartening aspects of modern religion is its ever-encroaching tentacles into the lives of millions who do not follow the philosophy of Christianity.

    All I can say — and this will be the end of it — is that for all the complacency of the Religious Right regarding persecution in the public eye of the Left and perhaps even Libertarian, modern religion does a damned efficient job of doing persecuting others, itself.

    I’ll leave the remainder for another time.

  35. I love it when the religious right comes to visit. There’s almost no argument against, “because I say so.”

  36. As a parent and grandparent, I’m telling you you’re full of shit.

  37. “I have not seen a single parent post a remark on here disputing anything I’ve said.”

    I guess the lesson is that the opinions of parents should be discarded on issues such as these, because their having had children has comically distorted their views of the personal and societal threats posed by certain currently illegal (or quasi-legal) substances.

  38. (I wonder if our esteemed Christian Coalition member can tell us who first proposed the Separation of Church and State, and for what reason?)

    HINT: Look in the mirror.

  39. What makes any of you… think that I by asking “Gary” if he believed in God … any god/God… I was making a point?

    I am curious as to what kind of persons could be so debilitated in their thinking.

    I am beginning to understand where the debilitation is coming from.. DRUGS.

    Grandpa, is that the mouth your kiss your grandchildren with?

  40. Batty, are you a current or former drug user? If not, then by your own volition how can you mount a legitimate argument? My guess is you had a child who became addicted to drugs. I would also surmise that he or she was driven to rebel because of all the oppressive, religious dogma you were shoving down his or her throat. The majority of the time, there is a deeper underlying psychological issue regarding drug use.

  41. “What makes any of you… think that I by asking “Gary” if he believed in God … any god/God… I was making a point?”

    Well, gee…it might be because you asked it during a discussion that had been entirely about the legalization of absinthe and other narcotics, without saying anything about changing the topic. It might also have something to do with the fact that you immediately followed it with a question about whether he has children, which you obviously consider relevant to the topic at hand based on a later post (“I have not seen a single parent post a remark on here disputing anything I’ve said.”). Also, you asked it of a person whose previous posts had shown he has used at least some of the narcotics under discussion, and who clearly disagrees with your arguments about their prohibition.
    Now how could someone ever possibly come to the conclusion that you were “making a point” with that question? Those are not terribly difficult dots to connect.

    “I am beginning to understand where the debilitation is coming from.. DRUGS.”

    That’s a charming assumption to make – those of us who interpreted your question as “making a point” and/or who disagree with your position on prohibition must be drug-addled. You’re doing your part to keep the standards of logic and civility high here on the ol’ Reason blog, I see.

  42. J — Yes, my civility is high.. just not “high.” I’m not the one swearing and profaning. The last time I checked, swearing and profaning had little to do with RELIGION (such a dirty word) and everything to do with social decorum.

    Patriot – I’m not black either. Does that mean I can’t be racist?

  43. Patriot — correction… if that’s allowed here. What I meant to say, if I WERE black.. does that mean I could not be a racist?

    If I’m not not in a wheelchair, does that mean that I can’t vote for laws regulating handicapped access?

    Grow up.

  44. “I am beginning to understand where the debilitation is coming from.. DRUGS.”

    Well, as someone who has never touched any substance harder than caffeine, I doubt that’s the case to this legalization supporter.

    However, I am beginning to understand where the debilitation in YOUR thinking is coming from: Religion and other similar myths and superstions.

    Given that the concept of “God” has been a far more destructive, anti-intellectual force in human history than any recreational drug, maybe we ought to be trying to arrest preachers instead of pushers.

    Of course, that would be wrong too. People have every right to ignore reality. Whether they choose to use drugs or some moldy holy book is irrelevent.

  45. Batty: you moron, my statement was analogous to you saying that someone has to be a parent to contribute to this conversation.

    I’m done talking to the wall now.

  46. And the last time I checked, civility involved more than not swearing. I think it’s fair to say that describing those who disagree with you as “debilitated in their thinking” by drugs is not terribly civil, or logical. But it just might earn you a job as an aide to Denny Hastert; there will always be more George Soros-types whose characters need to be impugned because they disagree with you.

  47. No, but I’d say having not been at least immersed in the opposition viewpoint to some degree to glean a degreee of understanding as to the effects of said substances, you are at a great disadvantage to judge whether or not such imbibing impairs the ability to form a coherent and rational thought.

    Funny, I find those to be drunk on the kool-aid of an irrational policy [and outright dangerous, some would rightfully conclude] perpetuated by generations of lies to be the ones lacking not only rational, coherent thought, but also the capacity for understanding the opposition viewpoint.

    That said, I can understand people who don’t want to use drugs, drink, smoke, etc. You cannot even tolerate — much less understand — those that do. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

  48. Oh, and regarding my comments about religion: I may not agree with Gary’s philosophy, but at the very least he keeps his beliefs in his pants and doesn’t feel compelled to use the power of the state to cram his view of morality down the throats of his neighbors.

    B Beatty, on the other hand…

  49. Can we get back to talking absinthe and ignore the jesus freak ?
    If Ned Kelley is right then what’s to prevent anyone from ordering it on the internet ? And is it available in Me-hee-co ?
    As an rescidivist Scotch Whisky money-waster & Edgar Allan Poe fan, I say these are urgent questions.

  50. Let me clarify my last paragraph. I have no idea if he tolerates or understands cigarette smoking or drinking liquor outside of absinthe. But, if Mr. Beatty does…

    …again, I leave you to determine a suitable conclusion.

  51. Dear Libertarians — for the Record here are things I never said, but you decided to misrepresent anyway as if I did.

    1. That I am a religious person
    2. That I am a parent
    3. That I do or do not use drugs
    4. That my name is spelled “batty”
    5. Drugs should not be legalized

    For what reason did each of you decide that I had made those statements? I can only guess it was because you have issues that you needed to air.

    All of the above are irrelevant to either side of this debate which apparently has become whether drugs should or should not be legalized.

    And, lastly, for the record… I was merely providing you with commentary from another Libertarian.. not my own.

    Those who assume…

  52. B Beatty:

    If it walks like a duck, and if it quacks like a duck…

  53. Questioning is duck behavior? I guess questioning authority is duck behavior too. That makes you a duck too.

    Pleased to meet you.

  54. Beatty –

    I’m going to take you seriously.

    Presumably, you believe in God. Presumably, you think drugs put children in danger.

    I’ll add my two presumptions together and conclude that you consider drugs immoral.

    Am I right so far?

    imo, The only valid role of the state is to secure the rights of the people. The job of the government is not to make me “good”. It’s to prevent me from hurting you.

    So. Whose job is it to give your children a moral grounding? Certainly not mine. Not Bush’s or the Supreme Court’s or Congress’s. It is YOUR job.

    Law does not make men moral. In fact, throughout history we’ve seen enough laws – those whose role is _not_ to secure rights – which would force people to commit immoral deeds.

    The legalisation of what you would consider immoral acts – say, extra-marital sex – does not make men avail themselves of the services of prostitutes or commit adultery. My sin does not cause you to sin.

    If you teach your children the Law of Love – which is THE Christian (and Jewish) law – you will give them a grounding in morality. They will still, of course, make their own choices and – later on – develop their own moral codes. But you will have fulfilled your duty as a parent.

    But if you use the violence of the law to ensure their “goodness”, then you will be telling them that they are incapable of making their own choices. You will be recognising that you have taught them no moral grounding. You will be admitting your failure as a parent.

  55. B. Beatty:

    Dude, stick around, I’m serious. It’s boring to only have libertoids here agreeing with each other. It would be pretty cool to have an evangelical telling us that we’re all a bunch of drug-addled heathens going to hell.

    I personally have a first-class ticket.. but it’s going to be a peaceful, easy trip 🙂

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