The Absinthe Experiment
By Justin Goldman
Illustration by Mark Matcho
Absinthe: The green fairy. The hallucinogenic liquor that Van Gogh sipped before he sliced off his ear, that Hemingway drank before he ran with the bulls. The drink that supposedly drove users to madness and was blamed for the decline of Western Civilization. I had to get a bottle.
Luckily, the first distiller to produce absinthe in the United States in almost 100 years, St. George Spirits, is in Alameda. So, I sat down with a bottle of Absinthe Verte and its creator, Lance Winters. My first question: How long until we’re tripping?
“My humble opinion is that [absinthe] definitely provides a different sort of a buzz from any other kind of alcohol,” Winters told me. But the “alleged psychotropic properties,” as he referred to them, were a myth.
Clearly, there was only one way to figure this out: drink up. Soon, security was dragging me out of the building as I screamed, “Feed your head!”
Actually, no. The absinthe was tasty, with mint and licorice flavors, and after a couple of hours and more than a few drinks of the 120-proof elixir, I had a serious buzz. It was more lucid and less sloppy than a normal perk, but alas, no hookah-smoking caterpillar appeared before the taxi arrived to take me home.
St. George Spirits sells absinthe for $75 per bottle at its tasting room, 2601 Monarch St., Alameda, (510) 864-0635, www.stgeorgespirits.com.