A new study may end the century-old controversy over what ingredient in absinthe caused the exotic green aperitifs supposed mind-altering effects and toxic side-effects when consumed to excess. In the most comprehensive analysis of old bottles of original absinthe once quaffed by the likes of van Gogh, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso to enhance their creativity a team of scientists from Europe and the United States have concluded the culprit was plain and simple:
A high alcohol content, rather than thujone, the compound widely believed responsible for absinthes effects. Although consumed diluted with water, absinthe contained about 70 percent alcohol, giving it a 140-proof wallop. Most gin, vodka, and whiskey are 80 100-proof and contain 40-50 percent alcohol or ethanol.
The study is scheduled for the May 14, 2008 issue of the American Chemical Societys bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, where the full text of the article can be downloaded now without charge.
Absinthe took on legendary status in late 19th-Century Paris among bohemian artists and writers. They believed it expanded consciousness with psychedelic effects and called it the Green Fairy and the Green Muse. The drinks popularity spread through Europe and to the United States. However, illness and violent episodes among drinkers gave absinthe the reputation as a dangerous drug, and it was banned in Europe and elsewhere.
In the new study, Dirk W. Lachenmeier and colleagues point out that scientists know very little about the composition of the original absinthe produced in France before that country banned the drink in 1915. Only a single study had analyzed one sample of preban absinthe. The researchers analyzed 13 samples of preban absinthe from sealed bottles the first time that such a wide ranging analysis of absin
|Contact: Michael Bernstein|
American Chemical Society