Hallucinogen, liquid alchemy, creative fuel, vision-inducer, delirium-trigger…the mythology surrounding absinthe is incessant. It’s also false.
A dominant absinthe ingredient, the herb wormwood, contains a chemical called thujone, a supposed hallucinogen. But properly made absinthe contains miniscule, harmless quantities of thujone.
After being banned here for decades, absinthe was re-introduced in 2007 minus its thujone. Its licorice flavor derives from its other dominant ingredient, anise. Today, absinthe is a rising star in cocktails and you might come across a French “fountain” affectation involving ice water dripped onto a sugar cube perched on a slotted spoon atop a glass of the liquor. The glitziest Westchester restaurants get is flaming a sugar cube in a spoon and dropping it into a glass of absinthe and water. That drama unfolds at both Chappaqua’s Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd 914-666-8044) and Ossining’s Brasserie Swiss (118 Croton Ave 914-941-0319), but Jean-Louis Gerin of Greenwich, Connecticut’s Restaurant Jean-Louis (61 Lewis St 203-622-8450) won’t have any of it. “Today, the alcohol is refined,” he says. “You don’t need to burn it off. I just serve absinthe mixed one part liquor to five parts water.”
Who’s ordering it? “Mainly young people wondering if the dangers are true,” says Gerin.