Sunday, October 25, 2009

Secrets of the Green Fairy

Some call absinthe "la fée verte" or "The Green Fairy." Popular culture has personified the fairy as an enchanted muse who unlocks creativity:

Or ensures a mind bending good time*:

The magic ingredient is wormwood. More specifically, a chemical in wormwood called thujone. For years it was considered a hallucinogen. However, recent studies show:
1. Whoops, it's not a hallucinogen, and
2. Whoops, the old time versions of the drink didn't have that much thujone in the first place.

So what's with this Green Fairy stuff?
It's likely other additives- toxic green dyes, for example, caused hallucinations.
So is the drink's legendary magic reduced to bad artificial coloring? Perhaps the the psychedelic part is. But what about the creativity enhancement?
Traditionally, absinthe isn't something you drink like tequila shots or pour over ice. There's a near ceremony you're supposed to follow. Special glass. A special slotted spatula that fits on top of the glass that holds a sugar cube. You pour water over the cube, so sugar water trickles into the absinthe below. Or swap the water for fire. That's right. Spike the cube with some extra absinthe, light it on fire, and drop it into the drink (since the stuff can be up to 75% alcohol, well, good luck with that*...)
Does all this fancy prep prime your brain to think this stuff must be special! Do people experience creativity because they expect to experience it? It wouldn't surprise me. The Green Fairy could be the Placebo Fairy.

*Is it just me, or did they rip off this famous Robert Abel & Associates 7up commercial?

**in the unlikely even someone reads this, burns down the house and tries to sue me, I might add that setting flammable things on fire, is, in fact, dangerous. While I'm at it, stay off subway tracks, and don't tease anything with teeth.


Sally said...

Your illustration is lovely. Is the middle clip from Moulin Rouge? It looked so self conscious. The Robert Abel commercial broke so much ground, looked so unlike anything else when it came out. And all done with optical printers.

Namowal said...

Thanks for liking the illustration, Sally.

Yep, that middle clip is from Moulin Rouge. A lot of my friends loved that movie but I thought it took itself way too seriously. It also stole plot from La Traviata

The Robert Abel add must have been something when it came out. It was way ahead of its time!