Absinthe - an herb-driven liquor that has been shrouded in myth and fairy tales for centuries, including a fair share of literary references to the storied “la fée verte” and other exotic hallucinations. And it’s through these elaborate speculations that absinthe has attracted its growing number of eccentric fans. But what exactly is it? How’s it made? What cocktails can be made with it? Today we’ll answer these questions and more as we trace the trail of the famed green fairy.

A Short History of Absinthe

The precise origin of absinthe is unclear, though the profound effects it has upon those who taste it is well-documented. The medicinal usage of wormwood dates as far back as the ancient Egyptian empire, but the first clear evidence of absinthe, in its modern sense, doesn’t appear until the 18th century. According to legend, absinthe began as an all-purpose remedy by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor residing in Couvet, Switzerland. As his remedy gathered attention, Dr. Ordinaire came to share the formula, leading to the opening of the first distillery shortly thereafter. His remained one of the most popular brands of liquor until the beverage’s ban in 1900s.

Concocting the “Green Fairy”

As a liqueur, absinthe is fairly strong, containing almost 80% alcohol. That’s twice the amount that standard liquors such as whiskey or vodka have! For that reason, absinthe is sometimes not served straight. There are a number of cocktail recipes based upon it and it’s often mixed with something that is sweet and carbonated. So you might be wondering: what is in absinthe that creates its trademark effect? It’s called thujone and is a byproduct of the wormwood used in the distillation of absinthe. The active ingredients in thujone have psychoactive properties, and taken alone it would have …te interesting… side effects. But the thujone in absinthe won’t put you into the stratosphere, so don’t worry! The alcohol content in absinthe is so high, that you would become ill long before you could ingest enough to start seeing any hallucinations.

Drinks with Absinthe

For hundreds of years, bartenders have employed the subtle tastes of this liqueur in cocktails. Below are three cocktails that you should be on the lookout for:

Death in the Afternoon

What could be more decadent and down-right classy than absinthe and Champagne? And these together with a fresh bed of mussels, lightly steam in a garlic white wine with marinara? This drink is a simple mixture of iced Champagne and absinthe until the concoction reaches a milky color. I do say, sounds lovely!

Classic Sazerac

For anybody whose drink of choice is whiskey on the rocks, this is the absinthe drink for you. With just a hint of absinthe, this drink sports a complex aroma, admired by many absinthe enthusiasts.

Absinthe Drip

If you’re looking for a classic absinthe experience, many agree that the traditional absinthe drip is the way to go. It’s the quintessential serving method that absinthe drinkers have known for centuries, and also the best way to appreciate the subtle nuances of this timeless liqueur.

A Modern Revival

Absinthe recently became legal in the United States in 2007, a status it hadn’t held since 1912. But in the past year, its popularity has positively boomed, and absinthe has become a popular component in mixed drinks.

If you’d like to take a chance at seeing the majestic, green fairy yourself, stop by…um…a place that serves absinthe. Supposedly there’s a new speakeasy in town…somewhere…but we’re not sure where exactly. Actually never mind, we’ve said too much already.