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About Absinthe: FAQ

What is absinthe?
It is a liquor, usually green in color and hence received the name "The Green Fairy". It was discovered by doctors and used mainly as a military medicine early on. It contains a psychoactive neurotoxin called thujone, made from wormwoord, an herb. In the United States and many other countries it is illegal. In the Czech Republic, it is legal.

Why is it illegal in so many countries?
Absinthe enjoyed a huge and important history in the 19th century. The choice of many artists, poets, Bohemian free spirits and the like, the drink quickly became synonymous with excess and was eventually outlawed probably because of political reasons as governments decided they just didn't like the effect it was having on society. Not unlike the outlawing of cocaine and marijuana in the United States in the 1930s.

Who drank absinthe?
Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear while in the throes of an absinthe binge, and Oscar Wilde once compared a glass of absinthe to a sunset. Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemmingway, Paul Gaugin, Charles Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Voltaire, and the famed Toulouse-Lautrec all reveled in the stuff. References to it in the writings, paintings, and works of many artists have helped lend a sense of mystery to the liquor, contributing to its legendary properties.

Wow. Will it still have the same effect it did then if I drink it today in Prague?
No. You will receive absolutely no pyshoactive effects. The level of thujone in today's absinthe ranges between 1.5mg/litre to 10mg/litre - the maximum legal limit due to European legislation. When it was originally banned, absinthe is rumored to have had a thujone content of up to 200mg/litre plus. So you can clearly see that the stuff of poet and artist inspiration is no longer on the shelves today. Absinthe now is only a very strong alcohol and you don't stand a chance of getting the psychoactive effects of the thujone.

Does it taste good?
That's a subjective question! Absinthe has an anise/black licorice flavor in many cases and has been compared to everything from "pure perfection" to "mouthwash gone bad."

How do I drink it?
There are about a million ways that people will suggest to you to drink your absinthe. Here are a few, but we suggest you find your own way to enjoy the drink, if you can.

Modern-Style: Add equal amount of water and sugar (or coke) to absinthe and drink.
French Tradition: Pour the absinthe into a shot glass, put a sugar cube on a slotted spoon and hold it over the shot glass. Pour water over the sugar to dissolve it into the drink.
Czech Tradition: Pour the absinthe into a big glass. Stir the drink, then dip the wet spoon into sugar, covering the spoon. Light the spoon on fire, letting the sugar carmelize, then dip it into the drink and stir. Add water to the glass and drink. You will see many variations of this in Prague.

Where can I drink it? Where can I buy it?
You can have absinthe at almost any bar in Prague. You can buy it everywhere here, including street vendors. Some famous brands are Hill's Absinthe, Staroplzenecky Absinthe, Absinthe King of Spirits, Red Absinthe (Red in color), Absinthe Original, and La Fee Absinthe. The main traditions of manufacturing are according to French or Swiss recipes, and it is worth noting that the Czech spelling of absinthe is "absinth", leaving off the "e". Lime&Tonic offer an absinthe tasting experience in Prague.

Should I?
We can't answer that question for you. Just remember, it is very strong alcohol and is now mainly drunk for kitsch purposes by tourists in the city. Some bartenders will even look at you funny for actually ordering it. It's an awful lot of hype and not much return. But in the end, if it's something you want to tell your friends you did in Prague, we're not ones to stand in your way.


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