Absinthe Absent From Shelves

The wormwood wonder may be legal now, but good luck finding any in this city.

Liquor news is all over America's drunkest city (thank you, Men's Health), whether it's speculation on the future headquarters of Molson Coors (Off Limits, February 14), the dastardly hops shortage hurting craft breweries, or a proposed state law that might finally, blessedly, allow alcohol sales on Sunday (thank you, state senator Jennifer Veiga).

But the biggest booze news of the year may be a green liquor that has a wealth of legend and lore behind it. Absinthe, the powerful and supposedly hallucinogenic, wormwood-laced concoction that helped addle the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, is back in the United States after a 96-year absinthe absence, and a legal, 124-proof version called Lucid is available — make that was available — at Argonaut, Applejack and three dozen other Colorado liquor stores.

"We ran out in one weekend," says Applejack owner Alan Freis, who had ten cases. So did Argonaut, according to an enthusiastic salesman there.

Ben Olguin, vice president of spirits (the coolest title ever) for Southern Wine & Spirits of America in Denver, assures Off Limits that Lucid should be back on the shelves and in nightclubs and "neighborhood shot and beer places" sometime this week. "We ordered it with caution," he says of Southern's first shipment in early January. The absinthe retails for $60 to $80 a bottle, Olguin points out, and he wasn't sure how customers would react to the cost. But it "blew up," he notes, so "this time, we tripled the order." To help stir excitement, representatives of Viridian Spirits, the French company that makes Lucid, were in Denver last week, pumping their product to liquor-store owners and bartenders.

Colorado natives and Columbine High grads Steve and Todd Leopold, who are moving their successful distillery, Leopold Bros. (which makes whiskey, gin and other spirits), from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Denver, may also be pumping — and pimping — absinthe soon. In a blog post at www.annarborisoverrated.com, Todd revealed that the brothers are now manufacturing the spirit and hope to begin distributing it once they get settled in the drunkest city in America.


Scene and herd: Yes, those were liberals shooting off guns as well as their mouths Tuesday evening. It was the first meeting of Shooting Liberally, from the folks who brought us Drinking Liberally, Reading Liberally, Screening Liberally, Eating Liberally — and "Toking Liberally," a one-time event featuring Mason Tvert. After a few Boulder County ranges balked at the social nature of the shoot, says John Erhardt, Drinking Liberally's Denver organizer, he set up the inaugural shoot for an Aurora range — but the groups left their drinks behind.

After all, even the Independence Institute requires that participants finish shooting before they start drinking at their annual ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) celebration, and once Jon Caldara understood the nature of Shooting Liberally — "I'm assuming they're shooting heroin," he initially joked — he welcomed the unlikely Second Amendment enthusiasts into the fold. "Again, liberals cannot think of their own ideas," Caldara notes. "As long as they don't get anything done politically, I'm fine with that."

Would you buy a used car from this man? How about a voting machine? And speaking of not getting anything done politically: A familiar figure is scouting for a pickup on the current Vehix.com ad, and it's none other than John Gaydeski, the former executive director of the Denver Election Commission, who took a fall after the election debacle of November 2006 (not to be confused with the election debacle of November 2007). But at least Gaydeski landed on his feet: He's also an actor who's been registered with Maximum Talent Agency since 2004, and when he got voted out of his city job, his acting jobs took off.

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