Cafe Society

The Green Machine

As reported in Off Limits this week, absinthe is now legal in the United States! And I don’t mean that phony shit that’s like anisette dyed green or that Eastern European stuff that tastes like cough syrup or that legally gray gunk shipped under cover and marketed specifically for its brain-blisteringly high levels of thujone (the psychoactive ingredient and wormwood derivative that caused authentic absinthe to be banned in the U.S. in the first place).

No, I’m talking about the real deal: artisan absinthe made with real wormwood. Lucid, a brand created by New Orleans-based chemist named Ted Breaux, is being hyped as the first true absinthe available for legal sale in this country since 1912 -- a trick he pulled off by manipulating the thujone levels down to a level deemed safe by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the body responsible for making sure that my booze is just booze and my smokes only smokes. Even so, the Lucid website includes a BIG warning on the front page about how flammable the product is -- a fine recommendation for an adult beverage.

Sadly, Colorado's liquor stores sold out of their first shipment fast. And until they restock, when I need a mind-altering drinking experience, I’ll stick with my old standby: Del Maguey Pechuga mescal. This stuff is ridiculously rare (the last distilling yielded just 460 bottles) and ridiculously expensive ($200 a bottle if you’re lucky, compared to about $60 for a bottle of Lucid). But if you have the means, it’s absolutely worth the price. Take a couple of belts, and the result is not unlike the effect of taking a couple of hits off a joint of the best hydro, or like the slow rise of a mounting mescaline trip -- only without the barfing, freak-outs and twelve hours of full Technicolor hallucinations Remember the Simpsons episode when Homer ate the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper and spent the night hanging out with the imaginary space coyote? Yeah, it’s just like that only real.

Still, legal absinthe? How cool is that? -- Jason Sheehan

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun