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The first wormwood-derived absinthe imported (legally, that is) into the U.S. in 95 years was unveiled last night at the Manhattan bar Employees Only. I’ve always considered absinthe—distilled from grande wormwood and other herbs—one of the few spirits that are more interesting to read about than to drink, but I sampled a bottle of Lucid Absinthe Supérieure anyway. It came from a bottle bearing two glowing-green cat eyes, the closest thing to a green dragon I’ve ever encountered while drinking absinthe, which earned Bohemian street cred during the Belle Epoque thanks to its controversial banning (a smear campaign generated by the French wine industry, some say). Absinthe’s fabled hallucinogenic properties have been blamed on the chemical thujone, which in high concentrations will likely kill you before it conjures any aberrations. (Sage, I’ve been told, contains much, much more thujone than even the most potent 19th-century absinthe. Scary, eh?)
Alas, Lucid is thujone-free (or very nearly so). Prepared in the traditional, Rimbaud-era manner—slowly diluted (sometimes over a sugar cube, but absinthists skip this) with ice-cold water until it becomes cloudy (called “louching”) and reaches about a 1:3 concentration—it’s less anise-heavy and more herbal than other “genuine” European absinthes I’ve tried. Cocktails will benefit from this restrained style, but given its un-Bohemian price tag ($60 for 750ml; see drinklucid.com for stores), any wannabe “Absinthe Drinker” should savor it with just a trickle of cold water. And stop drinking if a green fairy asks for a sip.