The Green Fairy Resurrected

Absinthe, ah the decadent wonder of late nights and green fairies. Ah the miraculous release from life’s troubles. The scintillating pleasure of dissolving sugar in its neon depths.

Absinthe has saturated bar menus in Manhattan of late as the drink du jour. As far as I’m concerned, that jour is past.

However cool it may be that Van Gogh might have cut his earlobe off because of it, it doesn’t taste so delicious. You see the face of the woman in Picasso’s 1901 Absinthe Drinker? Nobody smiles in the paintings of absinthe drinkers. It’s because a vile green herbal liquor is sitting in front of them, reflecting a sickly pallor upon them. Absinthe was deliciously illegal and hard to obtain in Manhattan (which would make even toadstools a luxury good) but now it’s plentifully available. It tends to taste like anise, a flavor that I’ve always detested.

So what is there to be said in favor of this over-available, under-tasty liquor? Vintage poster art for one, and paintings like the one by Picasso for another. Artists seem to love portraying absinthe, whether its advertisements of smiling people and lascivous green lady fairies or paintings of sallow, dejected loners in bars. Could absinthe have been different then?

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