It’s the same old story. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets stoked up on absinthe and cuts off his ear to send to girl.

OK, that’s not really the same old story. That’s the 19th century urban legend that made the rounds after Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear to give to a prostitute. While the ear cutting part is well documented, absinthe’s role in the incident is not. In all likelihood, absinthe should get little to no blame for Van Gogh’s actions. Despite its reputation, absinthe has never had the power to turn normal men into monsters. Not even men like Van Gogh, who probably wouldn’t appear on anyone’s 10 Most Normal list.

Much of the allure of absinthe for the last 100 or so years was undoubtedly related to the mystique. Not only does it have a horrible reputation (see: Van Gogh, or the story of Jean Lanfray), but the United States and most European countries banned it in the early 1900s. Let’s face it, nothing is more desirable than something that’s been forbidden. There was always an underground market, but absinthe became easily available in the US in 2007, when Lucid was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

If la louche is not your cup of tea, absinthe makes an appearance in a number of traditional cocktails. Almost unheard of now, the Chrysanthemum appears to have been a fairly popular cocktail back in its day, making an appearance in 1930’s Savoy Cocktail Book. Most of the traditional cocktails like the Chrysanthemum generally use only small amounts of absinthe, so that bottle you bought on a whim could last very long time.

Recipe: The Chrysanthemum (absinthe cocktail)

Ingredients

  • 3 dashes absinthe
  • 1 oz. Benedictine liqueur
  • 2 oz. dry vermouth

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until chilled.
  3. Strain into a coupe glass.
  4. Serve garnished with an orange twist.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 1