The pepperminty sweetness of the cloudy greenish concoction was the first sensation to hit my palate. Next came the burn of the 124-proof liquid snaking its way down my throat. As the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention, I shifted on my bar stool at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, where I'd come to sample absinthe—newly legalized in the United States—and waited for the hallucinations to kick in. But visions of little green fairies sauntering through the streets of Harbor East never did materialize.
Centuries old and often stigmatized, the legend of absinthe has been fueled through the years by its prohibition. An anise-flavored spirit distilled from herbs, including wormwood (purported to contain psychotropic effects), absinthe is served with grandeur to match its reputation. A sugar cube is placed on a slotted spoon that rests above a glass, an ounce-and-a-half of the spirit is poured over the cube, and then set on fire. After the fireworks die down, a water-tower spigot dispenses water to dilute the drink. When its tint turns milky green, it's ready to down. I savored Kubler, a 106-proof absinthe made in Switzerland since 1863, and the stronger French product, Lucid–and lived to tell this tale.