LivingTravelAbsinthe in Prague: the 'green fairy'

Absinthe in Prague: the 'green fairy'

If you visit Prague, try absinthe, a green alcoholic drink surrounded by myths, mysteries and misconceptions… one of the most interesting types of spirits in Central and Eastern Europe.

Wormwood, commonly called the “green fairy,” is a high-alcohol spirit derived from herbs. Anise and fennel give it a characteristic liquorice flavor, while absinthe is responsible for the supposed hallucinogenic effects of absinthe; This botanical contains a chemical called thujone. Thujone is regulated in many countries, including the United States, but it is legal in the Czech Republic, where many brands of absinthe are produced.

Why absinthe is controversial

Wormwood originated as a medicinal treatment for malaria and other diseases in the 18th century because wormwood has antiseptic and other benefits when properly prepared. However, with the establishment of absinthe distilleries, the drink exploded in popularity, and in the 19th century, it was widely used as a recreational drink. Visitors to Prague’s Old Town may have seen Czechs enjoying the drink during this period in history, although there is more legend than truth to their tradition in Prague.

Absinthe was associated with the rebellious lifestyle of artists and other creative personalities who sought inspiration from psychoactive substances and alcohol. The thujone in wormwood allegedly caused hallucinations for those who drank it, although this effect is widely believed to have been exaggerated. Most likely, the high alcohol content was responsible for the criminally and socially unacceptable behavior of absinthe drinkers. The toxic effects of the drink eventually led to a ban on the drink in some countries.

Thujone is still illegal in the United States, and this ban has certainly contributed to the absinthe mystique.

Drinking absinthe in Prague

Keep in mind that ordering absinthe in Prague will mark you as a tourist. In fact, the entire absinthe industry in Prague was developed to attract tourists, even down to the “traditional” act of setting a sugar cube on fire to melt into the drink.

Some, but not all, absinthe in Prague is bohemian-style absinthe (or absinthe as the Czechs spell it without the “e”). These “wormwood alcohols” are made without the combination of herbs, although they do contain wormwood. They are less complex and less pleasant to drink, making the addition of sugar necessary for flavor.

However, if you can’t bear the thought of traveling to Prague without trying absinthe, you can at least be prepared.

Absinthe is available in most bars in Prague. The drink generally contains between 60 and 70 percent alcohol. Some absinthes are advertised for thujone content, which ranges from 10 to 100 mg / l. Absinthes with the highest thujone content include Bairnsfather at 32 mg / L and King of Spirits at 100 mg / L. Both drinks are popular and widely available, although some wormwood connoisseurs do not recommend them.

Some distilleries sought to enhance the reputation of Czech absinthes, traditionally producing them with attention to ingredients, taste and ‘louche’, which is the way the drink becomes cloudy when water is added to dilute its strength.

Absinthes from the Zufanek Distillery get high marks from critics. These include La Grenouille and St. Antoine. Other absinthe aficionados will suggest absinthe based on its similarity to traditionally produced absinthe, its absence of artificial ingredients, the anise flavor, the louche produced before being drunk, and the subtlety of the bitterness of absinthe.

If you order absinthe in Prague, you will receive a spoon, a fire source, a glass of water and a sugar cube. Sometimes the spoon will be slotted, sometimes it won’t. The sugar is soaked with a small amount of wormwood, catches fire, and then melts into the wormwood. Water is poured into the absinthe, which then turns cloudy.

Remember that you are unlikely to hallucinate after drinking absinthe, but you are likely to get drunk quickly; Don’t plan on navigating maps, or even the subway system, after drinking absinthe. Be safe and try absinthe when you are within walking distance of your hotel … or better yet, inside your hotel.

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