and would-be absinthe-heads

"The two most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."
  -- Harlan Ellison

Updated with a
new letter on
March 20, 2002
Boy, have I gotten a lot of email on this subject.

I've gotten hundreds and hundreds of absinthe-related emails -- messages of sympathy and support after the whole New England Journal of Medicine brouhaha; quite a few very interesting letters from nice and interesting people; letters from nice Europeans telling me where it can be found in their respective countries; tales of how sensible Europeans enjoy absinthe in moderation like any other spirit (unlike a lot of the mostly-Americans who email me on the subject of finding or making it); tidbits of absinthe coverage from TV and radio; a few interesting anecdotes here and there. I also get some sad tales of mental damage from bathtub-absinthe consumption.

However, for a long time the vast majority of my absinthe-related mail was absolutely moronic -- pleading emails from current potheads and glue-sniffers looking for a new high (and who don't understand that absinthe is not a drug and is really No Big Deal), squirrely would-be absinthe-heads who made some kind of swill at home and are worried they'll get hooked after one sip ... and lots and lots of really rude assholes.

I thought some of them might make interesting reading. I've anonymized them all, except for the earlier abusive ones, including those who didn't have the guts to sign their names but who were stupid enough to include their real email addresses. As of June '99 I got fed up with the abusive ones, and started posting them in their entirety, names and email addresses intact. My parenthetical comments and observations are below each letter.

Primary observation #1 -- Absinthe will not get you high, any higher than any other high alcohol content spirit. It is not a drug any more than Scotch or Polish vodka is a drug. (Yes, I know ... there's that whole "alcohol is a drug" thing, but let's not have that discussion just now.) Those who consume it regularly do describe some elusive "secondary effect", but nobody seem to be able to put their finger on it.

Primary observation #2 -- You cannot make absinthe at home any more than you can make Jack Daniel's Tennesee Whiskey or Macallan 18 Year Old Scots Whisky at home. You need experience, knowledge, and the ability to do professional distillation. You cannot make absinthe or anything resembling absinthe by steeping dried wormwood sprigs from your backyard in some vodka or Pernod -- what you will get is something that's probably so vile as to be undrinkable, or something that might be drinkable but still won't be anything like the finely crafted absinthes of old, despite your having a recipe from the venerable Charles Baker.

Primary observation #3 -- Idiots thinking they can get high off of this are better off huffing spray paint. Everyone else may, if they can get it, enjoy absinthe for its flavor, its history and the nice buzz you get from consuming your favorite spirit (and maybe, just maybe, for its elusive "secondary effect" from the herbs).

Primary observation #4 -- Absinthe != wormwood oil! (That means, is not equal to.) Absinthe contains myriad herbs, one of which is wormwood, in relatively trace amounts. Pure concentrated essential oil of wormwood is a poison which will hurt or kill you. Many very stupid people don't seem to understand this.

It seems to me that lots of people only want this because it's banned. It was banned for the wrong reasons (it should have been regulated, not banned), but because it's "forbidden" it's alluring. Sheesh. It's just booze. If you don't like anise or licorice or lots of herbal flavors or things like Green Chartreuse, believe me, you won't like absinthe. Now let's move on... we'll read some of the interesting and nice ones first, then we'll get to the eejits.


From: Claire <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 15:16:37 EST
Subject: Congrats!

Congratulations on getting your website published in the New England Journal of Medicine! In case you didn't know, some dumb-ass read about absinthe while visiting the gumbopages and decided to drink wormwood oil to get high! It's published in the September 18, 1997 issue of the NEJM page 825.

Thanks for creating such a cool site..spent many happy hours looking.


Date: Wed, 24 Sep 1997 16:35:53 -0700
From: J.S. <xxx@xxx.edu>
Organization: XXX Health System
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Man drinks wormwood oil - obviously not your fault

Mr. Taggart,

I am a medical toxicologist. I have read both the NEJM article about the ill-informed and misguided man (I hesitate to use the I---- word, though it clearly comes to mind) who drank wormwood oil after seeing your webpage about absinthe, and your response to the hoopla in The Gumbo Pages. Boy, what a way to get famous.

Let me say first that I agree with your position regarding where to lay the blame for this incident. I did not read your page about absinthe before, but I am sure it did not suggest it was a substance to be abused. I do, however, agree with the authors of the NEJM article when they suggest that the medical community may need to brace itself against the possibility of future cases of Internet-mediated toxic diseases. This is not to say that the Internet or its contributors are at fault. Rather, the Internet is yet another resource for information (and possibly misinformation) that can be abused like any other resource. I have submitted a Letter to the Editor to the New England Journal of Medicine regarding this case, in which I mention two other cases (one was wormwood oil surprisingly enough) where persons were poisoned due to their intentional misuse of substances and information procured through the Internet.

J. S., MD

Date: Fri, 03 Oct 1997 18:13:39 -0400
From: S. Y. <xxx@xxx..com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: NEJM Article

Saw the article. Looked to the web page to see what the guy did...couldn't see the webpage so I read the "why" and I agree 100%. It's kind of like stupid pet tricks human style when people do such things. In any event, I'd like the chance to see the page as well. If you're comfortable that a Board Certified Internist won't "try this at home," please email me the page. If not, I understand that too.

If he sues you, give me a ring...I'll testify that no one in their right mind would try this...

Good luck.

S. W. Y., M.D.

(Thanks, Doc. :^)

Date: Mon, 06 Oct 1997 15:14:07 -0500
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: My Little Escapade

Dear Chuck,

I am the one who drank the wormwood oil.

At no time in explaining what happened did I refer to your site, nor do I blame anyone but myself for what happened. I suppose I could have found a way to sue the company that provided the wormwood oil, but I did not. So rest at ease.

Dr. Kimmel was supposed to send me a copy of the article he wrote, but since I did not get it, I decided to brouse through the absinthe listings to get an idea of what "the absinthe community" thinks of what happened. This is the first time I have done a net search for "absinthe" since the summer of 1996 and I randomly came across your page. I am not even certain if I ever saw it in the spring/summer of 1996. I believe you were unlucky to be mentioned, but that is all it is - bad luck, a subject whereof I know what I speak.

And I agree with you that to blame the Internet is hysterical and perhaps disingenuous.

There was no confusion in my mind between wormwood oil and the essential oil derived from wormwood. My mistake was in being reckless with my math and taking far too much. I don't think that warrants the appellation "_________", however.

I am sorry for any pain this has caused you.

(I apologized for the "appellation" with which I had referred to this quite articulate gentleman. I was obviously quite relieved that he was all right, and felt a little bit ashamed at lashing out at him as being the cause of my notoriety. I wrote back to him and asked for his permission to include his letter on my page detailing the whole escapade, and he replied:)

Date: Tue, 07 Oct 1997 08:20:55 -0500
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Re: My Little Escapade

Dear Chuck,

Sure, go ahead and post what I wrote.

I think the reason your site was referred to by Dr. Kimmel had to do with its name -- "About Absinthe." When I was asked where I found this information, I'm sure I must have said I found a site "about absinthe."

Thanks for your kind comments. Though I can't yet say I've been redeemed, at least, psychologically, I feel a little better.

(I am very glad he feels better.

I, on the other hand, am pissed off at the physician who wrote a scientific paper in a major medical journal, and didn't check his facts well enough before attributing this man's misfortune to an article on my web site. Pretty sloppy. Being the appalling procrastinator that I am, however ... I never did get around to writing a letter to the NEJM. Oh well.)

From: Sean <xxx@hotmail.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 12:39:52 PDT

(I replied with "What part of 'do not email me asking about this' do you not understand?" I also informed him that "recipe" is spelled R-E-C-I-P-E, and asked him if he had been severely beaten by lower case letters and punctuation as a child. His reply:)
From: "Sean G" <xxx@hotmail.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 12:51:43 PDT


(He's apparently an expert on manners, if not grammar, punctuation and reading comprehension.)

From: Leslie <xxx@hotmail.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: E-Mails
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 11:29:18 PDT

I have noticed that many of the folks who saw fit to e-mail you their silly and antagonistic remarks would benefit highly from absinthe.

If it truly causes madness and suicidal behavior, perhaps you should offer them some encouragement in their pursuits.

(Heheheeeeheheeee ... heheee. Heh. Excellent idea. Hey Mike! Have a drink! (Actually, it doesn't cause madness, but some of these folks seem to have that already taken care of.)

From: "Marc" <xxx@xxx.fr> To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: absinthe
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 22:28:28 +0200

Hello Chuck,

If one day you drop by the small town of Auvers-sur-Oise, famous for having inspired many VAN GOGH paintings, visit the only Absinthe museum there, with a fabulous collection of absinthe-related items, advertisements, paraphernalia, and the re-creation of a 19th century pub with all the stuff used for absinthe. You'll even see the absinthe spoon (with holes to allow a lump sugar to melt in the glass with absinth) used in Coppola's DRACULA!

From a French non-alcoholic Web-fan.


From: Kim <xxx@xxx.nl>
Subject: Absinthe and my visit to Czechia
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 18:23:34 +0100 (MET)

Hi, I've recently returned from a trip to Czechia where one of my goals was the quest to investigate absinthe and I thought that I'd share my experience with you. I could only find one brand of Absinthe there and it was called "Absinth" without the "e" and was manufactured by Hills distilleries. This brand was found every where and I suspect it is the only brand available now. However, I don't think that this brand is real absinthe anymore but I only found that out after buying four bottles for my collection. The reason I think this is because it doesn't go cloudy in the slightest when introduced into water, no matter what portion of water is used. In addition, all the people in Czechia that I spoke to that had heard of absinthe thought the manner of drinking it was to put sugar onto a teaspoon and set fire to it, supposedly caramelising the sugar which was then stirred into the drink. No one at all had ever heard of an absinthe spoon, not even in the antique shops, it seems logical to assume that the drink hasn't gone cloudy in water for some time in Czechia and thus there cannot be any quantity of the terpenes present in the drink anymore. It is certainly green and is 70% alchohol, I could send you an image of the bottle if you want.

Looks like my quest for abinsthe will have to be focused on Andora and maybe Portugal now, but I think that I will first E-mail a few people and find out whether the drink goes cloudy in water.

Have you heard anyone else with similar conclusions about absinthe in Czechia? Your trip was in 1996, about one year ago, so I suspect that the absinthe you drank at the globe coffee house was likely the same that I sampled. I was also in Czechia in '92, but unfortunately was not aware of the absinthe connection back then so never investigated it.

PS. Where did you get to that night instead of the hostel? ;-)

- Cheers Kim

(I'm not telling that story.)

(Czech absinthe, by the way, is pretty terrible, and since when is the Czech Republic called "Czechia"?)

Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 02:19:57 -0800 (PST)
From: Paulo <xxx@xxx.pt>
Subject: Portuguese Absinth
To: Chuck Taggart

In PORTUGAL, we have very good cheap Absinth.
It's our very own famous and popular Porto made home drink.
Do you want know price about Absinth???
The Spice Girls love Portuguese Absinth.
Um abrão destes bebados...!!
Don't forget the Portuguese Absinth!!!!
Spain SUCKS!!
And the Checz Rep. unfairly eliminated Portugal from the European
Cup...That Mother Poborsky Fucker.

(Um ... right.)

From: Goncalo <x@xxx.pt>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe in Portugal

Hi Chuck,

I've just read your homepage about absinthe and found it very informative and interesting.

I'm just sending this message to let you know that absinthe is also legally available in Portugal (right next to Spain :-) ), both in bars and shops (under the denomination "absinto"). I've bought a bottle recently, in Lisbon, in a shop in Avenida de Roma, for about $12. Thought this information might interest any absinth-tourists!



(There's gonna be "absinth-tourism" now? That seems to be an awful lot of trouble just to get a drink. Thanks for the kind words about my article, Goncalo.)

Date: Fri, 04 Dec 1998 11:51:39 +0100
From: Anne <xxx@xxx.dk>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: I know where you can buy Absinth

Dear Chuck,
I know where you can get the famous and very much wanted "green Devil"
Absinth, in Denmark, off cause - and here it is NOT illegal...
But you can only get it one place and it is called "KRUT'S KARPORT".
It is a small nice café/bar placed in Copenhagen and you ought to visit
it sometime if you come to Denmark.

(Thanks for the tip!)

Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 06:04:05 -0700 (PDT)
From: Not Dina <xxx@xxx.com>
Subject: Famous Absinthe drinkers!
To: Chuck Taggart

Hey chucky!

I saw your site yesterday and it was quite good!

It's been recently reintroduced to the UK as absinth - minus the 'e' (ha ha!) by Hills.

Anyway here's the famous people stuff:

Ernest Hemingway - macho writer who ended up shooting
himself. Enjoyed an absinthe or 2 while watching bullfights
in Spain in the 1920s.

Edgar Allan Poe - Poe went one further than Hemingway by
drinking absinthe with brandy, surely not to be
recommended to your mother. He died an early death,
needless to say.

Oscar Wilde:
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they
were. After the second, you see things as they are
not. Finally you see things as they really are, and
that is the most horrible thing in the whole world."

Vincent Van Gogh- Liked absinthe a fair bit. Very mad.
Cut his own ear off. You know the rest.

Edgar Degas - Painted "L'absinthe, which suggested he
know a certain amount about the green stuff.

If you live in the UK here's where you can get a drop of the green stuff:
The Cantaloupe, EC2
The Fridge Bar, SW3
Jerusalem Bar, W1
China White, WC2
Met Bar, WC2
Titanic, W1
Atlantic, W1
Dog Star, SW9


The chick of burning red! Or maybe even green (get it!)

(Another reader named Christine wrote in reply to one of the above assertions: "Edgar Allen Poe avoided all kinds of alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages caused him to become violently ill. He was often assumed to be an alcoholic, due to his often appearing lost or confused and disheveled. It is now believed by many that his early death was the result of rabies, and that the rabies, in it's early stages, caused his disorientation." Well, that's interesting; never heard that one before. Thanks, Christine!)

From: colin <xxx@xxxxxx.xxx.ac.uk>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 09:45:43 +0100

Hi Vicki and Chuck,

During an evening out in Glasgow (Scotland) the other night I dropped into 'Oblimoves', one of the pubs reputedly selling absinthe. It had been suggested by a friend of mine who had been intrigued by the hallucinogenic claims made for the liqueur, and sure enough there it was on the gantry glowing greenly from the back lighting. Our first shock though was probably the price for at £4 ($6) a glass it had taken our breath away before we had even tasted it.

It was poured through sugar dipped in Absinthe but as recommended on the 'official' site (http://www.absinthe.co.uk/) it was first ignited! Perhaps due to its reputedly dangerous side effects (at 70-80% proof it is virtually neat alcohol) or more cynically for the interest it generates, the bar claims to be limited to only being allowed to sell two glasses per person!

Very strong and vaguely aniseed in flavour, I must confess to struggling through the drink, but did not notice any remarkable side effects. My mate who had first mentioned the stuff, said he had bought a bottle and had had three glass after drinking half a bottle of wine, which had given him strange sensations in his scalp, but as far as I'm concerned, by that time he was probably too drunk to know what was happening anyway.



From: Michael
To: <Chuck Taggart>
Subject: Bravo!
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 13:06:37 -0500


Well done on a enjoyable and informative web page.

I am a military member by profession and a bartender on the side.

I frequently get requests for absinthe based drinks - (yes, there are absinthe based cocktails, I can forward them to you FYI if you wish, the ones I have date back at least 50 years) from military personnel that were stationed in Europe.

Needless to say, their requests go unfulfilled.

Also, as a side note, US military personnel stationed overseas are prohibited from drinking absinthe - it is traceable by drug testing.

Again, thank you for the article

Mike V., SSgt, USAF

(Fascinating ... it never occured to me that U.S. service personnel overseas would be prohibited from drinking this stuff -- being that it's a drug, after all -- but it makes perfect sense. Thanks, Mike! By the way, I've posted his absinthe cocktail recipes ... you'll use Herbsaint, Pernod or any other modern "absinthe substitutes" or pastis for these, unless you actually live in an area where the very stuff is legal. And even in that case, most of the drinks call for anywhere from a teaspoon to a jigger of absinthe. Moderation, people ... sheesh. Mike wrote back to say:)
I may have also found a solution to your dilemma concerning people who consistently ask the dreaded question: "Where can I get Absinthe?" -- you can refer them to these pages. If people REALLY feel the need to pay over $50 for a bottle of pretty nasty tasting booze (I did taste it once, and it is pretty nasty stuff - best description would be licorice-flavored antifreeze), they can do this rather than make the homebrew...

http://www.mcs.net/~mikei/absinthe/ or http://seborabsinth.hypermart.net/ or http://www.bohemiabsinthe.com/.

(Mike makes a good point, which I emphasize as well. A great deal of the swill made in the Czech Republic that seems to be readily available in the U.K., is really and truly awful. I've tasted it, and my own assessment was licoricey-minty-flavored turpentine, rather than antifreeze ... but you get the idea. Much of the absinthe made today is nothing like the Pernod Absinthe of old. Some of the Spanish stuff (the two brands I've tasted, anyway) are actually quite good, but you're really wasting your time with Hill's, plus marketing jobs like "Absente" and most of that other crap. If you can't find the real thing, just have a modern-day Pernod or an Herbsaint, and read some Verlaine.)

From: E.
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Well Done.
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1999 14:48:11 PST

Hello Chuck,

I read your email pages regarding absinth, a topic about which you are obviously sick to death of by now. It was a fascinating read.

Although it was not your intention, you have unwittingly produced the most informative site about absinth that exists on the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). Please stick to your convictions and keep it online.

Incidentally, in Spain a drink (please note the singular "a") of absinth is commonly ingested prior to a meal to aid digestion. This seems to be in stark contrast to England and North America, where pubs brag about being able to serve multiple glasses to a single patron, and where a person would intentionally drink it daily for 5 months and then complain about memory loss!

As with anything else, moderation is the key. The goal is to enjoy an interesting and unique-tasting drink, not to chug it until you put yourself on the floor. Unfortunately, absinth's combination of fascinating history and hallucinogenic effect tend to attract those who do EVERYTHING to excess.

It's interesting to note that those who beg you for absinth recipes already have the worst grammar.

Sincerely, E.

(Thanks, E. Can I just repeat one very wise thing you've said? "As with anything else, moderation is the key." Yes, even absinthe can be enjoyed in moderation, a sip here or there, in enjoyment of "an interesting and unique-tasting drink." Unfortunately, there are lots of yahoos out there who have no idea what moderation is all about. Fortunately, the worst of them have a tendency to remove themselves from the gene pool...)

From: Jeremy Clarke <jclarke@*****.co.uk>
To: Chuck Taggart <Chuck Taggart>
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2000 14:18:37 +0100
Subject: Absinthe correspondence


I have to say that the e-mail correspondence surrounding your website has been most stimulating, a touch entertaining and a not a little bit scary.

I'm writing from the UK where, as you correctly purport, Absinthe is completely legal and available in pubs and bars. It strikes me that many if not all of your disturbing correspondence comes from American visitors to your site and I think this raises some interesting points about the legality of stimulants.

I have drunk absinthe in bars here, as I have drunk vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, beer, etc... It has been served in the Czech style (caramelized sugar) or the French style or simply straight up. I have enjoyed it in a convivial atmosphere among friends enjoying a night out. It does provide a different experience but in no different a manner than champagne provides a different experience than spirits do and than beer does.

Ultimately, though, it is served without fuss as just another spirit, and because it is readily available the approach to drinking it is generally mature and civilized.

What strikes me about the mails you receive is an astounding lack of maturity and intelligence in some of your readership. HOME MADE ABSINTHE!! DRINKING WORMWOOD OIL!!!!! For heaven's sake, what is going on here! On a day to day basis we consume tiny portions of ingredients that on a larger scale would be (fatally) poisonous. Maybe drinking a liter of household bleach would make my teeth whiter than if I just brushed them with toothpaste! Maybe I could make my own Viagra; after all what do healthcare companies' R&D and years of testing prove?!?!

Really, what is this incessant desire to find an intoxicating stimulant from that which surrounds us? It smacks of smoking banana skins to get high. It's childish and inane, and generally leads to the equivalent of glue-sniffing. Does it really get more pathetic and desperate?

And those responses taking the whole process seriously!!! I really don't think it gets more bizarre. The guy who charted his addiction to his tincture over six months. Hey, let's see what happens to me over time when I drink a small cocktail of poisons I have thrown together. Duh, hu-hu-hu-huh! It's not absinthe you created. Did this guy think he was Timothy Leary and about to open windows to the world's collective minds with this amazing new discovery. And the guy that wanted to know, "You also mention that people use this oil to flavor their vodka overseas. How much do they use? Obviously not 10ml, but how much is too much?". Please, I don't get it! Absinthe is readily available in a great number of countries around the world... WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE TRYING TO ACHIEVE?!!?!

Now here's a thing. Maybe, just maybe, it was a sensational article written extolling tales of unparalleled stimulation thrown in with an exciting adrenal rush of renal failure and possible insanity. Could well be. However, if such an article were written I am sure it would refer to the facts illustrating phenomenal figures of insanity, etc., etc. in those countries where Absinthe is available. Hmmm...

Nevertheless this all happened a few years ago. All these people are probably dead by now.

Thank the Internet


(Thanks Jeremy ... another voice of reason. And an articulate and passionate one, at that. He makes an interesting point here -- that the abuse of aromatherapy oils and the making of horrible bathtub absinthe by steeping wormwood in vodka seems to be particular to America, where absinthe is banned, rather than in Europe, where in many countries it's now legal and routine.)

From: christopher <xxx@xxx.ac.uk>
To: <Chuck Taggart>
Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 21:43:11 +0100

Dear Chuck,
thank you for your informative article on absinthe, and
no i'm not going to ask you where to buy from. In fact, i've drunk it in
Spain, as you point out, where it is legal, however it goes under the name
absenta, hardly a difference, and its only 50% strong. I've seen at least
three different varities available, of which i've, perhaps, unwisely
consumed the better part of two bottles. I do believe that it is
particuarly dangerous, and getting drunk on it produces very different
reactions than if one drinks beer or spirits.


From: Ted B. <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 15:06:02 -0600

I was very disturbed to read about the incident with the essence of
wormwood consumption. This is why a little information in the hands of the
inept is a dangerous thing. Being a chemist, I have had the opportunity to
experience real absinthe which was distilled properly from the proper ratio
of essential herbs, etc. There is much more to it than wormwood, but
rather a combination of essential herbs which have opposite effects, rather
like an herbal 'speedball'. This is what absinthe really is. Not some
jerks steeping wormwood in Vodka....how pitiful. The truth is none of
these people is capable of properly constructing absinthe, in that it takes
a knowledge and skill comparable to the construction of fine champagne.
They will only hurt themselves trying. A pitiful situation. I appreciate
the candor and reality voiced so well in your website in light of this sad


Ted B.

(Thanks Ted ... a voice of reason!)

From: xxx@xxx.net To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 10:00:17 +600
Subject: some friendly advice

Hi Chuck,

I am a graduate student in environmental toxicology and therefore know the effects alkaloid poisons like thujone can have upon the parasympathetic nervous system, so I say that any imbecile who choses to try more than a few sips of absinthe deserves to have his brains scrambled. I've always intended to try just a few sips of absinthe the next time I'm in Europe, just to make a connection to Voltaire, an occasional imbiber. I would do this for the same reason I had a drink in the Algonquin Hotel bar in NYC: to make a connection to Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker, although I would never become inebriated as those two used to become, likewise I would never drink enough absinthe to even feel a slight affect (but I digress).

I have found that, even among my friends who have tried absinthe, there is a common misconception that absinthe contains laudanum (a mixture of opium and alcohol). Absinthe contains no opium (I know you knew that, but some of your paintchip-eating readers [and even some of the smart readers] might be misinformed. Also, you mentioned possibly removing this page from your site. I suggest you do so. I was writing a field guide to wild medicinal plants of North America, and before I sent it in to be published, I had a lawyer friend read the manuscript. His advice was to burn it before I sent it to a publisher, and thus avoid a lawsuit. I may publish it pseudonymously, if a publisher will even touch it. It is sad that our society has become so litigious, but that's the '90s.



(Thanks for the advice, M. However, I think I'll keep the page; God knows I've disclaimed it enough. I understand how you feel about burning the manuscript, though. It can get really scary out here.)
Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 20:02:16 -0400
From: Nick <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe

You may not know where to get it, but you may know how to make it. Have you

read up on Dicks Distilled Recipe? If you have or maybe if you know, you may

be able to answer a few questions for me.

1- Is Brandy a worthwhile alcoholic ingredient to use? And

2- When distilling, is it alright if the following is used:

substance in container is heated up over a burner. Substance is
sealed in the container (FLASK) with a stopper. There is a hole
in the stopper just big enough for a glass rode to fit in and allow
gas to escape. Since rode is curved, condensation occurs as
distillate is collected at other end.

I hope you could answer these questions and look forward to your response.

(Here's how you do it, dude ... take some nitric acid, some glycerine, put it in a glass bottle, shake it up, and throw it on the ground REALLY HARD! Oh wait, you want to make absinthe, not nitroglycerine. Never mind.)

From: Andy <andy@xxx.net>
To: <Chuck Taggart>
Subject: Keep the Absinthe web page
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 16:29:52 +0100


I've just read your article on Absinthe, and further read with interest that you receive a lot of irritating emails, asking for details on where it can be obtained. You suggest that you may withdraw your page to avoid such unwanted interest. If you can, please keep this page running, as I (surely like many others) have found it to be hugely informative. Until, the other night I had never encountered Absinthe before and assumed it to be just another Pernod type drink. If I could have encountered your web page before consuming some of the stuff, I would have hopefully chosen to avoid drinking it (especially on top of other alcohol), and saved my self two days of being very ill, and avoided several aggressive and unpleasant situations.

Regards, A.

(Sorry to hear you were ill, Andy. I hope you've at least got good stories to tell from the experience.)
From: xxx@webtv.ne.jp (Matt)
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 03:05:32 +0900 (JST)
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: ;legal in japan too

absinthe, that is. drunk on it right now as a matter of fact.

(How nice for you. Maybe there's an AA meeting you can go to.)

From: ______@aol.com
Date: Tue, 6 Oct 1998 23:40:27 EDT
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: absinthe-please read

hi i know you dont want people to email you about absinthe... but i just want
to know why you do not recommend making the recipes for absinthe which are in
the faq. I was gonna try to make it, but now i am questioning whether i
should do it or not... please tell me why you dont want people to make it

Thank You... Sorry about The Email.

(Uh, what part of "neurotoxin", "harmful", "insanity" and "kidney failure" did you not understand, dude? Leave the wormwood oil alone.)

From: ______@aol.com Date: Thu, 8 Oct 1998 20:03:59 EDT
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Re: absinthe-please read

In a message dated 98-10-08 02:18:54 EDT, you write:

<<Why do I not recommend it? Because the last guy who wrote to me saying he
<<made absinthe himself and drank it every day ended up with memory loss so
<<bad that he cannot remember the names of his classmates anymore, for

I just like to say that i do not want to do it constantly. I am a safe drug-
user (how's that for an oxy-moron) well i am as safe as they get. I actually
only want to try absinthe once... because i have heard alot about it and i
like to experience things. I am not one of those people who says they want to
try things once and then gets hooked on the drug. I have tested other drugs
but do not use them constantly. Also i am not addicted to anything. So do u
still think that making absinthe and trying it out 1 time, just for experience
will hurt me?
Please reply.

(Some people just seem determined to remove themselves from the gene pool. It's probably just as well. How many dozens of times do I have to say it? Absinthe is not a drug, and wormwood oil is poisonous.)

Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 12:42:05 -0700
From: Fur Man <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe

I first heard about absinthe in the magazine WIRED. I had heard the word, but had not fully understood what it was. So I looked into it. I learned a lot about the stuff on-line, since it is en vogue these days. What I originally did was make a very cheap version of it. I would soak 2 or so ounces of wormwood in alcohol and angostura bitters. I would add one ounce of oil of anise and wait 5 days.. Presto! El cheapo absinthe.

Well, I learned a thing or two about the drink in the following 6 months. One is that the quality of the wormwood is important.

I began brewing in September, and in the fall, the quality of wormwood is superior (in my area). I was getting wildcrafted wormwood grown in the wild in Eastern Oregon. Well, I was spoiled. Because after New Year, all I could find was commercial wormwood, which was lacking aroma, bitterness, and was full of filler and of questionable quality. The freshness and quality seem to be important. Well, with the quality wormwood, I was able to make a brew that really gave me a desirable effect. One shot was enough to wake me up, and provided 2 hours of vivid imagination and a euphoric stimulation.

I have heard it compared to solvents in its subjective effects. Well, I can see what they were getting at, but its not as harsh and brutal as solvents. You get a lightheaded feeling similar to being around gas fumes too long, but it in no way feels like a solvent high (if you would actually call it that!). I felt very creative and invigorated, but at the same time intoxicated. Vision was slightly distorted (more noticeable in darkness). There was a euphoria and stimulation that had a very unique feel. And this was all due to the absinthe, since the amount of alcohol consumed was under one ounce.

I grew very fond of this drink and next thing I knew I was drinking my disgusting concoction daily. If it was brewing, I drank tincture of wormwood at half a bottle at a time. There was a definite tolerance present. During this time I noticed no harmful effects. Not even a hangover. Soon, I realized it was time to make the real recipe to the best of my ability. So I did some research, and here's what resulted (note:I was curious of its reputation as a hallucinogen despite any such effects on me. I researched original ingredients, and theorized that many of the other herbs added might have produced them. I suspected the oils of Dill, and Anise and Fennel, all with precursor chemicals to heavy duty hallucinogen/stimulants. Also calamus is purported to have been in the original brew, so I added that too).

[Amounts and instructions deleted.]

wormwood powder
crushed anise seed
store bought oil of anise seed
dill (for precursor oils)
Parsley (for essential oils)
calamus (gave me terrible nausea following day, but calamus in high doses always does that to me)
One 750ml bottle of Clear Spring 190 (dilute before drinking!!)

It is Very Bitter, so beware. And do not drink if you are prone to seizures, or addiction.

This is my next point. I drank some form of wormwood daily for 6 months, maybe missing a total of 2 weeks. I didn't have physical cravings, or severe mental cravings. I just enjoyed it, and it was available. But it got to the point of habit. If I didn't have it, it was OK, but I always would drink it next chance. I didn't really notice any side effects until about 5 months.

I am currently in college, so I was able to detect changes in my mental ability. After 5 or so months I was becoming absent minded (absinthe minded!!). I was forgetting details. Soon I decided to stop drinking it. Actually what prompted me to stop was a bad batch. I used too much calamus, which made me more intoxicated. But the following day I was dizzy and nauseated, and my room smelled of calamus, which made me even more sick. It was a bad batch, but one that I took much time to brew. Frustrated, I put it In the closet, and only recently did I throw out the dried mixture.

I am now realizing the long term effects on my brain. I feel my memory is fading, and I trace it back to the absinthe days. I am forgetting people and events. Like a social function that I attended recently, or a old school mate who I was good friends with. During this time I used NO other drugs besides Cylert (which is supposed to improve memory!). I used no marijuana (Never use it anymore anyway). Nothing, except absinthe. So I blame absinthe for my memory problems. Its just starting to manifest, and I'll keep y'all informed (if I can remember!).

(Oy vey.)

From: "Joe ___" <xxx@hotmail.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 18:59:17 CST

i went to your web site
i agree with you that the majority
of          the  people
r i g h t    to you
are dumbshits,           but if      they are
not satisfied         liqour & smoke
fuckem',       let them find out                fo them
s e l v e s          I  U S E     ABSINTHE   ON
A REGULAR     B   A   S   I   S
i now  see  the world for         what it really is
if they          think they can handle it
you and i      both     know      they     can not
they'll freak out, if thats    what they want
give em' links        let them become "experienced"
they'll   be too      scared   to do it    ag a i n
have        fun       C H U C K,
                            J      o       e
"Um ... right. The key words here are, I believe, "I USE ABSINTHE ON A REGULAR BASIS." This letter speaks for itself. The formatting was left intact, as I received it, by the way."

From: "Me" <dopey_star_wars_geekoid_userid@netzero.net>
To: <Chuck Taggart>
Subject: Chuck
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2000 23:03:14 -0400

Just a little informationt hat might help get the druggies off your back. Thujone is found in significant quantaties in various essential oils sold in aramotherapy shops. Just state that in your page, and they'll follow that trail. It's true, gives them a starting point, and stops them from emailing you!


(Typically, he didn't sign his real name. Bad punctuation and spelling. And from a freebie ISP, no less. I replied, "Hey Einstein ... drinking thujone-containing aromatherapy oil is what landed the first guy in the hospital and nearly killed him." He answered almost immediately:)
From: "Me" <dopey_star_wars_geekoid_userid@netzero.net>
To: "Chuck Taggart" <Chuck Taggart>
Subject: Re: Chuck
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2000 23:52:50 -0400

My god, I was trying to help you, and you respond with a wise-crack? I wasn't suggesting that they drink it, but perhaps perform an extraction of sorts.

- Ami

(Persons Unclear on the Concept Department:  That oil is poisonous. The chemical to which you refer, in all but the very miniscule quantities you'd find in expertly-made absinthe, is toxic. "Help" like this I need like I need a hole in the head.)

From: Bob T***e <ragingroost@webbasedemailservice.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: 16 Aug 2001 21:12:04 -0000
Subject: animals

Chuck, I loved the artikle on absinthe. What wante to know is how I can make me some to give to my fighting roosters they go an fight a match. Right I give them a combination of efedrin/caffine and bourbon, but absinthe sounds like it would be even better in my rooster cocktail. All us cockfighters have their own recipe for the prefight booster and I need this for mine.

Thanks for any info or help you could lend.



(Jesus H. Christ. If this guy is for real, he's a fucking sicko. If he's kidding ... he's a genius.)

Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 06:34:17 -0500
To: Chuck Taggart
From: God <fielding@misnet.com>
Subject: ..........

look man, i'm sorry your dad beat you as a kid. but don't be a dick to everyone else because of it. and yes, we all know you're addicted to absinth about as much as your dad was to beating your monkey little ass.

-Jesus, MD

(If he's going to be so chickenshit as to send abusive email without signing his real name to it, then I feel compelled to include his address. It's funny, actually ... this emasculated little twit signs his name both as "God" and "Jesus" to make up for it, and pretty much the only other non-absinthe-related abusive email I've ever gotten was from a moron who signed his name "Rex Tremendae". I guess that megalomania is a symptom of being a pathetic, anonymous email flamer.)

Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 18:28:17 -0700
From: Casey Simpson <casey@4Link.Net>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: hateful email for vicki richman

richman you are so stupid
you write nothing on silly topics
why do you write?
please put your poor poor brain to rest
i feel the need to tell you this
maybe you'll listen

-Casey Simpson

(It's a shame what happens when crack-smoking cousins intermarry, isn't it? Hey Casey ... maybe you didn't read this web site's policy page, which says, "If you send me abusive email, I'll probably post it." Oh, and this is my email address, not Vicki's -- I removed her email address from the original article page, so that she wouldn't have to put up with any mail from idiots like you.)

From: "Nigel Plumpton" <n.plumpton@cwcom.net>
To: <Chuck Taggart>
Subject: Hey Chuck!!
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 18:41:30 +0100

Hey Chuck,

Firstly, why produce a web-page all about Absinthe, then waste reams of space slagging it and the people who desire to drink it off??? You sound like you have a mighty large ego, and quite frankly, not that many people are going to give a shit if you get annoyed with folks after details of where to get Absinthe. So just to prove this point, I'm sending this because I know it'll piss you off. So tell me, where do you buy Absinthe? Can I make it if I combine two parts urine, a cow's ear and a chunk of your ego? No? Then tell me how, Oh-Wise-Wanker. You shouldn't dedicate a site to ridiculing people and their wanting to drink something unavailable, and then complain about enquiries to do with the topic of the site. So climb out of your arse, stop ranting about how difficult it is to receive e-mails that annoy you, and get a life. You suck. So does your site. That's all, bye-bye now, watch out for speeding buses.

(I am reminded at the moment of a poem by John Lennon, which I reproduce here without permission, and with apologies to Yoko for not asking:

Good Dog Nigel

Arf, Arf, he goes, a merry sight,
Our little hairy friend,
Arf, Arf, upon the lampost bright
Arfing round the bend.
Nice dog! Goo boy,
Waggie tail and beg,
Clever Nigel, jump for joy
Because we're putting you to sleep at three of the clock, Nigel.
If only.)

From: Mike <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Absinthe oil overdose article
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 15:12:53 PDT

Here's how I feel about it, Chuck: you were describing where
ingredients to make absinthe could be found on the net when you mention
the essential oils website and phone number. Plain and simple, you are
implying that absinthe can be made from this oil. I'm not agreeing with
the dude who drank the pure oil, he was just stupid. But I can see a
lot of people dropping a few drops in their alcoholic drinks to get the
same euphoric effect as absinthe.

By saying, "Aren't you happy with booze and pot" at the end of your
article, I think you're being hippocritical. Obviously I don't know for
sure if you partake in Absinthe, but I'd say that a reasonable person
could assume that you do. My suggestion would be to dance around the
legal stuff without coming across as a fanatic.

You also mention that people use this oil to flavor their vodka
overseas. How much do they use? Obviously not 10 ml, but how much is
too much?

Please respond, I'm interested to hear your true feelings on this...


(My true feelings were 1) my true feelings on absinthe consumption are right there on my site in plain English, 2) and most of the things he referred to in this letter (wormwood oil phone numbers, flavoring vodka, etc.) were NOT even in my article, and 3) if a reasonable person could "assume that I partake" in absinthe from reading the article, then apparently the letter-writer was not a reasonable person. His reply:)

From: Mike <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Re: Absinthe oil overdose article
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 04:51:35 PDT

What an asshole you are. Do you seriously expect me to believe that you
Question: is 3 taking 3 tablespoons of absinthe using absinthe? Answer:

Granted, I mistook another webpage for the one you got in trouble for
with the overdose case. I had been to another page where it mentioned
where to get the oil which people in Germany use to flavor their vodka.
It sounded like you were talking about the same page. Also granted, I
spelled "hypocritical" wrong. I'm deeply sorry on both counts.

The thing I can't get is this: you have a web site on absinthe, so why
are you such an asshole about giving out information about the
consumption of absinthe and the related wormwood oil? Fine, for legal
reasons you can't recommend people drink absinthe or wormwood oil. But
you can at least give the information, then cut it with a warning: "This
is for information purposes only". What are your motives for creating
this webpage in the first place? What did you expect? (What I expect
is this: a similar reply to the one below..."...you're an idiot...I
don't condone this behavior...you're poisoning yourself...I'm just a
history buff, not a druggie...blah...blah...blah...blah". Either that
or no response at all. It seems too much to ask for an intelligent

PS - It seems I didn't read you're absinthe article, so I never read the
rule about not emailing you. Tough shit.

(Gee. Seems he didn't even read my article. Idiot. I dislike being insulted in email, so I wrote him back with "Maybe if you'd bothered reading what I had written, you'd know why, Australopithecus. Do not email me again." His reply:)

From: Mike <xxx@xxx.com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Subject: Re: Absinthe oil overdose article
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 04:39:36 PDT

What kind of an asshole are you? Are you pretending to be intelligent?
I would love to have a conversation with you in person, because I know
that you're some sniveling little geek with a very big dictionary. I
read what you wrote, and IT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE. I think you've been
putting too much of that wormwood oil stuff in your cajun cooking,
butthead. YOU ARE A NON-SENSICAL FOOL! Heh heh, how do you like that?

I heard you guys shit in the gumbo down there, is that true?

(This reply was promptly and cheerfully forwarded to his free email service provider, who cancelled his account that very day. I never heard from him again.

This is why I now no longer reply to any "where can I get absinthe and/or recipes for absinthe" emails. Right into the trash they go.)

The scariest emails yet.

(I recently received an email from a very nice and very concerned gentleman whose name I will not reveal, for obvious reasons:)

Mr. Taggart, I have been contacted by a number of persons to advise them on the improved refinement of wormwood extracts and (-)-3-isothujone.

I am not soliciting your advice on that topic.

I have a inorganic chemical engineering background and produce firework type devices as a hobby. This is probably why I was contacted, although the connection is tenuous at best. I do not produce, refine or manufacture drugs of any kind, nor do I ever intend to. My question is this: The persons who have contacted me have sent me the details of their current procedures. I can not bring myself to help them in their attempts to increase production of what seems like a very unhealthy substance. However, I feel inclined to advise them that the use of their current procedures could cause them bodily harm during production.

Some of them are using denatured alcohol as a source of ethanol. Denatured alcohol contains between 2%-5% methanol by volume and trace amounts of formaldehyde. This is done intentionally, specifically to inhibit its consumption. The distillation of alcohol and turpentine they are using is being performed in some wildly unsafe manners (open flames, no fume hoods). Also, the re-use of equipment while attempting to refine wormwood, while possibly removing undesired liquid solvents, is not removing solid solute as their extracts are re-introduced to the distilling vessel. Toxic substances (other than thujone) such as KNO3 (potassium nitrate) and NaNO3 (sodium nitrate) are being re-absorbed into their liquid extracts. Lastly, one of them has introduced HNO3 (nitric acid) as a kind of regent in purifying his product. The use of nitric acid is extremely hazardous under any circumstance.

I will not assist them in producing a more potent wormwood oil extract. I do however feel compelled to advise them on the elimination or alteration of the more dangerous procedures of which they are undertaking. My fear is, that in assisting them in any way will cause me to be liable in some small way for the inevitable outcome of absinthe consumption (madness, toxic buildup and death). After reading your postings on the subject, it seems to me that you have had some experience in these areas. I would value your input as to the possible consequences of my assistance. Thank you for your time.

(Good God. This letter scared the crap out of me, and made me grateful that I wasn't the one getting letters like the gentleman described. I wrote him back and said,

"You actually have to ask for advice as to whether or not you should stay far far away from these self-destructive idiots? Sheesh.

"Leave these people to their own foolishness. If they're this determined to remove themselves from the gene pool via misuse of chemicals, you're not going to be able to stop them. Just because someone emails you does NOT mean that you are obligated in any way to email them back. If you're worried, tell them that they're crazy and they're going to injure themselves, and you'll be absolved of any responsibility."

In his reply, he said:)

Thank you for your prompt reply. I am sorry to have disturbed you unnecessarily. You are right of course, and I only mailed you because you were referred to in one of these persons' e-mails.
(Um ... what?

I immediately wrote back and asked if he would be so kind as to forward the email from this wingnut in which I was allegedly mentioned, and that if he felt uncomfortable doing so he could remove the sender's name and email address. The reply arrived the next day:)

I'm sure you're not going to enjoy reading what I was sent. My comments follow the copy of the message below.

>Listen, I heard you was the explosivs guru,  byut i have this problem with this 
>drink people used to make int the 1700s  >from all kinds of natural stuff they found 
>in there gardins and stuff.  Its calld abs inthe . Its made from the boiled up 
>wormwood plant and I have  to try it. Would you mind telling me how to boil up 
>wormwood to  get the good stuf out of it.? Theres this guy who does a page  about 
>drugs and food and stuff and he's like a total addct. maybe  if you dont know 
>how already you couldc go read his instructions on  yhow to make it. I';; thry 
>to print the www stuff at the bottom of the  page so you can chek it out. and this guys 
>"mail to cris tagart" is  on his page. He wont talk to me because he got in troble for 
>poisoning  this guy and he dosnt help anyone anymore with making the stuff. But if  you 
>go over his web page you could figur out anything you dont alredy  know. Let me know if 
>you chage a fee for this stuff k? Thank you  so so much and reply asap rsvp k?
This is typical of the type of requests I have been receiving. This particular child asked no specific questions and did not send me a list of his current procedures, but otherwise a typical request.

This person is obviously either twelve years old, high on some other drug, or the recipient of a partial lobotomy.

I have offered, in the past, hands-on chemistry lessons to the public. I wrote an article about the chemistry of fireworks, rockets, and military ordinance. It's a hobby, I enjoy it, that's all! By some cruel twist of fate, my name gets posted in relation to assisting with all sorts of unsavory activities. I'm am sure you can relate to my predicament.

I have been contacted to assist numerous adolescent morons in exacting vengeance on the class bully, blowing up schools, blowing up houses, making car bombs and was once contacted by the Michigan militia. If you think you're upset by your infamy... well, I've been there.

I am used to dealing with requests of this type. The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) contacted me, investigated me, and then asked that I forward mail of that type to them. There are other procedures which I follow, and it no longer upsets me as much.

Now, I have been faced with a new breed of requests. "How do I make LSD in my home?" "I heard that THC can be made synthetically?" "When I try to distill wormwood to make absinthe..."

I have read your pages on absinthe. I am certain you are also of sound mind and reasonable maturity. I do not believe you have assisted others in producing drugs. Therefore, I have no idea what this person was thinking when he dropped your name. You asked to see what I received, I knew you wouldn't enjoy it, but here we are.

If the tone of this mail sounds angry or upset, I am sorry. I was very agitated while writing this, not at yourself, but after re-reading this person's message and others, I cannot help but feel affected in some way.

I look forward to your response.

(If I may borrow a quaint Yankee oath from a Stephen King novel ...Jesus H. jumped-up Christ in a chariot-driven sidecar.

I can't imagine what this guy is going through. I tried to avoid thinking that if one's hobby is fireworks and ordnance, one might just be a bright, flickering flame to draw in all the wingnuts ... but this guy didn't ask for any of this. Nor did I ask to be the focus of people who seem to be bent on hurting themselves and possibly others by making some bathtub swill without knowing what they're doing. I still must admit a fascination with the history of absinthe, particularly given its history in my hometown, the art and lore associated with it, and that I enjoy an Herbsaint or Pernod now and again, and yes, even an absinthe or three from Europe. However, I want nothing to do with the kind of people that my correspondent got email from.

All this crap from one little harmless article. No good deed goes unpunished.)

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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)