Absinthe has an eventful history, as a green, bitter drink made of medicinal and culinary herbs steeped in high-proof spirits. It quickly gained notoriety across Europe as an intoxicant that dulled mind-altering effects; many Bohemian artists and intellectuals of its time turned to absinthe for mental stimulation; it even caused many countries to ban its sale – today, its use remains controversial.
Absinthe is an overproof spirit containing an assortment of medicinal and culinary herbs, spices, and plants; most notably Artemisia absinthium or “wormwood,” known for its hallucinogenic effects. Because the herb’s volatile oils such as those produced by wormwood and fennel are insoluble with water, absinthe needs to be diluted so it’s drinkable; when water is added the oils release themselves and make the spirit milky translucent as part of a process called “louche”.
The louche effect can also serve as an indicator of quality; higher-grade absinthes produce a more pronounced louche than lesser ones. Furthermore, absinthe-water mixtures can be mixed with other ingredients to lessen bitterness or accent herbal notes – lemon is popular with European absinthe drinkers for this purpose, while adding sugar may help ease bitterness further while adding ice can reduce alcohol burn and make drinking absinthe more drinkable; many absinthe enthusiasts however prefer sipping directly through their pipeta while sip-through!