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9 strange brews from around the world

By: Josh Lew on Nov. 4, 2014, 10:48 a.m.
Absinthe

Photo: Michael Korcuska/flickr

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Absinthe

Absinthe is famous for being outlawed until recently in many countries because its ingredients were thought to induce hallucinations. The ill effects of absinthe were attributed to the chemical compound thujone, which can affect the central nervous system in high doses. Recent studies have shown that, even in the past, absinthe contained only trace amounts of the chemical. A drinker would suffer from alcohol poisoning well before he or she felt any noticeable influence from the thujone. The health problems attributed to the drink were most likely caused by its extremely high alcohol content (between 90 and 150 proof, or 45 percent to 75 percent alcohol by volume).

In the past few decades, bans on the spirit have been lifted in most countries, though limits still dictate thujone content. Like other anise-flavored drinks, absinthe is translucent in the bottle but becomes cloudy when combined with water. This is usually done by perching a sugar cube atop a special flat spoon placed across the glass, then slowly dripping water over the cube. Some people say that this ritual is one of the most attractive aspects of drinking absinthe.