Absinth(e) (in the UK is spelt with an e) has one of the most mythical histories of any alcoholic drink. It was actually banned on a number of occasions due to the results of peoples reactions to it. The hallucinogenic properties of it are fabled and well documented as well as it being used by many artists and writers for inspiration.
Here I intend to review a number of books available on it's history and usage.
Absinthe: History in a Bottle by Barnaby Conrad
Absinthe: Sip of Seduction - A Contemporary Guide by Betina Wittels & Robert Hermesch
Absinthe - The Cocaine of the Nineteenth Century: A History of the Hallucinogenic Drug and Its Effect on Artists and Writers in Europe and the United States - by Doris Lanier
This work provides a history of "the green fairy", a study of its use and abuse, an exploration of the tremendous social problems (not unlike the cocaine problems of this century) it caused, and an examination of the extent to which the lives of talented young writers and artists of the period became caught up in the absinthe craze.
Absinthe produced a sense of euphoria and a heightening of the senses, similar to the effect of cocaine and opium, but was addictive and caused a rapid loss of mental and physical faculties. Despite that, Picasso, Manet, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Degas and Wilde were among those devoted to its consumption and produced writings and art influenced by the drink.
There are still many debates as to whether Absinthe was a Hallucinogen and this book does tend to take it as fact that the 19th century process of making it ensured that it actually was an hallucigen. This book is more aimed at the reader of social history than the more casual reader
The Dedalus Book of Absinthe by Phil Baker
This well-researched history of Absinthe is an absolute joy to read. It chronicles the devotion, effect, and, in some cases, destruction experienced through this drink by not only the masses but influential writers and artists such as Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Baudelaire, Ernest Dowson, Verlaine & Rimbaud, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, et al. Also contains handy reviews of currently obtainable brands of the drink. Highly recommended!
Hideous Absinthe: A History of the "Devil in a Bottle" by Jad Adams
Jad Adams looks at the myths of absinthe and examines its influence on the artistic movements of the nineteenth century. He considers the work of Degas, Manet, and Picasso, who painted what are now considered masterpieces depicting absinthe drinkers. He examines the mystery of van Gogh’s absinthe addiction and asks whether absinthe truly did contribute to the poetic vision of Verlaine, Rimbaud, and other writers.
Adams looks back at absinthe’s contribution to the hedonistic culture of the French Second Empire and to Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris of the 1890s and details the outraged English reaction to absinthe in the context of resistance to French art. Absinthe was seen as a foreign poison undermining the national resolve just as the decadence of Oscar Wilde and his circle was seen to undermine national culture.
The story continues through thrill-seeking American and English absinthe drinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.