Lend me your ear: Van Gogh's absinthe now available in U.S.

The liquor absinthe, long illegal in the U.S., once provided inspiration to legendary artists and writers including Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway. Its overconsumption was also thought to lead to madness, the reason for its ban. Fortunately, for those curious about these claims, the drink is again available in the U.S.

Absinthe was often referred to as "the green fairy" because it was believed to cause hallucinations, attributed to one of the key ingredients, wormwood. This bitter flavoring added the chemical thujone which, because it resembles the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was blamed/credited for the drink's extraordinary effects.

However, recent studies have shown that thujone does not have any psychoactive effects. The madness and other dire consequences once attributed to the wormwood in absinthe are now thought to have been symptoms of plain old alcoholism.

Now, two American firms have begun distilling and selling absinthe in this country, and foreign brands are making their way onto U.S. shelves. If you're interested in giving the green fairy a try, be prepared to spend a goodly sum (the American brand Lucid runs about $60, while imported Verte Suisse sells for $170 or so a bottle,) certainly far more than church-mouse poor Vincent ever spent on his drink of choice.

A caution, though; if you are the kind of person who grows annoyingly amorous when drunk, be careful; it's said absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

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