The Green Fairy

Albert Maignan La Muse Verde, 1895

Swallows dive, dip and dart back into the misty-blue evening sky, dive again and sail over the juicy green grass. A nightingale practices her tune, loud and distinct over the lonely blackbird’s melody. The starling sustains one shrill, bending tone. Black cherry trees drench the air with their sweet fruity scent. Dandelions gone to seed, silky-yellow buttercups and the blood-magenta clover blossoms wave in the breeze. Blades of grass stand spear-straight in between the dark yarrow plants that hang their heads under the weight of their flower buds. How many shades of green can one count in a wildflower meadow? 

Pale-yet-succulent young leaves of the hydrangea, green-black growth of the ivy, contrast against the misty-grey green of the wormwood bush. And anther wormwood bush. And another. What am I going to do with all this wormwood? Pull it out like a pesky weed? 

Wormwood, the great star that fell from the heavens, Artemisia absinthium. Bitter, acidic wormwood plants deter insects. They prefer a dry, sunny spot and happily multiply. When consumed, they gladly engage the human body in all sorts of purging and healing processes. Their notorious active ingredient is thujone and is most unpopular with the American authorities. Banned in 1912, a popular drink containing this extract from the wormwood plant threatens to make a come-back. Absinthe.

The Absinthe sold in stores today is usually an anise-flavored distilled spirit, much like anisette but stronger, 150 proof. A thujone level of 10% is allowed. But why all this fuss about thujone? Isn’t it found in sage, too? Well, it earned its notoriety in the 19th century, rumored to have psychoactive effects, heightening clarity as well as sexual appetites. Some would say you could go mad and hallucinate. Or just end up very drunk.

My science project--Absolute vodka, wormwood and anis and fennel, melissa, peppermint, maybe some yarrow and sugar all dumped into my ceramic rum pot, covered and left to stand in a cool corner for a week or so. Let those green fairies fly!

(By the way, the online community of Absinthe fans in enormous. Just click here Absinthe and you'll come up with an overwhelming number of informative blogs and web sites.)


  1. Let us know how your concoction turns out. If it is as good as you describe, please share the recipe!

  2. I got everything here now. I thought I would start with Absolute, so even if we have to suffer, we'll grin and bear it. Can you get wormwood plants at the nursery?

  3. I'm not sure I could find them locally, but I can buy them online. One website said that the entire plant is poisonous. You're right--there's lots of information about wormwood and absinthe, and many of the websites contradict each other. Of interest is how expensive the commercially distilled absinthe is--and how it is legally shipped all over the world? Someone is making a lot of money.