Absinthe - the highly potent bright green spirit which took 19th century Paris by storm, is contrary to popular belief, legally available in most of Europe, although producing the drink, with a few exceptions, is still strictly banned. But one place where you can make Absinthe without going to jail is the Czech Republic. Absinthe has flowed freely in Prague for decades, and more and more foreign tourists are coming to the city to try it, a trade which has been dubbed "Absinthe tourism." By Nicole Klement
In a bar in Prague's Zizkov district Absinthe shots goes round. A spoonful of sugar is dipped in the spirit and set alight, the melted sugar is poured back in the glass, swirled around, and then thrown deep into the throat. AHHH. And then the singing begins...
The drink originated in the mid 1800s in France, and was intended as a medicine for the treatment and prevention of malaria and dysentery. The bourgeoisie, however, quickly developed a liking for the "green fairy" as it was called, and by WW1 it was banned in France because it was supposedly corrupting the middle classes. Radio Prague's Nicole Klement spoke to Karel Horak, export manager for Absinthe producer Frukto Schultz.
"It has a typical flavour of herbs and a slightly bitter taste which is enhanced by adding mint and aniseed. The recipe is strictly a secret and Absinthe producer protects its recipe as a treasure."
And what exactly is the alcohol content in Absinthe?
"Alcohol content is between 60 and 85 percent. So it could be very very strong. "
It has been said that Absinthe can be a hallucinogenic - could you explain that?
"Absinthe could have the effect of a drug but only the Absinthe made in the 18th or 19th century. Thujone which is the extract from Wormwood and is like a drug is contained in the alcohol at a concentration of 100mg/kg but at the present time and because of European Economic community country regulations the level is set at 10mg/kg. So at the present time Absinthe is not dangerous for consumers."
You are saying that people who drink Absinthe in the Czech Republic won't hallucinate?
"From our Absinthe it is not possible to feel drug like consequences."
That was radio Prague's Nicole Klement speaking to Karel Horak export Manager at Absinthe makers about the highly potent drink that helped ruined the lives of Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh and many more tortured young souls.