Absinthe is Legal Again - 11 Things You Need to Know

rez-art/iStock via Getty Images
rez-art/iStock via Getty Images

1. The anise-flavored spirit derived from the herb Artemisia absinthium, also called wormwood, was first distilled in Switzerland but didn't become popular until the French got hold of it in the 19th century, when it was thought to be wonderfully hallucinogenic.
2. Wormwood, as with most every other kind of herb, was first used by the ancient Egyptians as a remedy for certain ailments (then the Greeks, then the Romans - what else is new?).
3. But it took the French, in the mid 1800s to really make it popular by giving it to army troops as a malaria treatment.
4. Soon, there wasn't a café in Paris that wasn't serving it up. According to Wiki: "By 1910 the French were consuming 36 million liters of absinthe per year, more than they drank wine."
5. According to Wired.com, German scientists have recently discovered that there wasn't really anything hallucinogenic in absinthe, but at the time, absinthe addiction was blamed for everything from causing people to become delusional and insane, to provoking epilepsy and tuberculosis.
6. For these reasons, absinthe was banned in Switzerland in 1907 and the new law was penned into the Swiss constitution.

7. Other countries followed, including the U.S. in 1912 (and France in 1915).
8. But as all things historical are also cyclical, and so absinthe made a comeback in Europe in the 1990s. Now it's back and legal in many states in the U.S. In May 2007, Viridian Spirits launched Lucid Absinthe Supérieure, the first absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood available in the U. S. in 95 years.
9. The historic reversal was the result of extensive negotiations between Viridian and the U.S. government, ultimately lifting the ban.
10. Lucid is distilled at the Combier Distillery in Saumur, France, in original antique copper absinthe stills designed by Gustav Eiffel in the 19th century and sells for around $59.99 for a 750 ML bottle.
11. It's currently legal in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Anyone tried Lucid? Give us a full report in the comments below. And if you've tried any of the other brands, legal or otherwise, we'd love to know about those, too.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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A Brief History of the Mint Julep

Mint juleps began as medicine.
Mint juleps began as medicine.
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The mint julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby—but the cocktail's history dates to back long before the famous event was even conceptualized.

The Ancient (and Medicinal) Origins of the Julep

According to David Wondrich's cocktail history book Imbibe!, the first known record of a julep is from the Kitab al-Mansuri, a Persian medical text dated to around 900 CE. However, the julep that the author included in the Kitab al-Mansuri looked much different than the modern favorite (it was also written as julāb). It was a medicinal drink made by soaking violets with sugar in water. "Julep" pops up in the historical record again in the 1400s when the book was translated into Latin.

The drink was used almost strictly as medicine for centuries. It migrated across the Atlantic with early European settlers making their way to America, along with an herb prized for its medicinal qualities: mint.

Why the Mint Julep is a Spring and Summer Drink

Around the time the julep hit the U.S., things changed a bit. In the 18th century, people started drinking it recreationally as well as medicinally, but we wouldn’t recognize those tipples as a modern julep.

First off, they would have been made with whatever spirit was locally available. Before the Civil War, Southern juleps were likely made with fruit brandy. In Maryland, the julep was (and still is) made with rye whiskey. Elsewhere, it would have been made with rum or rye or moonshine or pretty much any available booze. The drink would be sweetened with honey, sorghum syrup, or any other available sweetener.

And since mint wasn’t available year-round—it’s a perennial plant that grows near water, and, according to The Kitchn, pops up first thing in the spring—the mint julep would have been a seasonal drink, best enjoyed in the spring and summer.

Kentucky Senator Henry Clay: Inventor of the Mint Julep

A portrait of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay
Henry Clay: American statesman, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and inventor of the mint julep
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As the story goes, bourbon’s role as the go-to base for the julep was cemented by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. Clay is famous for a number of things, such as brokering the “corrupt bargain” that secured the 1824 presidential election for John Quincy Adams. The Kentucky senator also mixed his mint juleps with his state’s native spirit, and he is credited as the bourbon mint julep's founding father.

Clay’s love of the julep is well-documented. He likely introduced the drink to the famed Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. around the time it opened in 1847. Clay's journals indicate that he made his juleps with “mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels.”

Henry Clay’s Mint Julep Recipe

As collected by the University of Kentucky Press, Clay's mint julep recipe from his diary is as follows:

"The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice.

In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with the choicest sprigs of mint."

Or, in modern terms:

Handful of mint leaves
1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces bourbon
Crushed ice

Lightly press (don’t smush!) the mint leaves against the inside of a silver julep cup so that you can smell the mint. Add the simple syrup. Fill the glass halfway with cracked ice, and pour the bourbon over the ice. Stir until the glass starts to frost over. Add more ice and stir again. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a short straw.

Why do people drink mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby?

A photo of a person holding a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby
The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since the 1930s.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Churchill Downs

Mint juleps have been served at Churchill Downs—the home of the Kentucky Derby—since the track was built in 1875 (legend has it that mint was even planted at the track for juleps). But the mint julep didn’t become the official drink of the Derby until the 1930s. Sarah Brown Meehan, director of lifestyle communications at Churchill Downs, told Good Morning America that "we know that juleps were a big part of the event by Prohibition because the press at the time lamented the Kentucky Derby without its favorite drink."

After Prohibition was repealed, master bourbon distiller Chris Morris told GMA, making juleps the official drink of the Derby “simply recognized the fact that Kentuckians had been enjoying mint juleps while attending horse races since the early 19th century, if not earlier."