Absinthe recently returned to America after being banned for nearly a century. But thanks to a restriction on the level of the chemical thujone, there's pretty much no possibility of enjoying the drink's legendary psychedelic properties.
We've tried the bitter-tasting green liquor -- available in U.S. markets courtesy of brands like Pernod, Lucid and Kubler -- and found that while strong (they are typically 128 proof or more), we never felt the thrill that the absinthe-drinking poets and painters of old claim to have experienced. Instead, it just made us conventionally toasted.
This got us thinking. What are some of the most dangerous drinks man has put in his belly? After doing some research, we discovered that downing absinthe, even the original stuff, wasn't close to some of the riskiest libations that people have dared to drink.
Ethanol/Grain Alcohol It is illegal to sell this 190-proof "drink" in California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. Obviously, the liver has lobbyists in those states.
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Moonshine Prohibition caused people to take all sorts of odd steps to get their buzz on. For those who took the Bo and Luke route, a shoddy brew included methanol (a.k.a. wood alcohol) that acts in a few hours and can cause blindness. Perhaps that allowed them to not realize they were making out with cousin Daisy.
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Hjemmebrent Norway's Moonshine goes a bit further, being distilled to 96% alcohol. In Tara Grescoe's book "The Devil's Picnic," drinking hjemmebrent is described this way: "You were sober then you were drunk. It was grim, goal-oriented, and a little sad. And the hangover was like no other." Scary. We can't imagine anything worse than a PBR hangover.
Blood Religious groups and tribes, including the Suri of Ethiopia, have been drinking blood for centuries. For some it's a ritual, for others it's just a great way to risk contracting Hepatitis B and C.
Coca Cola Coca-Cola launched the disastrous "New Coke" in 1985, but in truth, the stuff we'd been consuming for decades was new. The true original version had cocaine in it. If Coca Cola still had cocaine in it, the world would be a sleepless wasteland of rambling teeth grinders.
Black Drink Made from roasted leaves of the Yaupon Holly, Native Americans males consumed the Black Drink in a ritualistic manner, substituting it for coffee or tea. They purged themselves after imbibing for hours at a time, leading to the berry's appealing Latin name, "Ilex vomitoria."
Jolt Cola Jolt Cola's slogan is "all the sugar and twice the caffeine." But if you consider that a few of the symptoms of caffeine overdose include restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, increased urination, gastrointestinal distress, muscle twitching, irritability, and irregular heart beat, a cold Jolt doesn't sound so good.
Bombes Enterprising bar owners in Greece originally came up with Bombes -- a mixture of alcohol and cheap, dangerous industrial spirits. These drinks are so lethal that the government had to step in, because the loss of bar patrons due to death wasn't enough to keep them from being served.
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Bud Extra A couple of years back, someone at Budweiser came up with a plan to keep beer drinkers from passing out. They called it "B to the E," and injected it with ginseng and high levels caffeine. In June 2008, Anheuser-Busch pulled the product in response to public criticism, which was completely warranted.
Kumis Though not technically a danger to your physical health, there's something psychologically troubling about sipping Kumis, a booze made from fermented mare's milk. Russians have been drinking from the horse's teat for centuries, but we'll pass.
1 oz dry gin
1/2 oz absinthe
1/2 oz dry vermouth
Juice of 1/4 orange
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, mix and serve in a martini glass over crushed ice.
1 1/4 oz absinthe
1/4 oz Anisette
Pour on top of ice into a lowball glass. Top with a dash of soda water.
Here are some other questionable libations people have enjoyed over the years.