Absinthe now available at P.E.I. distillery for adventurous drinkers
'There's the myths that surround it, that you see the green fairy after you drink it'
A small distillery in Warren Grove is the first in the province to produce absinthe, a potent green alcohol swirling with history and mystery.
It took Deep Roots Distillery, a family-run company, nine months to create the triple-distilled alcohol, which sells for $48 a bottle.
"So it took a lot of research, a lot of reading up on it, coming up with our own unique recipe," said Mike Beamish, who runs the distillery with help from his five children.
Initial sales of the spirit have been surprisingly good, he said. Deep Roots has sold 50 bottles in less than a month, both from the company's booth at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market and at the distillery.
"I thought sales were going to be quite slow, to be honest, especially at the price point," said son David Beamish.
The myths and the ritual
Absinthe gets its light green colour because of its infusion of the herbs green anise and fennel, which give it a liquorice flavour.
The third main ingredient is where the stories come in: wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium, is a plant that contains traces of an hallucinogen called thujone.
"There's the myths that surround it, that you see the green fairy after you drink it. Of course that's just a myth," said David Beamish.
The CFIA limits the amount of thujone allowed in each batch, and Health Canada warns drinkers not to consume more than six milligrams of thujone a day.
Absinthe was very popular in France until it was banned in 1915, only returning to shelves in 2011.
The drink also comes with its own ritual.
To cut the bitterness of the wormwood, consumers place a sugar cube on a special perforated spoon over a glass containing a dose of absinthe, then drip iced water over it in a process called louching, which makes the drink creamy and, of course, sweeter.
The company plans to distill only one batch of 300 bottles per year. But if demand warrants it, the Beamishes said they'll consider making more and selling it at Island liquor stores.
"It's a target market for some people who know about it and like it, they are often looking for new ones available to purchase," said Mike Beamish.