There are so many hilarious moments in Girls Trip, but a standout scene involves absinthe purchased on Bourbon Street. Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is warned about the green-tinted liquor, but decides to drop it in cocktails she’s mixing for her girls. Soon after, the women have an unforgettable night – one scene involves Queen Latifah having a very intimate moment with a lamp. No spoilers here.
Before the comedy, you may have heard about absinthe but weren’t sure how safe or legal it was. Good news, it is legal in the United States as of 2007, but with certain federal regulations as dictated by the Food and Drug Administration. Curious, we reached out to Brooklyn-based mixologist Nucomme of Witches Brew Cocktails to give us the rundown on absinthe.
1. Three key components make absinthe
The holy trinity of ingredients in absinthe are wormwood, licorice-flavored green anise and sweet fennel. “Wormwood has a compound in it called thujone, which in high quantities can make one convulse and have a heart attack, but there’s only small trace amounts of it in absinthe,” Nucomme told ESSENCE. “It’s what described as being psychedelic. It doesn’t have THC in it, which is illegal in parts of the country, but it does have a similar psychedelic feel.”
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2. It was first brewed in Switzerland by a Frenchman
An 18th century French physician living in Switzerland created the plant-based all-purpose remedy. But absinthe as a casual drink soon caught on with distilleries in Switzerland and France. “It originated in Switzerland and because of the whole bohemian, Parisian culture, that’s what made it popular,” Nucomme adds. Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde are among the famous notables who enjoyed the drink on a regular basis.
3. It has been used as medicine
Although controversy has always followed the largely herbal drink, it’s never been medically proven to be a hallucinogen. As a matter of fact, drinks containing wormwood —with a little bit of honey— were given to children for medicinal purposes in ancient times.
4. New Orleans has a special relationship with the drink
Apropos to Girls Trip, absinthe has been a staple item in the Big Easy for decades. In addition to being the birthplace of absinthe’s first cocktail called Sazerac, it’s also a U.S. brewery hub. As noted by NOLA.com, in 1934 two New Orleans natives created their own version of absinthe (sans the wormwood), and named it herbsaint.
5. There’s a method to drinking it
Even though absinthe can be ordered in certain bars, it’s really something that should be shared and savored in a group setting— like hookah. “It’s a real cool drink,” Nucomme adds. “For those who get into it, it’s also one of those ritual type of things. There’s a whole contraption, you pour water over it, you’re eating sugar cubes, there’s special glassware. I wouldn’t go to a bar and order absinthe. It’s something that you would sit down and have a conversation over.”