The History of Absinthe: Empire, Bohemia, and the Ban

There are a lot of drinks in the world. From British best bitter to choujiu (Chinese rice wine), everywhere human beings have put down roots, you’ll find some sort of booze. And of all the beverages that have ever passed human lips, perhaps the most infamous is absinthe. This bright green spirit can boast the king of bad reputations, so much so that it was demonized and banned in several western countries for nearly a century. But what led to such drastic actions? What had influenced public opinion so dramatically against absinthe? This is a question that has been neglected, perhaps intentionally, for quite a long time; and to do it justice – unfortunately – requires quite a long answer.

An amateur preparing a dram of absinthe.

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Ward 8

Named for a political district in Boston, this drink was invented to celebrate the election of Martin Lomasney, nicknamed the Czar of Ward 8, to the state legislature. It’s easy to suspect, though, that the bartender at the Locke-Ober restaurant where the drink was invented, may not have meant the gesture as a compliment. Like many bosses of turn of the century political machines, Lomasney was a notoriously dirty politician, and an ardent teetotaler.

Sipping a Ward 8 is like a contest between sweet and tart as the lemon juice and grenadine vie for attention. True to history, this cocktail is an excellent bracer to get you through yet another election year.

3 oz bourbon or rye whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz orange juice

2 tsp grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a shaker half filled with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Toast to your candidate with a Ward 8!

Ideology, Common Sense, & the Liquor Control Board: A Look at the PA Liquor Privatization Debate

Here in Pennsylvania, state run liquor stores and restrictions on beer sales are familiar gripes. While nearly anywhere else in the country consumers are able to pick up a six-pack or bottle of wine at any grocery or convenience store, Pennsylvanians can only buy wine and liquor from state-run stores and beer has to be purchased by the case at a distributor, or by the six-pack at a bar or restaurant. Recently though, privatization of the state’s booze monopoly (hint hint, Parker Brothers) has become a hot issue in the state legislature and the blogosphere. As a conscientious and patriotic inebriate, I took it upon myself to learn more about the debate and the potential advantages/consequences of privatization.

PA Wine & Spirits Store photo by Ian Turton (www.flickr.com/people/ianturton)

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