A steady procession of icy drops falls onto a slotted spoon holding a cube of sugar. The chilled syrup slips into a glass of absinthe, forming ghostly rivulets. With each swig of the green cocktail, a wave of black licorice fire flames down your throat and out your nostrils. It's a decidedly romantic pain, one you imagine sharing with tortured poets in a smoky tavern long ago.
The green fairy, long banned in the United States for its purported hallucinogenic properties, fluttered back onto liquor store shelves in 2007 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration green-lighted thujone-free versions. Hoping to cash in on the liquor's Bohemian mystique, the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary brought on five brands.
Though liquor store sales have been slow, according to dispensary superintendent James M. "Dyke" Nally, the anise-flavored, wormwood-spiked liquor has recently nudged its way onto several local cocktail menus. At Red Feather Lounge, you can grab a Midnight Train ($7) or sample absinthe prepared in the traditional French style described above ($12). At the Modern Bar, you can sip on a Corpse Reviver No. 2 ($8, pictured above) or a champagne-filled Death in the Afternoon ($8). Or, if you're tough as balls, you can shoot the green beast straight up at Neurolux ($10).
Afraid absinthe will make you Van Gogh insane? Fret not, says Nally: "We haven't had anybody cut their ear off yet."