Absinthe is a very misunderstood drink, and although terrible hangovers are a real possibility, a lot of the real trouble comes from the way it’s commonly served.
It should never be drunk neat, and it should be served in a proper absinthe glass. Ice cold water should be slowly trickled into the drink through a slotted absinthe spoon; and a sugar cube perched on the spoon is essential, so it can dissolve into the booze.
Absinthe is an herbal liquor, and unless the right amount of very cold water is added to it, the drink’s herbal essences will not be released. I’ve seen people in British bars drink it neat, but in the 19th. Century the only people to do this were in the final stages of alcoholism…
There is a myth (which has been perpetuated through films) that you are supposed to dunk a sugar cube in the absinthe on a spoon, then ignite the thing and stand back going ‘Oooooo, how cool is that?!’ Not so. Here is some gratuitous advertising for you, for which I might eventually receive a free bottle of the ‘green fairy’!
If you enjoy an occasional glass of absinthe you will not go mad, you will completely fail to cut your ear off like Van Gogh, and (wait for it… another myth coming up) it doesn’t contain neurotoxic substances. If you overdo any alcoholic drink you’re going to suffer ill effects, so please… keep it real and have a good time. 🙂