Absinthe's "Green Fairy,” which spurred the likes of van Gogh and Picasso to creative heights, may have been more of a drunken sprite than psychedelic pixie. A study of century-old bottles of the green liqueur revealed that its potency most likely stems from its 70% alcohol content—making it 140-proof booze—not any mind-altering ingredients, reports LiveScience.
Thujone, a chemical in wormwood, has frequently been blamed for the hallucinogenic qualities of the 19th-century and early 20th-century versions of absinthe. However, the study showed that thujone levels in the old bottles were about the same as those in modern variations. "All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain [absinthe madness],” said one chemist.