What's yours: a Green Fairy or a Red Bull?

Over the past three decades the French have been drinking less and less wine but at the same time turning to other tipples - including, surprisingly, absinthe. That drink has an interesting story. Its basic ingredients are wormwood, fennel and anis. In the second half of the nineteenth century it was consumed in enormous quantities. Popular wisdom held that it aided digestion, got rid of worms and killed germs. However, it attracted the disapproval of the do-gooding bourgeoisie who believed it made men unfit for labour and - really worrying - unfit to defend France against the looming menace of Germany.

In 1915 the drink - known to its adepts as "the Green Fairy" - was banned and remained so until very recently. Now it's again available in select stores and bars, made with a modified recipe excluding an ingredient identified as harmful. This follows an EU ruling that the French ban was unjustified. Absinthe is now acquiring a growing band of devotees. Johnny Depp, who discovered its appeal a few years ago, now says, "I've given up beer ... absinthe is my drink these days."

And good news for Canadian reader Wen Brodsky who a while back complained that he couldn't buy his favourite Red Bull energy drink in France. We pointed out that the product - sold in 140 countries worldwide - was forbidden here but was available close by in Italy and Monaco. The French claimed that one ingredient - taurine - had been shown to create mental disturbance in rats. Now Red Bull - minus taurine - will be available here. Wonder if it mixes well with absinthe?

The Riviera Reporter issue 127 - June/July 2008