You don't have to wait for St. Patrick's Day to drink something green — today is National Absinthe Day! Long the preferred libation of the Parisian Smart Set, absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit infused with a variety of botanicals, including the infamous wormwood.
The "Green Fairy" as it's sometimes known, absinthe was long reputed to have hallucinogenic properties due to the presence of thujone, a chemical compound contained in wormwood. This led to absinthe being banned in the United States for many decades before its return in recent years. Sadly, however, it was all nothing but a myth.
Although drinking enough absinthe — which typically contains a very high alcohol content — will no doubt cause one to see things that aren't really there, this has nothing to do with any special characteristics of the spirit. If you drink a sufficient quantity of ripple the same thing will happen.
Absinthe was traditionally used in the preparation of one of the most famous cocktails, the Sazerac, although it is now usually replaced with an absinthe substitute like Herbsaint. Absinthe is such a strongly flavored spirit that usually a dash or two is enough to get the job done. Witness this cocktail, taken from Jim Meehan's The PDT Cocktail Book.
1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
3/4 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
St. George Absinthe
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled, absinthe-rinsed coupe. No garnish.
I'm not much of a fan of the flavor of licorice, so I wouldn't drink absinthe straight. However, in a drink like this or the Improved Gin Cocktail, it can add a nice accent that makes the flavors come alive.