Absinthe—the chartreuse spirit once believed to induce hysteria—was recently approved for sale in the U.S. after a 95-year ban. Trumping turn-of-the-century propaganda, absinthe historian, chemist and distiller Ted Breaux makes the spirit in France with antique stills, and Viridian Spirits sells it under the name Lucid in America. One of the first in Chicago to serve it, Fulton Market’s loungey Lumen makes absinthe accessible for its cocktail-loving clientele, turning it into a Purple Haze ($12)—a colorful combination of vodka, crème de cacao, pineapple juice and crème de cassis. 839 W Fulton Mkt (312-733-2222).
Delilah’s owner Mike Miller is an absinthe fanatic (don’t get him going on the virtue of rarities like Catalonian coffee absinthe). His bar has carried wormwood-free Absenta for about a decade, but now offers real-deal Lucid in multiple forms, which Miller says makes a better shot ($5.50) than a sipper ($6.50). As for the mythical effects? Miller says you won’t duplicate an acid trip but “you’ll definitely have a unique experience, something going on that tricks your brain.” 2771 N Lincoln Ave (773-472-2771).
Throwback concoctions, vest-clad bartenders, artists staring at the blue walls in contemplative solitude…it’s just a typical night at The Violet Hour. Absinthe’s distinctly Old World flavor—an herbal punch of fennel, anise and wormwood—fits right in at this Wicker Park speakeasy, where bartenders forgo the traditional spoon and flame used to caramelize sugar in favor of unadulterated essence. A Belle Epoque–style fountain—also distributed by Lucid—drips the diluted drink in a four-to-one water-to-absinthe ratio onto a sugar cube resting on an ice cube ($10). 1520 N Damen Ave(773-252-1500).