Happiest Hour 

Ridge Distillery's Absinthe

What you're drinking: Absinthe made from wormwood and dried herbs harvested in the Flathead and sold at Grizzly Liquor in Missoula. "We grow all of our rare alpine herbs here on the ridge. We also wild harvest what we can gather," says Julie Legate, who owns Ridge Distillery with her husband, Joe.

The Legates make two types of the notorious alcohol from their small Flathead Valley distillery. Green absinthe, which is also called "verte," carries a hefty punch at 136 proof. Absinthe "blanc," meanwhile, is clear and carries a slightly lower alcoholic concentration.

Why you're drinking it: Absinthe's effects have been known to cause hallucinations. Artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso famously imbibed. During the 20th century, creative types touted the beverage for its mind-expanding qualities. It was later demonized for triggering descents into madness.

Legate says that the stories about absinthe-induced madness have been overblown by novice historians. It is true, however, that the herbs used to distill absinthe impact mood. As tequila might make one feisty and red wine has a tendency to bring on sleep, absinthe stimulates the appetite. It also triggers mild euphoria, Legate says. "It's essentially the original happy hour drink," she says.

  • Photo courtesy of Ridge Distillery

How to drink it: Legate suggests mixing one part verte absinth to four parts water. Cold water will make the beverage cloudy. "The cloudy effect is when the essential oils basically come in contact with cold water and so they come out of suspension," Legate explains.

Where to find it: In Missoula, Grizzly Liquor at 110 West Spruce Street sells fifths of the Ridge's absinthe verte for $50.35.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com.

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