The New York Times has a brief but wonderfully illustrated article on the cultural history of absinthe, the highly alcoholic spirit that was adopted by numerous famous artists.
Wikipedia also has a fantastic article on absinthe which looks at the history of its creation, popularity, prohibition and revival.
It also exposes the myth that wormwood, a key flavouring ingredient, causes hallucinations. A scientific article looked at the evidence for this and found that the effects of the drink are almost entirely due to its alcohol content.
While thujone, an active ingredient in wormwood, can causes seizures in high enough quantities, there isn’t enough in absinthe to have a significant effect.
However, erroneous concerns about the drink leading to dangerous forms of ‘madness’ led it to be banned in most European countries in the early 1900s, giving it an instant notoriety and cultural impact that far goes beyond its pharmacological influence.