General information about absinthe

What is absinthe?

Absinthe – this spirit has provoked a great deal of interest, as well as criticism, in the past 200 years. Wormwood, which used to be considered a medical plant, is the most essential herbal ingredient of absinthe. This is why this liqueur was believed to cure and prevent diseases, and eventually became so popular, that it went from being just a fashionable drink, to the national drink of France. All this happened before absinthe was banned and finally prohibited – until its revival in France and the rest of Europe only a couple of years ago.

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Why was absinthe banned?

At the end of the nineteenth century, the society began to really enjoy absinthe, and so its demand increased rapidly. Absinthe was slowly made the symbol of alcoholism and made responsible for crime, violence, alienation, and social collapse. The anti-alcohol lobby chose absinthe as their main target. They joined forces with the wine growers, at the time very powerful, and who were seeing their sales suffer through the popularity of absinthe. This is why in 1914, absinthe was declared illegal for the following reasons:
• to put the vine growers at ease and to foster the traditional industry • to control the consumption of alcohol, especially of French soldiers in order to stay competitive during war • to put a stop to illegal trade and to avoid tax losses

Is absinthe legal in my country?

Most likely, yes! If you are of legal drinking age in the country of your residence, and if alcohol isn't illegal in your country, the chances that absinthe is legal in your country are very high. All throughout Europe and the US, Canada, Australia, and most parts of Asia, you can find and buy absinthe nowadays. Its sale however is subject to legal restrictions:
• The thujone level must be no higher than 35mg (USA: 10mg)per litre. This is a wise European measure as it allows for the production of absinthes similar to those of the nineteenth century which contained on average 6mg of thujone per litre. Having said that, with a level as high as it's allowed today, you would have to drink at least 5 litres at once, to start feeling any effects of thujone. But to be honest, you'd probably already passed out long before being able to drink that much. • The fenchone level must be no higher than 5mg per litre, and the pinocanphone level, no higher than 20 mg per litre. This limit is only applicable in France.

How is absinthe made?

There are three different ways to make absinthe:
• Through distillation of aromatic plants, which are first macerated in alcohol • By mixing herbal essences with alcohol • By macerating aromatic plants in alcohol

Absinthe that is obtained through distillation are those of the best quality: This procedure creates a product that benefits from all aromatic aspects of the herbs used, as well as bad tasting bitter essences are excluded. Some distillers prefer to macerate and distill each herb separately.