Absinthe – The Green Fairy

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A Vintage Poster Advertising Absinthe

If you have never heard of Absinthe I’m not surprised. It was only approved for production in the United States 9 years ago.  Before Prohibition, Absinthe was widely popular, particularly in Europe. By 1915, however, Absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe. It was vilified as having psychoactive properties and causing hallucinations, but this reputation was undeserved. Despite the trace amounts of the chemical compound thujone in the beverage, there has never been any reliable evidence to support that Absinthe is any more dangerous than any other ordinary spirit.

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Absinth Bottle From The Czech Republic

Absinthe was referred to as “la fée verte” (the green fairy) in historical literature . It originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century. Today, Switzerland is the only country to have a legal standard for the production of Absinthe. It is an anise-flavored spirit distilled to anywhere from 90-148 proof. It gets its name from the leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), which is a primary component. The alcoholic beverage also includes other botanicals, including the flowers, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Absinthe is traditionally a natural green in color but it may also be colorless.

In the 1990’s, modern European Union food and beverage laws were adopted which  removed the longstanding barriers to the production and sale of Absinthe. A revived interest in the spirit followed. Now nearly 200 brands of absinthe are being produced in a dozen countries, primarily in France, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, and the Czech Republic. It wasn’t until 2007 that U.S. producers were approved for distilling and distributing Absinthe. However U.S. approved absinthe, such as Lucid, must be free of thujone, so one could argue that U.S. Absinthe isn’t even the real thing. So if you want to give Absinthe an honest try, especially for the recipes in Historic Cocktails,  go for an import like Forget Lucid, Swiss Kubler, Maktub or Century 100.

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