What is Absinthe?

Absinthe is a very alcoholic liquor with an anise flavor that has generated a lot of debate throughout history.

It is made from a variety of plants, including green anise, sweet fennel, and various culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium, also known as “grand wormwood,” and other plants. The perception of absinthe as a harmful, addictive beverage that can result in hallucinations and even death is mainly false.

Despite its bad image, absinthe has a lengthy, fascinating history. It first became well-known in 19th-century France, where bohemians, artists, and writers made it their preferred beverage. Due to its green appearance and its history of producing hallucinations, it was frequently referred to as the “Green Fairy.”

However, the high alcohol content and frequent use of huge amounts of absinthe contributed significantly to its alleged hallucinatory effects. Because of worries about its safety, absinthe was actually outlawed in numerous nations throughout the early 20th century, but most locations have since made it lawful.

What is Absinthe?

Absinthe is a highly alcoholic spirit that is derived from several plants, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium, also known as “grand wormwood,” as well as green anise and sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe has a distinctive green color and an anise-like flavor, which is often described as licorice-like. It is typically served by diluting it with cold water and sugar.


Absinthe originated in Switzerland in the late 18th century and quickly became popular in France and other parts of Europe, particularly among artists and writers.

However, it was also associated with the temperance movement and was eventually banned in many countries, including the United States, in the early 20th century. Absinthe remained illegal in many countries for decades, but it has since been legalized in many places, including the United States, and is now enjoyed by many people around the world.


The main ingredients in absinthe are wormwood, anise, and fennel, which are distilled with neutral alcohol to create the spirit. Other herbs and spices may also be added to enhance the flavor or aroma of the final product. The exact recipe for absinthe can vary depending on the brand or distillery, but it is always made with a high alcohol content, typically between 110 and 144 proofs.


Absinthe is typically produced by distilling a mixture of herbs and spices with a neutral alcohol, such as vodka or grain alcohol. The resulting spirit is then bottled and sold as absinthe. To serve absinthe, a sugar cube is placed on a special spoon and placed on top of a glass of absinthe. Cold water is then dripped over the sugar cube, which dissolves and dilutes the absinthe to the desired strength.

Despite its reputation as a dangerous and hallucinogenic drink, absinthe is no more dangerous than other high-proof spirits when consumed in moderation. However, chronic alcoholism and excessive consumption of any alcoholic beverage can be harmful to one’s health.

The Controversy Surrounding Absinthe

Absinthe is a highly alcoholic spirit that has a long and controversial history.

The drink has been associated with hallucinogenic effects and was banned in many countries, including the United States, for many years. This section will explore the controversy surrounding absinthe and its potential dangers.


Absinthism is a condition that was believed to be caused by the consumption of absinthe. The condition was characterized by hallucinations, seizures, and even madness. However, it is now believed that absinthism was actually caused by alcoholism, rather than the specific properties of absinthe itself.

Banned in the U.S.

Absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912 due to concerns about its potential hallucinogenic effects. The ban was lifted in 2007, but absinthe is still heavily regulated in the U.S. and can only be sold if it contains less than 10 parts per million of thujone, a compound found in wormwood that was believed to be responsible for the drink’s hallucinogenic effects.

The Science of Thujone

Thujone is a compound found in wormwood, one of the primary ingredients in absinthe. It was believed to be responsible for the drink’s hallucinogenic effects, but recent studies have shown that thujone levels in absinthe were not high enough to cause hallucinations. In fact, thujone is found in many other foods and drinks, including sage, hyssop, and even some beers.

Despite the controversy surrounding absinthe, the drink has a rich cultural history. It was famously known as the “green fairy” and was a favorite of many famous artists and writers, including Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pablo Picasso. Absinthe was also featured in literature, including Ernest Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon.”

Today, absinthe is still a controversial drink, but it has gained popularity in recent years. Many distilleries now produce their own versions of the drink, and it has even been featured in popular cocktails like the Sazerac. However, it is important to consume absinthe responsibly and to be aware of its potential dangers, including alcohol poisoning and the risk of addiction.

Absinthe has been a popular subject in various forms of art and literature, as well as in film and television.

Here are some notable examples of Absinthe’s presence in popular culture.

Famous Absinthe Drinkers

Absinthe has been known to attract famous drinkers such as Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Oscar Wilde. Van Gogh, who was known to drink absinthe heavily, famously cut off his own ear while under the influence of the drink.

Hemingway was also known to be a fan of absinthe, and even wrote about it in his book “Death in the Afternoon.” Wilde was known to enjoy absinthe as well and is even quoted as saying, “After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

Absinthe in Literature and Art

Absinthe has been a popular subject in literature and art for centuries. In the 19th century, French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote about the drink in his poem “Be Drunk,” and French painter Édouard Manet featured absinthe in his painting “The Absinthe Drinker.” The drink was also a popular subject for artists in the bohemian neighborhoods of Paris in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Absinthe in Film and Television

Absinthe has also made its way into film and television. In the 2001 film “Moulin Rouge,” the character played by Ewan McGregor sings about absinthe in the song “The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular).” The drink has also been featured in the TV series “Boardwalk Empire” and “Penny Dreadful.”

Despite its popularity in popular culture, absinthe has had a controversial history. It was banned in many countries in the early 1900s due to concerns about its potential to cause hallucinations and other health problems.

In recent years, however, absinthe has made a comeback, with many distilleries producing their own brands of the drink. Some popular brands include Absente, St. George Spirits, and Pernod Absinthe.

While absinthe is now legal in many countries, it is still a drink that should be consumed in moderation. Chronic alcoholism, absinthism, and other health problems have been associated with excessive absinthe consumption.

However, when consumed responsibly, absinthe can be a unique and enjoyable drink with a distinct flavor and green hue. It has even been used traditionally to treat ailments such as jaundice, menstrual pain, anemia, and fever. The drink has also been associated with a fire ritual in Algeria, where it is poured over a sugar cube and set alight before being mixed with water.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Paul Kushner

I have always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. My restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time I turned 17 I was serving tables, and by 19 I was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, I opened my first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

a fermentation storage

What is Fermentation?

tonic water poured into a glass

What is Club Soda?