Absinthe FAQ

Read answers to frequently asked questions about absinthe.

Q/A
What is absinthe?

Absinthe is a strong-herbal spirit distilled with wormwood, anise and fennel. Other aromatic herbs like star anise, anise seed, licorice, hyssop, veronica, lemon balm, angelica root, dittany, coriander, juniper, and nutmeg can be used in the making of absinthe.

Q/A
Where did absinthe come from?

Absinthe originated in Switzerland as an elixir, yet it is better known for its popularity in late 19th and early 20th century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers whose romantic associations with the drink still linger in popular culture.

Q/A
What does absinthe taste like?

The predominate flavor of absinthe is anise or licorice, which are similar.

Q/A
Why are some bottles labeled Absinthe, Absenta or Absinth?

In some cases, it is a language difference.

Absinthe is the spelling used by the Swiss and French, who were the first to produce and distribute absinthe.

Absenta is the spelling that is often used for Spanish produced absinthe.

Absinth is the spelling that is often used for German produced absinthe.

Many products produced in the Czech Republic as Absinthe or Absinth contain little to no anise, fennel or other herbs normally found in traditional primium absinthe. They often contain artificial colorings and flavors. What they do share in common with traditional absinthe is wormwood and high alcohol content, but should not be considered authentic absinthe.

Q/A
How is absinthe served?

Traditionally, using the French method, absinthe is prepared by slowly pouring cold water over a cube of sugar resting on a slotted spoon placed over a glass containing a small portion of absinthe. The cold water dissolves the sugar, this solution trickles into the glass causing the absinthe to louch.

Absinthe is also being served in world-class cocktails at chic restaurants and clubs around the world.

Click here to learn more about how to drink absinthe.

Q/A
What color is absinthe?

Absinthe is often referred to as la Fée Verte “The Green Fairy” because of its pale or emerald green coloring. It can also be left clear, typically referred to as "blanche". A clear Swiss Absinthe is often referred to as la Bleue, getting its name by bootleggers during the prohibition period, and it still used today.

Q/A
Is absinthe legal?

Absinthe is legal in many countries. The United States and the European Union allows the sale of authentic absinthe that complies with regulatory requirements.

Q/A
Why is absinthe now being sold in the United States?

As of October 2007, the TTB a bureau under the Department of the Treasury has updated policy regarding the use of the term "absinthe" on labels of distilled spirits products and in related advertising material. They have approved the use of the term "absinthe" on the label of a distilled spirits product and in related advertisements, and only if the product is "thujone-free" pursuant to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulations.

Based on the updated policy, absinthe is considered "thujone-free" if it contains 10 ppm or less thujone.

Q/A
Is Swiss absinthe legal?

On June 14, 2004 the Swiss Parliament lifted the 96 year old ban on absinthe.

Q/A
What is thujone?

Thujone is a monoterpenoid ketone consisting of two isomers, alpha and beta, that exist in varying ratios in different plants.  Plants such as cedar leaf, sage, tansy, thyme, rosemary and wormwood (an ingredient found in certain flavored distilled spirits such as absinthe) are known to contain thujone. It is beleived that Thujone is used in several modern products including Absorbine Jr.®, Vicks Vaporub, Gammel Dansk, and many more.

Q/A
Is drinking absinthe containing thujone harmful?

Modern commercially produced absinthe has been shown to contain safe levels of thujone.

The United States and the European Union regulate thujone levels of commercially produced absinthe.

United States - 10 ppm or less.
European Union (EU) - 10mg/l or less.
Germany - 30mg/l or less for specific products
Q/A
What is wormwood?

It is a Mediterranean perennial herb or shrubby plant (Artemisia absinthium) of the family Asteraceae (aster family). We know it as the bitter herb used to make Absinthe and is the source for the chemical compound thujone. Read more about wormwood.

Q/A
Can I buy absinthe in the United States?

If you are 21 years of age or older, you can purchase authentic absinthe in the United States.

Q/A
Can I buy absinthe online?

There are many international online stores that offer absinthe.

Q/A
Is it safe to buy absinthe online?

It is safe to buy absinthe online from recognized vendors and distributors.

Q/A
Can absinthe be shipped (mailed) into the United States?

Absinthe is a "prohibited" item and is subject to being seized by the United States Customs.

Q/A
Does the Absinthe Buyers Guide sell absinthe?

No.

Q/A
What does absinthe do to you?

Drinkers of absinthe experience a double action intoxication. This intoxication combines the effects of strong alcohol and a secondary effect said to be a "clear-headed" feeling of inebriation.

Absinthe can have an effect that has been described as a "clarity" or "heightened state of mind".

Chemist and absinthe expert, T.A. Breaux describes it as a push-me, pull-you effect of the various herbs, some have a heightening effect while others have a lowering effect. Mr. Breaux also describes the effect as "lucid" which is the name that he gave to the first authentic absinthe approved for sale in the US since its ban in 1912.

Q/A
Can I buy vintage absinthe?

Vintage absinthe, sometimes referred to as "pre-ban" absinthe, is very rare. Pre-ban absinthe was produced before 1915. The best example of a pre-ban absinthe is Pernod Fils. A full bottle of pre-ban Pernod Fils in good condition can bring several thousand dollars, if not more.

The Pernod Fils company opened an absinthe plant in Tarragona Spain in 1918. The Pernod Fils produced in Tarragona is consider a "post-ban vintage" absinthe. The availability of "post-ban vintage" Pernod Fils is very limited, expect to pay about one thousand dollars for a full bottle in good condition.

We recommend that you use extreme caution when purchasing vintage absinthe. We have heard of people lured into sending money with the hopes of acquiring vintage Pernod. In most cases, they receive nothing in return, or an original or fake bottle with a substitute absinthe. The seller assumes the buyer will not know the difference.

There are a number of reputable and well-respected dealers of vintage absinthe. For more information about purchasing vintage absinthe - please contact David Nathan-Maister at "finestandrarest.com". David is a world-renowned absinthe expert and historian.

Q/A
Is "pre-ban" Pernod Fils the same as "post-ban" Pernod Fils?

Pre-ban Pernod Fils produced in Pontarlier France is different from post-ban Pernod Fils produced in Tarragona Spain. The recipe, manufacturing processes, and ingredients were similar, however, variations in water and ingredients produced subtle differences in the final products.

Most Absintheurs "connisours" agree that "pre-ban" Pernod Fils produced in Pontarlier France is the standard by which all other absinthe is judged.

Q/A
What is the best absinthe?

This is a question that you have to answer for yourself. I recommend that you try a variety of brands to enhance your knowledge of absinthe. And like any product, some are considered better than others. A deluxe absinthe, which is distilled, will be of higher quality than a classic absinthe. There are speciality absinthe for those who want something different. I have also found that personal taste plays an important role.

Q/A
What is la Bleue absinthe?

La Bleue was the name used to describe absinthe that was produced by bootleggers in Switzeland during the prohibition period. La Bleue absinthe is clear and is known for it superior quality.

Q/A
Why was absinthe ban?

By the early 1900s, the consumption of hard liquor was at an all time high which was taking its toll on a society that was unaware of the effects of Alcoholism. A temperance movement to abolish drunkenness was in full force. Absinthe's popularity due to its low cost and high-alcohol content made it the target for alcohol reform. Its critics said that absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, has killed thousands of French people, it makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country. And if that wasn't bad enough, in 1905, a Swiss farmer named "Lanfray" killed his wife, two children and his father after a day of drinking. In the highly publicized trail, dubbed the "Absinthe Murder," it was reported that he had been drinking absinthe all day, when in fact, the farmer had consumed wine, brandy, schnopps and absinthe. Within weeks after the trial, petitions were signed calling for the ban of absinthe in Switzerland.

Q/A
Can I make quality absinthe at home?

Producing a quality absinthe requires distillation and experience. If you are fortunate enough to live where home distillation is legal, you can learn to produce quality absinthe.

Owning and operating a distiller, without a license, in many countries, including the United States is illegal.

Q/A
Can I make absinthe by steeping common wormwood, anise and fennel in vodka?

No.

Q/A
Can I make absinthe by steeping wormwood, anise and fennel or adding similar extracts to grain alcohol?

No. This is not how authentic premium absinthe is produced and can be dangerious.

Q/A
Where is absinthe made?

Until recently, authentic absinthe was primarily produced in France, Switzerland, Spain, and Germany. It is now being produced in the United States.

Q/A
What are the EU "European Union" thujone regulations?

They are guidelines established by the EU to regulate the thujone levels found in alcoholic beverages produced in member states, which includes absinthe production.

10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with more than 25% ABV (Alcohol by Volume).
35 mg/kg in alcohol labeled as bitters.
Q/A
What is in absinthe?

The three key ingredients often described as the "holy-trinity" are: grand wormwood, anise and fennel.

Here is a list of other herbs that have been used in the making of absinthe:

hyssop, veronica, lemon balm, angelica, dittany, coriander, juniper, and nutmeg. I'm sure there are others.

Read more about the herbs for making absinthe.

Q/A
What is the absinthe louche?

This is when absinthe turns to a cloudy, opalescent white when cold water is added.

Q/A
Why do some absinthe louche and others do not?

Some absinthe will not louche when water is added because it contains little to no anise or fennel.

Q/A
What is an example of an absinthe recipe?

(Absinthe Ordinaire)

Large dry and clean wormwood - 2.5 kg
Dry Hysope flower - 500 g
Melisse citronnee dry - 500 g
Crushed Green Anis - 2 kg
Alcohol 85% - 16 litres

For examples of absinthe recipes.

Q/A
How do I store absinthe?

If your plan is to enjoy your absinthe soon after receiving it, it is suggested that you store it in an area free of direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

The requirements for mid to long-term storage are:

1. Cool and steady temperature 13 - 18 degrees Celsius (55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Protection from direct sunlight and vibration.

3. Bottles with a cork may be stored on their sides and rotated to insure that the cork remains moist.

4. Bottles with screw on caps may be stored upright. Caps may be checked to insure that they are snug. We suggest storing screw on cap botttles upright because screw on caps are famous for leaking. We want you to consume your absinthe rather than loose it due to a leaky cap.

Q/A
Where can I learn more?

Visit the absinthe history section.

Visit the absinthe articles section.

Checkout our new book with the latest information about absinthe and its return to the US includes absinthe cocktail recipes.

Visit the new Buyers Guide to Absinthe Accessories.