In the early 1900s many European countries banned the strong alcoholic drink Absinthe, United States banned Absinthe in 1912.
Absinthe was never as popular in the United States as it was in European countries such as France and Switzerland, but there were areas of the US, such as the French part of New Orleans, where Absinthe was served in Absinthe bars.
Absinthe is a liquor made from herbs such as wormwood, aniseed and fennel. It is often green, hence its nickname the Green Fairy, and it has an anise taste.
Absinthe is an interesting concoction or recipe of herbs that act as a stimulant and alcohol and other herbs that act as a sedative. It is the essential oils from the herbs that cause Absinthe to louche, go cloudy, when water is added.
Wormwood, Artimesia Absinthium, contains a chemical called thujone which is said to be similar to THC in the drug cannabis, to be psychoactive and to cause psychedelic effects.
Absinthe United States and the ban
At the beginning of the 1900s there was a strong prohibition movement in France and this movement used the fact that Absinthe was linked to the Bohemian culture of Montmartre – with its writers, artists and the courtesans and loose morals of establishments such as the Moulin Rouge, and the allegation that an Absinthe drinker murdered his family, to argue for a ban on Absinthe. They claimed that Absinthe would be France’s ruin, that Absinthe was a drug and intoxicant that would drive everyone to insanity!
The United States followed France’s example and banned Absinthe and drinks containing thujone in 1912. It became illegal, a crime, to buy or sell Absinthe in the USA. Americans either had to concoct their own homemade recipes or travel to countries like the Czech Republic, where Absinthe was still legal, to enjoy the Green Fairy.
Many US legal experts argue that Absinthe was never banned in the US and that if you look carefully into the law and ordinance you will find that only drinks containing over 10mg of thujone were banned. However, US Customs and police would not allow any Absinthe shipped from abroad to enter the US, only thujone free Absinthe substitutes were allowed.
Absinthe United States 2007
Ted Breaux, a native of New Orleans, runs a distillery in Saumur France. He has used vintage bottles of pre-ban Absinthe to investigate Absinthe recipes and to create his own classic pre-ban style Absinthe – the Jade collection.
Breaux was amazed to find that the vintage Absinthe, contrary to belief, actually only contained very minute quantities of thujone – not enough to harm anyone. He became determined to provide an Absinthe drink which he could ship to his homeland, the US. His dream was to once again see Absinthe being consumed in bars in New Orleans.
Breaux and lawyer Gared Gurfein, had many meetings with the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau about the thujone content of Breaux’s Absinthe recipe. They found that actually no law needed to be changed!
Breaux’s dream became reality in 2007 when his brand Lucid was able to be shipped from his distillery in France to the US. Lucid is based on vintage recipes and contains real wormwood, unlike fake Absinthes. Now, in 2008, a brand called Green Moon and two Absinthes from Kubler are all able to be bought and sold within the US.
Absinthe United States – Many Americans are now enjoying their first taste of real legal Absinthe, perhaps there will be an Absinthe revival.