Absinthe was banned in many countries around the world in the early 1900s because of worries about its safety. Absinthe is a strong liquor with an anise taste which is served diluted with water to cause the drink to louche.
One of the key ingredients of Absinthe is the herb wormwood which contains a chemical called thujone. Thujone was thought to be similar to THC in the drug cannabis and to be psychoactive. The medical profession and prohibitionists in 19th century France were convinced that Absinthe was more than an intoxicant, it was a dangerous drug totally unlike other alcoholic beverages. The government listened to these claims and were worried about growing alcohol abuse in France so they banned Absinthe in 1915. It became a crime to buy or sell Absinthe, you could get into trouble with the police if you distilled it illegally.
Studies have since shown Absinthe to be perfectly safe, as safe as any strong alcohol. Absinthe only contains small amounts of thujone and certainly not enough to cause any harmful effects. It is easy to get drunk on Absinthe though and, because Absinthe contains herbs of both a sedative and stimulant nature, it is a very different drunkenness!
Absinthe was legalized in many countries from the 1980s onwards depending on its thujone content. Bottles of Absinthe can be found online or in liquor shops or you can make your own from top-quality essences like those from AbsintheKit.com.
In what countries is Absinthe legal today?
United States – Some brands of Absinthe were approved for sale in the US in 2007 after being banned since 1912. Brands such as “Lucid” are now legal because of their low thujone content. The USA law allows “thujone free” beverages to be sold but because of US test procedures, Absinthes with less than 10 parts per million of thujone (less than 10mg per liter) count as thujone free.
The EU (European Union) – Absinthe was banned in many European countries in the early 1900s but was legalized in the EU in 1988. There is a regulation regarding thujone content in drinks in the EU. Up to 10mg/kg of thujone is allowed in alcohol with more than 25% alcohol by volume, and up to 35mg/kg in alcohol labeled “bitters”.
Australia – Bitters can have a thujone content of up to 35mg/kg and other beverages can contain up to 10mg/kg. Absinthe is legal for sale if it complies with the law.
Brazil – Brazilian law states that Absinthe should have less than 55% alcohol by volume and contain 10mg/kg of thujone or less.
Canada – The Canadian provinces each have their own liquor boards to make laws regarding alcohol. Many provinces do not allow any thujone containing alcohol to be sold but Absinthe is legal in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. Quebec and Ontario legislate that Absinthe with up to 10mg/kg thujone can be legally sold and there are no limits regarding thujone in British Columbia.
Czech Republic – Absinthe is a Czech tradition and has never been banned in the Czech Republic.
France – La Fee Verte or The Green Fairy (Absinthe) was famously banned in 1915. Since 1988 Absinthe has been legal in France as long as it is not labeled Absinthe but is labeled “spiritueux à base de plantes d’absinthe”. France also regulates the chemical fenchone which is found in fennel so beverages must contain 5mg/liter or less of fenchone. Many distillers make low fenchone Absinthes especially for the French market.
Hungary – In 2004 Hungarian law made Absinthe legal.
Israel – Absinthe can be sold in Israel.
Ireland – Absinthe can be shipped into the country for personal consumption but Absinthe containing thujone is otherwise illegal.
Netherlands – In 2004 Absinthe was made legal as long as it complies with the EU legislation.
New Zealand – Absinthe is legal in New Zealand.
Poland – Absinthe seems to be illegal in Poland.
Portugal – Like Spain, Absinthe was never banned in Portugal.
Russia – Russia allows Absinthe to be bought and sold, even high thujone Absinthe of up to 75mg/kg thujone.
Serbia – Serbia does not allow Absinthe over 50% abv or containing thujone to be sold.
South Africa – In 2005 Absinthe was made legal.
Spain – Absinthe was never banned in Spain where it is known as Absenta.
Sweden – Sweden allows Absinthe complying with EU legislation to be sold as long as it is labeled as containing wormwood.
Switzerland – Absinthe was finally legalized in 2005 in Switzerland, more than 90 years after it was banned.
Turkey – Thujone containing Absinthe is illegal.
UK – The UK never banned Absinthe. Absinthe must comply with EU legislation.
So, the answer to the question “In what countries is Absinthe legal?” is that it is now legal in most countries where it was previously popular.