I learned quite a lot about Absinthe while traveling through Europe. You can’t help but notice the completely green stores in Prague advertising the green fairy liquid. Since I had never tried it before I decided to stop by a lovely little shop in Heidelberg, Germany and get the low-down on this potent liquid.
Absinthe is historically described as a distilled, highly alcoholic (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof) beverage. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as “la fée verte” (the green fairy). Although it is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur, absinthe is not traditionally bottled with added sugar; it is therefore classified as a spirit. Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water prior to being consumed.
Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and hallucinogen. The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only trace amounts, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria-Hungary. Although absinthe was vilified, it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits. Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties (apart from that of the alcohol) have been exaggerated. A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed longstanding barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries, most notably in France, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, and the Czech Republic.