Is Absinthe legal in the U.S.?
Absinthe is legal again in the United States. This is an very recent development, since Absinthe didn’t make its return to the U.S. until 2007. It’s going to cost you to buy a bottle, upwards of about $75 in many cases. But all three traditional types of absinthe are now available in the states, and absinthe is even being produced legally in California these days (also starting in 2007).
Absinthe is a liquor with a colorful past, being both romanticized by its proponents and demonized by its detractors. Around the turn of the 20th century, absinthe had gained such a bad reputation as a poisonous drink that most western countries banned its sale, including the United States in 1905. One key ingredient of absinthe, thujone, is a potent toxin in high quantities. Of course, thujone appears in such small quantities in absinthe that it was never dangerous to the absinthe drinker, though it took ten years of legal work and a whole battery of new tests by the FDA to prove that to the satisfaction of U.S. authorities. Absinthe is proven to be no more deleterious than other high proof liquor drinks.
Meanwhile, the high alcohol content of absinthe and its bewitching green color gave the drink a legendary reputation among the people who enjoyed the green fairy. “Green fairy” is just one of many monikers given to absinthe by its poetic and artistic proponents over years. Other names include “the Green Goddess”, “the Green Witch”, the “Green Muse”, the “Glaucous Witch” and “the Queen of Poisons”. Famous artistic geniuses from Oscar Wilde to Aleister Crowley to Mark Twain to Frank Sinatra, who are each known to have spent time at the legendary Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The eloquence of poets and authors alike in celebrating this green liquor, which typically has an alcohol content around 128 proof, may have drawn the attention of the temperance movements that were so active in the early part of the 20th century. An international crusade to ban absinthe, fueled by the misinformation that absinthe literally poisoned its drinkers, saw that the “le fee verte” was banned in most “respectable countries”.
Those interested in tasting absinthe need to know that the drink is likely to be about 65% alcohol content, while absinthe will also cost you around $75 or more per bottle. Those interested in reading how the absinthe movement brought absinthe back to the United States should read the following New York Times article on Absinthe’s Return.
But if you want to partake legally in the Green Muse, Charles, you can now do so here in the U.S. of A.
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