Although it is sometimes mistakenly called a liqueur, absinthe was not bottled with added sugar and is therefore classified as a spirit. Absinthe is unusual among spirits in that it is bottled at a very high proof but is normally diluted with water when consumed.
Absinthe is said to have originated in Switzerland, although history dates it back to 1500 bc, and became very popular in the late 19th and 20th century France. Due in part to its association with bohemian culture, absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists. Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical thujone, present in small quantities, was singled out and blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in most European countries. Although absinthe was vilified, no evidence has shown it to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, when countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. As of February 2008, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries, most notably in France, Switzerland, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
The precise origin of absinthe is unclear.
Spurred by the Temperance movement, and being blamed for violence and murder, Absinthes banning began in 1898 in the Netherlands, then moved on to Europe and the United States.
In the 1990s an importer, BBH Spirits, realized that there was no UK law prohibiting the sale of absinthe, as it had never been banned there. They began to import Hill’s Absinth (not a true Absinthe) from the Czech Republic, which encouraged a modern resurgence in absinthe’s popularity. Absinthe had also never been banned in Spain or Portugal, where it continued to be made. These absinthes — Czech, Spanish, and Portuguese brands — date mostly from the 1990s, are generally of Bohemian-style, and are considered by many absinthe connoisseurs to be of inferior quality. On March 5, 2007, the French Lucid brand became the first genuine absinthe to receive a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) for legal importation into the United States since 1912, following independent efforts by representatives from Lucid and Kübler to topple the longstanding U.S. ban.
Traditionally, absinthe is prepared by placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon and then placing the spoon on the glass which has been filled with a shot of absinthe. Ice-cold water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube so that the water is slowly and evenly displaced into the absinthe, typically 1 part absinthe and 3 to 5 parts water. During this process, components not soluble in water (mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche (Fr. "opaque" or "shady"). Releasing these components allows herbal aromas and flavors to "blossom" or "bloom" and brings out subtleties originally over-powered by the anise. Fountains became popular in order to achieve this slow drip of water without having to hold anything, and for some, entertaining to watch. Another term for the slow process of mixing with water is called ‘louching a glass’.
The sugar cube caramelized by fire is not truly traditional
Absinthe is traditionally prepared from a distillation of neutral alcohol, various herbs, and water. Traditional absinthes were redistilled from a white grape spirit (or eau de vie), while lesser absinthes were more commonly made from alcohol from grain, beets, or potatoes. The principal botanicals are grande wormwood, green anise, and florence fennel, which are often called "the holy trinity”. Many other herbs may be used as well, such as petite wormwood (Artemisia pontica or Roman wormwood), hyssop, melissa, star anise, angelica, sweet flag, dittany, coriander, veronica, juniper, and nutmeg
The legacy of absinthe as a mysterious, addictive, and mind-altering drink continues to this day. Absinthe has been seen or featured in fine art, movies, video, music and literature. The modern absinthe revival has had an effect on its portrayal. It is often shown as an unnaturally glowing green liquid which is set on fire before drinking, even though traditionally neither is true.
Absinthe has been frequently and incorrectly described in modern times as being hallucinogenic. In the 1970s, a scientific paper mistakenly reported thujone was related to THC, the active chemical in cannabis.
Today it is known that absinthe does not cause hallucinations. Thujone, the active chemical in absinthe, is a GABA antagonist; and while it can produce muscle spasms in large doses, there is no evidence that it causes hallucinations. It has been speculated that reports of hallucinogenic effects of absinthe may have been due to poisonous chemicals being added to cheaper versions of the drink in the 19th century, to give it a more vivid color. However, the debate over whether absinthe produces effects on the human mind additional to those of alcohol has not been conclusively resolved.
Long term effects of low absinthe consumption in humans remain unknown,