Absinthe, also known as the green fairy, has been believed by many to contain hallucinogenic properties, leading to its banishment. Find out the truth behind absinthe.

What is Absinthe?

Absinthe is a beverage that has very high alcohol content. It has a flavor that resembles liquorice, fennel and tarragon which is derived from herbs which includes the flowers and the leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium (known as “grande wormwood”), along with the green anise and sweet fennel. Normally, absinthe has a natural green color but there are also instances when it is colorless. It is popularly referred to as the “green fairy”.


Most people mistakenly refer to absinthe as liqueur however it actually does not belong in that category. It more appropriately falls in the category of spirit since it is not bottled with added sugar. The drink absinthe does have a very high level of alcohol by volume but it is normally diluted with water before consumption.

A Brief History of Absinthe

The origin of absinthe can be traced back to the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. It was a popular drink in the late 19th and the early 20th century France specifically among Parisian artists and writers. During that time, social conservatives and prohibitionists were against the consumption of absinthe partly due to its association with bohemian culture.

There were well known people back in the day who were drinkers of absinthe. Some of these were Ernest Hemmingway, an American author and journalist, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, who were all French Poets. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator was also a drinker of absinthe. Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian painter and sculptor; Vincent Van Gough, a Dutch painter; Oscar Wilde who was an Irish writer and poet; Aleister Crowley, an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician and Alfred Jarry, a French writer, were all commonly known people who drank absinthe.

After some time, absinthe was considered as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug because of its hallucinogenic properties. This, together with the chemical thujone which is present in small amounts, was to blame for absinthe’s supposed harmful effects to people. Absinthe was banned in the United States and also in most European countries including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at about 1915. Even though absinthe was banned, it was not proven that it is really dangerous beyond the effects of any other ordinary spirits. It is believed that its psychoactive properties was misrepresented.

In the year 1990, absinthe was welcomed back to the scene when countries in the European Union, which has 27 members of States in Europe, reauthorized its manufacturing and sales. When the year 2000 came, a new premium cocktail mix called “Wildemule” was even launched which contains absinthe, ginger and lime. It is said that the cocktail was actually named after the known drinker of absinthe, Oscar Wilde. As the year 2008 rolled by, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in the market in a dozen countries, particularly France, Switzerland, Spain, and the Czech Republic.