Myths About Absinthe You Always Believed

If you've never heard of absinthe, it is a high-proof liquor traditionally infused with wormwood, anise, and fennel. Drinking absinthe was outlawed in many countries during the 1900s due to the numerous myths surrounding the then-popular drink. 

How Stuff Works states that to make absinthe, you must first soak the herbs mentioned above in alcohol and distill the mixture. This process causes the alcohol and oils to separate, leaving behind the water and any bitter flavors imparted by the herbs. The distiller then takes the pure alcohol and botanical oil mixture and dilutes it to a drinkable proof. While many people believe absinthe to be naturally green, the liquid is actually clear until the final step of production, when absinthe makers add in more herbs to give the liquid its infamous green color.

One of the most widespread myths about absinthe is that drinking it will make you hallucinate. According to Tasting Table, this myth is simply not true. It was caused in part by the presence of wormwood as one of absinthe's main ingredients. Wormwood contains thujone, which is a compound that can make you hallucinate — but only in extremely high quantities that are not present in absinthe. Tasting Table asserts it may be possible people have hallucinated when drinking absinthe, but that is likely from the incredibly high alcohol content contained within the chartreuse liquid. Most absinthe generally hovers around 120 proof, which is four (or more times) the amount in a glass of red wine.

You can buy real absinthe in the United States

Another common myth is that absinthe is still illegal in the United States, or you are only allowed to purchase adulterated, low-quality bottles. Tasting Table confirms that absinthe was illegal in the United States from 1912 all the way to 2007, and faced similar regulations in Europe. Once the ban was lifted in 2007, absinthe producers were able to stop using loopholes, like bottling the liquor under a code name, and put it back on the market for public consumption.

While many thought these bottles emerging in the United States in 2007 were not "real absinthe," Liquor states that most bottles of absinthe being sold in the U.S. today are authentic and high-quality. Compared to the absinthe in Europe, a bottle of absinthe for sale in the United States is actually less likely to be overpriced or of inferior quality, simply due to stricter regulations. Mutineer Magazine suggests that this myth could be based on the fact that absinthe in the U.S. is limited to 10 milligrams of thujone per liter, while in the European Union, it can contain up to 35 milligrams per liter if it is labeled as "bitters." This line of thinking is incorrect, however, as the amount of thujone present is unrelated to whether or not a drink is "true absinthe."