2008: The Return of the Green Fairy

For those of you who didn’t know, the ban on absinthe in the United States has become relaxed enough for a few distillers to start selling the drink on US shores. The United States now joins the European Union with a renewed look at an old and vilified drink. Per this article from the New York Times, “One reason legal barriers have fallen is that, as The New Yorker reported in 2006, the regulated chemical thujone, found in wormwood and once thought to have been the cause of absinthe’s lure and its dangers, did not show up in any significant quantities in analyses of historical absinthe. So these authentic replicas, despite containing wormwood, do not pose a legal challenge” (emphasis mine).

This revisit of the Green Fairy in the US can be attributed to an attorney by the name of Robert Lehrman, hired by Kübler of Switzerland, makers of… yep, absinthe. The inquiries began in 2000, and the regulations were only loosened late last year, so Lehrman had a seven-year fight on his hands. Granted, this is good for the Kübler distillery, but also good for other distilleries who are willing to be subjected to the rigorous approval process by the US government.

In Alameda, California, St George Spirits distillery has become the first in the United States to introduce American-made absinthe onto the market since 1912. At the moment, I’ve only been able to find information on only two other makers of absinthe who have been given the green light to sell in the US market aside from Kübler and St George: From France, Combier Distillery’s Lucid Absinthe Supérieure, imported by Viridian Spirits LLC, and a South American brand I haven’t been able to find further information on aside that it might be Brazilian in nationality. I found Absinto Camargo online, which is a possible candidate for this mystery. Any help in clarification would be greatly appreciated!

When Hao and I had initially found out about the loosening of the ban, we went to the nearest Total Wine (also known among friends as the Alco-Mall) to see if we could possibly procure a bottle. We roamed the aisles with no success, and upon asking a store employee, I found out why: it’s too new. Having done more research online, which I am now sharing with you, with only a small handful of distilled versions of absinthe being sold legally inside the US, there isn’t enough product to flood the market, or at least the shelves of our local Total Wine… yet. Perhaps within this year, as more absinthe producers apply to import into the US, or as more home-grown distilleries create some Yankee absinthe, we may see a bottle or two show up at Total Wine and ABC Liquors, along with other mom & pop liquor stores.

If you’re interested in consuming the Green Fairy, you will probably want to do a little research in order for you to figure out where you can purchase absinthe, as well as what brands to buy and what “Absente” to avoid. One of the websites I recommend is The Wormwood Society, which will explain to you the current US policy towards absinthe (10 mg of thujone per liter or less is acceptable for sale and consumption), and has recipes for absinthe cocktails, lists a review guide, showcases top-rated bottles (some made and packaged before the ban, making the bottles nearly a century old!) and a segment on “Absinthe Science,” dispelling the myths and hype of wormwood.

For more on absinthe, follow these links:

Websites

  • The Virtual Absinthe Museum – Loaded with FAQs, absinthe history & lore, as well as a place to buy prints of absinthe posters and so forth, the Virtual Absinthe Museum is a wonderful primer for people wanting to learn more about this illustrious liquor.
  • La Fee Verte – This website has a ton of information, especially notable for its Buyer’s Guide, which should steer you in the right direction as far as what absinthes may be right for you, and which ones you should avoid. There’s an exhaustive list of different brands from all over the world, and some of these have ratings and reviews. Very comprehensive!

News articles

Where to buy

  • Absinthe Classics – Six ranges of absinthe are sold on this site, sent from the United Kingdom by courier to the United States and Canada, as well as other parts of the world. Prices are given in Pounds Sterling, so please use the online currency converter to figure out how much it will be in your nation’s currency.
  • D&M Wines and Liquors – Currently selling Kübler and Lucid on its website.
  • K&L Wine Merchants – Also currently selling Kübler and Lucid, as well as some liquors made without the grande wormwood, which would explain why the bottles are half the cost of the real absinthes.
  • The Jug Shop – Selling Lucid and Kubler, but is also listed as a seller for US-made St George… but out of stock at the moment.
  • HiTimeWine.net – Also selling Kubler and Lucing, with a listing for St George, which is also out of stock.

Please note I cannot personally vouch for any of these retailers online, having not yet purchased absinthe by any means at the present time. In other words, I’m providing this information for you to do as you like with. Don’t come crying to me if the shipping costs are painful, your booze gets lost, or it turns out you don’t like the flavour of absinthe after all.

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