Absinthe 101

The history of absinthe is a cocktail of myth, conjecture and controversy. A turn-of-the-twentieth-century favorite of artists and writers, the spirit was banned in the United States in 1912 because it was believed to be hallucinogenic. Just a few years ago, it once again became legal in America to buy the high-alcohol, anise-flavored liquor.

The term “absinthe” comes from Artemisia absinthium, the scientific name for its key ingredient, wormwood. Long before distillers discovered it, the herb was used for medicinal purposes.

The production of absinthe is much like that of gin: High-proof neutral spirit is infused with a blend of botanicals, including wormwood, and redistilled. Traditionally, the alcohol is infused a second time before bottling to intensify the flavor and create the signature green color. Many modern producers skip this final step and use dyes instead.


The traditional preparation is to slowly drip water over a sugar cube and into the spirit, which becomes cloudy (this is called the louche). According to Jim Meehan, an award-winning mixologist and a Liquor.com advisor, you can also use small quantities of absinthe (a few dashes, a rinse or a quarter-ounce) to add a floral, bittersweet quality to just about any cocktail. You also need absinthe to make a proper Sazerac, a Corpse Reviver #2 and a Death in the Afternoon.


Kübler, La Fée, Lucid, Pernod, St. George, Vieux Pontarlier

Learn all about even more types of liquor in our Spirits 101 stories on bourboncognacginIrish whiskeyrumrye whiskeyScotchtequila and vodka.

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  • ejes posted 6 years ago

    Rez doesn't know what he's talking about.
    The name "wormwood" comes from the PLANT Artemisia absinthium used to make absinthe as the article says. The plant was called wormwood because it was as a cure for intestinal worms.

  • Mark posted 6 years ago

    Does it really "make the heart grow fonder"?

  • Rez posted 6 years ago

    the name Wormwood comes from the "original" making of absinth,
    let the worms eat the greenstuff, squeeze them and destill that stuff and you'll see the other side.

    just fermented alcohol wuz not the source of the tales

  • tudza posted 6 years ago

    Never set it on fire.

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