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:: Absinthe And Art
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:: Legal History
:: Absinthe in Modern Times
:: legends About Absinthe
:: Absinthe The Dark Side
:: Absinthe In The USA
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The Prohibition of Absinthe

Absinthe was attacked since the earlier days of its invention. After a number of diverse publicity remarking about several violent crimes supposedly committed under the direct influence of this drink, along with a general tendency toward hard liquor consumption due to the wine shortage in France during the decades of 1880's and 1890's, the temperance leagues and wine maker's associations targeted the drink's popularity as a social menace saying that it makes people crazy and criminal, turning men into brutes and threatens the future of our times.

In 1876, the painting "L'Absinthe" (The Absinthe Drinkers) by Edgar Degas, epitomized the popular view of Absinthe "addicts" as sodden and benumbed. The painting is currently exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay in France. Emile Zola described also their serious intoxication in his novel "L'Assommoir". In 1907 the Croix Bleue gathered 400,000 signatures on a petition which declared, "Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country."

All these and other actions caused the drink to be banned from sale and production in most countries by 1915. In France, the prohibition of Absinthe led to the growing popularity of pastis and ouzo, the names of other aniseed-flavored liquors that do not use wormwood. After the prohibition, France never repealed the 1915 law, but in 1988, a reviewed law was passed to clarify that only beverages that do not comply with European Union regulations with respect to thujone content, or beverages that call themselves "Absinthe" explicitly, fall under such law.

Such amendment has resulted in the re-emergence of French Absinthes, now labeled as "spiritueux à base de plantes d'Absinthe." It is of particular interest to know that the 1915 law regulates only the sales of "Absinthe" in France but not its production. This allowed some of the French manufacturers, through the time after the prohibition, to produce variants destined for exports and plainly labeled as "Absinthe." The drink is of a lower alcohol content, around just 40 percent, and is most notably produced in the distilleries of Provence after the wormwood harvest, but is also produced in Doubs and in Fougerolles. Currently the wormwood used has been bred to limit the thujone to 10 mg/kg.

In the decade of 1990 an importer realized that there was no UK law regarding its sale, which meant that Absinthe was never banned in Great Britain, and no other limitations were applied than the standard regulations governing alcoholic beverages. This fact catapulted Absinthe, which became available again in the UK for the first time in nearly a century, although flagged with a prohibitively high tax (usual in the United Kingdom) reflecting the high ethanol content. Not only in the UK, Absinthe was never banned in Spain or Portugal, which continued producing the drink until today.

The Recent European Union laws have allowed Absinthe and Absinthe-like liquors production, which made it available commercially under regulations placing strict controls on the thujone level. In the Netherlands, a law dating from 1909 prohibited the selling and drinking of Absinthe, although this law was successfully challenged in July 2004 by Menno Boorsma, an Amsterdam wine seller that made possible the legal distributorship of Absinthe, before the prosecutor appealed and there will be a second trial in a higher court.

The prohibition of Absinthe in Switzerland was even written into the constitution in 1907, following a popular initiative. This situation changed in 2000 when the law article was repealed during a general overhaul of the constitution, and then the prohibition was written into ordinary law instead. Shortly thereafter, that law was also repealed. Absinthe is again legal in its country of origin since March 2, 2005 and after nearly a century of prohibition.