The muse of many creative individuals, absinthe was immortalized by poets, artists, and writers, including Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Hemingway, who romanticized it, and Degas, Manet, and Wilde, who portrayed its less desirable effects.
Both those who waxed poetic about its alleged hallucinogenic properties and those who depicted absinthe as the drink of moral degenerates helped influence its ban across most of Europe and in the United States during the early 20th century, with assistance from the growing temperance movement.
The U.S. ban lasted 95 years until it was finally lifted in 2007. While some regulations still apply (namely, restricting the amount of thujone—the chemical component once believed to cause hallucinations—to 10 ppm), well over 100 varieties of absinthe featuring grand wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) among its many herbal and botanical ingredients are now produced and available.
Because most absinthes have a very high ABV, typically between 60 to 70 percent, it’s recommended to prepare the spirit in the glass by diluting it with three to five parts ice cold water, which also magically transforms absinthe verte from transparent green to an opaque, milky-white louche. The use of a sugar cube is optional. Absinthe is also a key ingredient in an authentic Sazerac cocktail. — Chris Gill
Jade Liqueurs Nouvelle-Orléans Absinthe Supérieure | $130
Of four different varieties of absinthe distilled by T.A. Breaux in France based on vintage recipes, this intriguing, complex absinthe verte is the only one available in the U.S.
Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure | $67
Grand and petit wormwood, green and star anise, fennel doux Provence, and spearmint are among the herbs that give Vieux Carré verte its complex, compelling personality.
Ridge Extrait d’Absinthe Verte | $85
This incredible modern verte with crisp, floral, and citrus flavors and a glowing, iridescent louche is made mostly from herbs grown in Kalispell, Montana.
Pernod Absinthe | $70
Pernod was the Number One producer of absinthe in Europe before the ban. Today’s version strays from the original recipe, but its taste remains traditional.