Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Ask the Expert: What Is Absinthe? Why Was It Illegal?

Q: What is absinthe? Why was it illegal?

A: Absinthe was originally developed as a medicinal liquor that was given to soldiers in Europe to help prevent malaria as well as aid with digestive issues due to that fact that anise oil (the main component of absinthe) was generally accepted as a natural digestive aid at the time, and continues to be. Traditionally, absinthe is made of high proof distilled spirit with anise, fennel and grande wormwood (the holy trinity of absinthe). Other ingredients are used by various distillers to add additional flavor profiles that make their absinthe unique. However, the dominant flavor of absinthe is anise (black licorice). Largely, absinthe was the most popular drink from 1850 till the early 1900’s. Because of its popularity, the Temperance League lobbied against absinthe due to the high rate of alcohol related crime and false claims that it made you hallucinate or “go crazy” (which it did not). Absinthe was banned in most of Europe between 1905 and 1910, and the United States followed in 1912. Europe reintroduced it around the 1950’s and the United States allowed the sale of absinthe in 2007 based on science that the spirit was no more dangerous than other spirits currently available at the time.

—Greg Baughman, CEO
Gold River Distillery, 11460 Sunrise Gold Circle, Suite C, Rancho Cordova, 916-476-3868,