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After nearly a century of prohibition, la fee verte is once again legal in the US.
Legal, that is, as long as it contains less than 10ppm (parts per million) of thujone. Thujone–the active chemical in grand wormwood, one of the many herbs used to make absinthe–has long been thought to be resonsible for creating the magical sense of lucidity that many absinthe enthusiasts report.
Around the turn of the 20th-century, absinthe was adored by some of the most prominent artists, poets, and writers in Europe and the US, including Manet, Rimbaud, Lautrec, Baudelaire, Degas, Wilde, Van Gogh, London and Hemingway. Immortalized in many works of art, absinthe has become perhaps the most mythical alcoholic drink the west has ever known, and its mystique was only enhanced when it was banned in many European countries and the US in the early part of the 20th-century.
Efforts to ban absinthe were spearheaded in the late 19th-century by French prohibitionists who formed a curious coalition with French winemakers. Their successful propaganda campaign condemned absinthe as a drink that causes illness, criminal activity and, ultimately, insanity. Today, while there is disagreement about the psychotropic effects of thujone, the amount of thujone present in pre-ban absinthes and whether today's legal absinthes (with <10ppm thujone) can be called genuine, it's clear that absinthe is as safe as any other alcoholic drink.
For more information about absinthe (including how to get your hands on the green fairy), go here .
Enthusiasts may want to check out Barnaby Conrad's Absinthe: History in a Bottle , a lovely coffee table book.