Barely Legal

For a long time, absinthe was much like pot in Vancouver and health food in Alabama; it was legal for you to own and consume, but frowned upon to sell. The notorious spirit is distilled from a mixture of herbs and spices developed by the Swiss, and it’s known for its high alcohol content and distinct licorice fl avor. But what sets absinthe apart from vodka and gin—and the reason it was banned for nearly 100 years—is its use of wormwood, a little shrub that contains a supposedly mind-bending chemical called thujone. That’s not the whole story behind the ban. As absinthe gained popularity with bohemian Parisian culture in the late 19th Century, French winemakers created a propaganda campaign against the green spirit that claimed it “provoked epilepsy,” and it was later blamed for causing Vincent Van Gogh to chop off his ear (although that incident is now believed to be the result of dementia caused by a raging case of syphilis). A few petitions later and absinthe was banned throughout Europe and the United States. After lobbying in 2007, the hallucinogenic booze is now legal everywhere. Is it dangerous? Not really. These days there’s such a small amount of thujone in absinthe you would die of alcohol poisoning before you blew your mind. To drink it properly, pour one ounce of absinthe in a glass, hold a sugar cube in a spoon (preferably an absinthe spoon) over the glass, and slowly pour ice water over it. Down it and wait for the Green Fairy to arrive.

Absente

Absente has been around since before the ban. The company found a loophole by using a less bitter cousin of wormwood called “southern wormwood,” which still contains thujone but is a little easier to drink than the original.

Sebor

At 110 proof, this Czech Republic absinth (the Czech heritage is why this brand drops the “e”) uses the highest legal amount of wormwood. Its rich licorice and anise flavors make this perfect for sipping without overpowering your palate.

Lucid

The first classic version of absinthe to be sold in the United States after the ban was lifted, Lucid is a powerful 62 percent alcohol, so mix it with a little water and sugar. If you use this for your next round of body shots, you’ll end up in a body bag.

Suisse Verte Clandestine

With 72 percent alcohol, this wormwood infused absinthe is made in the Swiss region where absinthe was invented. The green spirit turns milky when water or ice is added (a trait of most absinthes), and at this proof you should be sure to add plenty.

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