I saw a bottle the other day. So I called the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States as well as the coolest kids at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, aka the TTB.
It had been banned since 1912. But science has shown that the Thujone content in Absinthe - the stuff that allegedly causes hallucinations - was so low that it was of no concern. So it was approved, according to TTB Spokesman Art Resnick.
I got the same story from Frank Coleman, with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
So, bottom line it for me, Frank and Al - is this the stuff Hemingway used to call "Death in the Afternoon?" Is this the stuff that supposedly made Van Gogh cut his freaking ear off?
Said Al: "I don't know what (Hemingway) drank. I don't know how much Thujone it had in it. ... That's all up for question in terms of the myth that surrounds this product. I couldn't tell you for sure that it ever did (cause hallucinations). But the product that's on the market now would not have that effect."
Said Frank: "It is (the real stuff) minus whatever historically, was in it. ... The stuff that made Van Gogh cut off his ear... allegedly... who knows."
Killjoys. Anyway, I couldn't find it online to link it, but here's some paragraphs from a March Washington Post article about Absinthe:
Ernest Hemingway created his own concoction, mixing the green liquid with cold champagne to make what he called "Death in the Afternoon." ...
Some think absinthe's very popularity led to its downfall. After the roots of grape vines in France were badly damaged by small insects in the late 19th century, absinthe surged in popularity, which might have made the wine industry uneasy.
"That's when they began a smear campaign, and they needed a reason, which is how the rumors started," said T.A. Breaux, an environmental chemist who spent 14 years analyzing absinthe bottled before the ban. ...
Absinthe, it was said, could cause hallucinations, epilepsy and madness. It was thought to have caused Van Gogh to cut off his ear. Then came the trial of a Swiss man accused of killing his family on the day he had two absinthes and other alcoholic drinks. Soon after, the drink was banned in Switzerland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Brazil and, in 1912, the United States.
At the time, scientists attributed the problem to wormwood, the bitter herb used in making absinthe. Studies have shown that in large doses thujone, a toxin found in wormwood, sage and cedar leaf, can cause convulsions or kidney failure.
Modern experts, however, say early absinthe contained so little thujone that a man would die from alcohol poisoning long before being hurt by the toxin. U.S. regulations today allow no more than 10 parts per million of the chemical in absinthe.