Library of Congress
Switzerland has the dual distinction of being the first country to commercially manufacture absinthe in the 1790s and among the first in Europe and North America to ban it one century later. During the intervening period, the “green fairy” was mythicized in the works and by the drinking habits of artists and writers living in France, including van Gogh, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Baudelaire, Hemingway, Rimbaud, and Wilde.
During the early years of the twentieth century, absinthe drinking lost its mystique and was linked to violent crimes and social disorder. This led to bans on its manufacture in much of Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) and the United States. In the 1990s, the hazards of absinthe were reevaluated, and the potent liquor was returned to the shelves worldwide.
Absinthe is a spirit containing 50–75 percent alcohol, anise (imparting its flavor), fennel, and the leaves of wormwood (Artemisia absinthum). The wormwood leaves contain thujone, absinthe’s chief behaviorally active constituent, and its characteristic green color is the result of chlorophyll in the herbs. The method used to prepare the drink generally involves pouring ice-cold water over a sugar cube into a glass that contains the spirit.