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Bringing Absinthe back to the US?

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My sister, much more of a liqueur aficionado than myself, wants me to bring back a bottle of Absinthe for her from France. Has anyone done this? Is it legal?
Thanks!

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  1. Lots have done it. No, its not legal.

    1. I know folks who did it, but sweated it the whole time. Here's the person to ask:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353902

      1. There is, apparently, a legal option in the states, or soon to be.

        A company called Viridian Spirits is making a legal Absinthe approved by the Feds.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/bus...

        1 Reply
        1. re: ccbweb

          Yes, the new absinthe is called Lucid

          http://www.drinklucid.com

          Also, Marilyn Manson, the shock/goth/rocker guy, is supposed to be releasing his own brand called Mansinthe.

          This subject of bringing absinthe into the US is discussed frequently at the two main US absinthe forums. I've heard of one person who placed false labels on clandestine (at the time) Swiss absinthe to bring into the country. I don't know what they said, maybe aftershave or cologne.

          www.feeverte.net
          www.wormwoodsociety.org

          There is also a lot of talk on the forums about the imminent release of legal absinthes in the US

        2. Is "legal absinthe" really absinthe? Or is it just a sexy marketing name for "Pernod"? Absinthe without the wormwood is like booze without alcohol.

          2 Replies
          1. re: embee

            Hey embee, there's a right vicious debate raging on the absinthe forum at www.feeverte right now. Quite amusing.

            This link dumps you onto the last page of the thread. Pages 13-15 are particularly wicked. In a nutshell, this new 'absinthe' called Lucid has passed muster with the govt.
            The Lucid website, www.drinklucid.com claims:

            "Lucid has been tested and it meets US and EU standards for content. It is worth noting that using modern equipment, T.A. Breaux, the distiller of Lucid, has analyzed dozens of bottles of traditional, high-quality vintage Absinthe from the Belle Époque period and has determined that quality Absinthe that was properly made typically did not have any significant Thujone content- even 100 years ago."

            "Moreover, thanks to T.A. Breaux's modern testing of vintage bottles of Absinthe from over 100 years ago, we now know that, just as with Lucid, most of the high quality Absinthes from the 1800's would meet today's US standards for content, further discrediting the theory that Thujone had any real relevance to the Absinthe experience."

            The FDA law below:
            :
            [Code of Federal Regulations]
            [Title 21, Volume 3]
            [Revised as of April 1, 2004]
            [CITE: 21CFR172.510

            ]

            Artemisia (wormwood), Artemisia spp, Finished food thujone free...
            As determined by using the method (or, in other than alcoholic beverages, a suitable adaptation thereof) insection 9.129 of the "Official Methods of Analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists," 13thEd. (1980).

            Sooo...if Lucid is being sold in the US, then your suspicion that it is just a sexy marketing ploy is not unfounded. BTW, Ted Breaux, the distiller of Lucid, is taking a heap of criticism for what many absintheurs see as a sell-out, and pure history revision to boot.

            1. re: embee

              oops, forgot the link!

              http://www.feeverte.net/forum/index.p...

            2. Note that most Chowhound discussion of absinthe is in the spirits forum. For example:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33760...

              taco clandestino rightly quotes standing US FDA requirement of "finished food thujone free." Unfortunately, much discussion of this subject online nowadays (such as on the feeverte site), and in commercial promotions (Ted Breaux, etc.), and even popular journalism, prefers to argue about myths and notions rather than to address longstanding basic realities:

              -- "Thujone-free" absinthe is not news, it was an absinthe selling point in early 1900s;

              -- Thujone itself is a false issue (US FDA regulations on it are internally contradictory). After the early-1900s absinthe ban, thujone was recognized in "many essential oils" of plants such as common cooking sage (this was in mainstream scientific texts by the 1940s). Moreover, its lethal dose level (everything has a lethal dose level, including water) is the same as caffeine's. By this measure a cup of coffee at 100-200 mg caffeine is more "toxic" than the thujone in even a full bottle of thujone-rich absinthe (details in link above);

              -- Informed spirits experts, for decades, have tried to demystify absinthe. "It is not because of the wormwood that it is dangerous but rather because of its alcoholic strength" (Grossman, 4th edition, 1964). Much of the discussion you see online works in the opposite direction.

              Further discussion of absinthe itself belongs in the spirits forum:

              http://www.chowhound.com/boards/36

              2 Replies
              1. re: eatzalot

                You'll have to check your bags, of course, but it's not illegal. All the mystique about the poisonous aspects of Absinthe and wormwood (blah blah blah) have been discredited. I've had it myself and experienced nothing but the usual good old buzz. Cheers!

                1. re: RosieN

                  Rational or not, Absinthe is on the list of items that are prohibited for import to by US Customs:

                  http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vac...

              2. The last time I was in France, we bought a bottle of absinthe to drink with the family there. The seller said the real problem in the belle époque was wood alcohol or distillation related issues, not thujone.

                1. Absinthe is legal in NH, in fact I saw it that the State Liquor store about 2 hours ago.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                    They don't specifically call it "absinthe". For example, la Muse Verte is labeled "pastis". Don't know if this is enough to get by cusoms agents at the airport or not - they wanted to confiscate my canned cassoulet, until the supervisor came by and said to let us go.

                    1. re: salutlemonde

                      FYI, Muse Verte has been sold legally in the US for years (so at least version imported to US is not actually an absinthe, and presumably not in France either, which had absinthe ban too). However, label on my bottle -- paper overwrap depicting classic absinthe glass, spoon, flat sugar cube, and mysterious vapors -- plays old absinthe mystique to the hilt.

                      "Pastis" is the larger French category of anise-flavored strong liquors including absinthe and its many later, post-ban relatives. Traditionally the word described the finished, water-diluted drink as served. A standard French reference book gives it as a south-of-France idiom for "confused" or "mixed" which comes from the cloudiness of the water-diluted drink.

                      FYI salut, your remark upthread from France is very accurate, and characteristic of what you'll see in down-to-earth historical writing on absinthe. High alcohol content (new to a French culture not traditionally consuming much distilled spirits), careless distillation, and dangerous chemical adulterants in the many cheap brands all were identified (eventually) as causes of 19th-century health problems attributed to absinthe. The once-notorious thujone was also later found present in "many essential oils" of plants including common food herbs most people consume, that are "Generally Recognized As Safe" (US FDA verbatim quotation).

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        I thought it was very interesting that the absinthe craze coincided with the destruction of the French wine industry by the Phylloxera louse. When the vineyards had been replanted and wine production was back, the wine industry wanted their market share back, and led the campaign against absinthe.

                        1. re: kenito799

                          They, and many other people too. (Conrad's popular absinthe-history book, mentioned in this thread, reproduces French anti-absinthe literature and slogans from the time).

                          This fit (or played) into a larger temperance and prohibition movement, internationally, especially where (as in US) there were serious problems with epidemic alcohol abuse in the 19th century. Absinthe prohibition (1912 in US) presaged wider alcohol prohibitions in several countries (1919 in US). These wider prohibitions were repealed within a few years, but the absinthe prohibition remained -- due partly to obsolete notions about the drink, still evident today.

                    2. re: gryphonskeeper

                      Are you sure you saw Absinthe in NH? As you know, liquor is only sold in state liquor stores in NH, and as far as I can tell they only sell the wormwood free Absente. I would appreciate it if anyone can help me figure out how to get Absinthe in NH.

                      1. re: Frigs

                        The Lucid website lists the New York state distributor and lists stores by city that carry it.
                        http://www.drinklucid.com/
                        dave

                        1. re: Frigs

                          I have a friend who got a Absinthe kit for his birthday last Spring. He used the kit to make a couple of bottles of the stuff. I haven't had the chance to try it yet, he lives in NY and I'm in WA. He said he stuff he made was awesome. I'm not sure if that was taste or effect wise. I asked him were the kit came from here is the link http://www.greendevil.com/. If anyone else had tried this let me know.
                          Cheers
                          Linda

                      2. apologies if this link has been posted on the Absinthe threads but I found it to have an excellent history of absinthe and what it is. According to this site, some small producers are making classic absinthe now.

                        http://www.oxygenee.com/absinthe.html

                        If you put a bottle in your checked luggage you will probably not have any trouble.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: kenito799

                          Yes, that site (and feeverte and wormwoodsociety) have summaries about absinthe, much like the standard written sources that preceded them (and preceded the recent fashion for this subject), such as Barnaby Conrad's 1980s US book and others from Europe.

                          Unfortunately, along with repeating standard factual information about absinthe, those online sites tend to collect the perspectives of recent absinthe hobbyists who have unwittingly bought into some absinthe misconceptions even while deploring others. Consequently they often omit key demystifying information. I listed examples earlier in this thread and elsewhere on this forum.

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            "Unfortunately, along with repeating standard factual information about absinthe, those online sites tend to collect the perspectives of recent absinthe hobbyists who have unwittingly bought into some absinthe misconceptions even while deploring others."

                            Hobbyists is not the full picture - they are also now proxies of the manufacturing industry. What's the big problem with selling absinthe today? Thujone.

                            Convenient how the guy that makes Lucid (thujone free absinthe ) "discovered" there was little or no thujone in old bottles....VERY CONVENIENT if you want to sell a faux version in America to the masses.

                            Do you dispute Dr Arnold's findings?

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              As an absinthe drinker/smuggler, I often have to tell people that you do not get to the Green Fairy from a few glasses--that feeling is just the higher proof.

                              I have also heard that part of the madness from Absinthe was due to using copper to color the liquid green, and continued exposure to the metal in your system.

                          2. I've brought 2-3 bottles of French absinthe the last few trips to Paris. Once brought some artisan Absinthe from a proper store in Paris (Galleries Lafayette). The other time, just packaged from the duty free shop at the airport. Once it is in that bag, stapled shut with a receipt, even the customs agents seem to ignore it. Never had a problem. Flying home from Madrid once, I threw a heavy sweater away in order to stack 3 bottles in my carry-on... Whew!

                            1. If you look online it can be mail ordered in this country, from france.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chazzerking

                                sorry, I left out the link: http://www.vertdabsinthe.com

                              2. I just got back from Switzerland where I believe I got a bottle of the real stuff. But everywhere it always says that it is illegal to bring a bottle of absinthe into the US. Well my partner and I couldn't drink the whole thing and since we had other herbal liqueurs we thought we'd just try to get it in with the rest of our luggage. We were within the volume restrictions and I told her to just say that she thought it was another herb liqueur (yes, I was too chicken). Well no one asked to see our liquor bottles in customs so we sailed right through.

                                1. Kzukor,
                                  I'm a rumrunner, and since I'm in the boozness I'm exposed to some of the hot topics in the industry. According to the TTB, only thujone-free (less than 10ppm) absinthe can be labeled and sold in the USA. According to US Customs, you can't import it. I'll add links to the government websites that support these claims.

                                  From what I hear, there are new brands being introduced into the US that meet the TTB regulations. If what I'm told is correct, virtually all absinthe meets the thujone-free clause. I hear that at more than ten parts per million the stuff becomes undrinkable, but the labs at the ATF (precursor to the TTB) were not equipped to analyze such small amounts. That resulted in a virtual ban on absinthe until now, but since the testing facilityes have been upgraded absinthe is just about legal in the US.

                                  "Just about" is vague enough that you could probably talk your way past a CBP guy at the airport in the unlikely event that you're hassled. Remember, the Customs & Border Protection folks are so busy trying to prevent imports from Cuba that they don't have much time to devote to much else. Liquor has to go into your checked luggage, obviously, and you probably don't want to list "absinthe" on your customs form.

                                  Myself, I wouldn't even try. I like scooting through customs without drama. I don't want to get into a hassle at the border that could jepoardize my stack of liquor licenses and permits, especailly over something like absinthe. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

                                  Dan

                                  http://www.ttb.gov/industry_circulars...

                                  http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vac...

                                  1. TTB's past prohibition mentioned "health hazard," citing FDA. TTB Circular 2007-5's language, even possibly FDA's own prohibition of thujone -- in wormwood only, note carefully -- reflect 19th-century notions about absinthe, thujone as scapegoat for all ills. In reality, some years after 1912 US ban, thujone became better understood as a common herb principle, toxic in excess like everything else, and at doses matching other natural food components. Deep irony is FDA simultaneously classifying as perfectly safe other herbs, discovered after the absinthe ban to also contain thujone, and even in similar strength. You get thujone in foods. In any absinthe, high or low in thujone, dominant toxin by a factor of 100 or so, by standard LD50 measures, is the alcohol. All of this "news" is 70 years old, in standard scientific references. Older still is the claim of some absinthes being thujone-free by analysis: in advertising a century ago, reproduced in modern absinthe literature. Above 10ppm is unlikely to make absinthe "undrinkable," given that tarragon and sage are savored in cooking; sage is around 1% thujone (10,000 ppm).

                                    Recent Wikipedia discussions support Bluebeard's point about absinthe businesses controlling US hobby Web sites, which do present a remarkably selective set of absinthe facts. See Wiki absinthe "discussion" page, link below. Scroll to heading "Page is controlled by a minority." It concludes:

                                    >> The whole absinthe page on wikipedia is littered with links and opinions intended to promote the interests of a small tightly knit group. There are also many "mistakes" in the definition section as well. <<

                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Abs...

                                    1. In LA at Comme Ca restaurant, I ordered a sazerac and was surprised when the bartender asked me if I wanted absinthe or pernod. Of course I said yes (and yes to sazerac rye whiskey); I don't recall the brand, but as you'd expect, there's no wormwood in this absinthe.
                                      By the way, does $21 sound excessive for this drink? I thought so...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: vinosnob

                                        $21 might be justifiable depending on the quality of the rye used, plus other non-drink factors (shaken over cubes of Icelandic glacier ice and served in antique crystal on a beautiful beach by Eva Green along with a neck massage). But the inclusion of perhaps half an ounce of absinthe ($50-60/bottle retail), enough to coat the inside of a glass? Not so much.

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I ordered Sazerac rye whiskey. $21 is still steep in my opinion, but I appreciate the attention to detail and quality ingredients by the bartenders in making these classlic cocktails and I that's really what I'm paying for.

                                      2. Hey you guys are correct. Its Illegal.

                                        However just declare spirits on the customs form. They don't look.

                                        In reference to the lucid. The FDA seems to be loosening up it rules here. But don't expect to hallucinate. It does give you a unique buzz though. Its more like a stimulant than a hallucinogen.

                                        At any rate I recommend avoiding the stuff on the shelves in the US and instead opting for a bottle of Duplais from Switzerland or a brand called Obsello from Spain. Obsello was the best I have ever tried, and I have had about 50 brands (Lucid is ok but not great).

                                        I wish I could tell you how to buy Obsello but unfortunately their site says you will be able to order online soon but does not let you do so now. Without Obsello I would go with Duplais.

                                        Here is a link to the Duplias site and the Obsello site (maybe you can order online soon).
                                        duplais!
                                        obsello!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Traveler1

                                          "Unique buzz"???

                                          Try a more tingly scalp than all of the speed I took in college, and a whole face/mouth/neck numbness that actually scared me and my husband for a few minutes!

                                          Than again we are of the "ah...don't bother mixing it with water, just try it straight" school.

                                          1. re: sparkalina

                                            I brought a few bottles home from Paris, and took one to a 'guy's camping trip'. We noticed that it affected each us us differently; some became manic with tons of energy, some were knocked out, some sweated profusely, some it barely affected. We came to the conclusion that those magical european ingredients affects the individual drinker in unique ways.

                                        2. It is interesting to me that bootleg Absinthe (all of the green and twice the thujones) is being sold in North Carolina.

                                          At least twice I have been approached at coffee shops by vendors of said product who had free samples in those mini liquor bottles. Other people sitting nearby smiled and nodded and were ordering "another case".

                                          I guess we're not just about moonshine anymore...

                                          1. So has anyone seen the Lucid on store shelves? I'm near Boston and I'm interested in picking some up to try.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: MonkaD

                                              It's all over the place here in the bay area-- even in the corner liquor stores. Try BevMo for a sure thing.

                                              1. re: MonkaD

                                                Saw both Lucid and Kubler at Kappys on Route 1 in Saugus

                                                1. re: MonkaD

                                                  I picked up a bottle in NJ a week or so ago.

                                                  Nice product... very aromatic. Don't have much to compare it to aside from that fairly wretched czech stuff I had shipped over years ago (pre 9/11 -- wouldn't try doing that these days).

                                                  1. re: MonkaD

                                                    Oops! - Duh - it IS everywhere! - went looking last night and found it right away. But $62 a bottle - ouch!

                                                  2. I ordered from www.Eabsinthe.com and received my bottle 6 days after ordering. I've never attempted to bring it back into the States.

                                                    1. I was reading this thread ... and searching online and the one place I found some good information was ........ [url=http://greendevil.com/]absinthe[/url]