For most of the 20th century, absinthe production was banned in France because of the drink’s alleged mind-altering properties. But in the late ‘80s, absinthe was once-again legalized after scientists discovered that thujone, the molecule in the drink believed to cause hallucinations and brain damage, was relatively harmless.
Lawmakers decided to impose restrictions on thujone’s inclusion, regardless, but past that, controls surrounding production and labeling have remained almost non-existent. Until now.
After a 15-year battle, the European Union (EU) has granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to Absinthe de Pontarlier, the Telegraph reports. Located in eastern France on the Swiss border, Pontarlier has a storied history with the drink, dating back to the 18th century.
According to the region’s application for PGI status, in the early 1900s, 25 distilleries in Pontarlier produced a third of all of the country’s absinthe. When production returned in 1988, wormwood cultivation and the traditional preparation of the spirit followed. Every year since 2002, a local cultural event called “Absinthiades” has also taken place, pitting international absinthes against de Pontarlier bottles.
Receiving PGI status protects the region’s traditions, and is another step along the road to redemption for the notorious green fairy. Of course, absinthe can still be produced anywhere in the world, but following the granting of the status, any bottle bearing the “de Pontarlier” distinction ensures exacting standards.
The EU regulations govern major aspects of production, including the ingredients and their provenance, the spirit’s alcohol content, and, of course, the amount of thujone contained in the drink (at least 20 milligrams per liter, in this case).
“Its quantity has been reduced to make it inoffensive but it remains essential for the taste,” Francois Guy, who runs one Pontarlier’s main absinthe producers, told the Telegraph.
The application also dispels myths surrounding absinthe consumption, stating: “Water is added to the drink when it is consumed, giving it an ivory-like opalescent shade and a cloudiness that renders it opaque.” Flaming sugar cubes and ornate silver spoons are notable only in their absence.