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Absinthe is an anise-flavored liqueur. It is fermented from wormwood, from whose scientific name (Artemisia absinthium) it derives its name. The fermentation of wormwood produces an extremely bitter drink, so anise is used to make it drinkable. Additionally, it often contains any of angelica root[?], sweet flag[?], dittany leaves[?], fennel, or hyssop.

The fermentation of wormwood first produces a colorless "alcoholate[?]," and to this the well-known green colour of the beverage is imparted by maceration with green leaves of wormwood, hyssop, and mint. Inferior varieties are made by means of essences, the distillation process being omitted.

There are two varieties of absinthe, the French and the Swiss, the latter of which is of a higher alcoholic strength than the former. The best absinthe contains 70 to 80% of alcohol. It is said to improve very materially by storage. There was a popular belief in the 19th century to the effect that absinthe, like much food and drink of the time, was frequently adulterated[?]; in the case of absinthe, with copper, indigo, or other dye-stuffs to impart the green colour, but this was very rarely the case. There is some reason to believe that excessive absinthe-drinking leads to effects which are specifically worse than those associated with over-indulgence in other forms of alcohol - the wormwood extract is responsible for the drink containing a compound called thujone which has depressant effects on the nervous system.

At the end of the 19th century, after publicity about several violent crimes committed under the influence of the drink, absinthe was banned from sale in some European countries. In the 1990s an importer realised that there was no UK law about its sale - other than the standard law on alcoholic beverages - and it became available again in the UK for the first time in nearly a century (though with a prohibitively high tax reflecting the high ethanol content)

(modified from an old encyclopedia)

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