It’s legal.
Absinthe is now at The Tower Bar
in San Diego.

[Local absinthe makes it’s debut, a review, plus information about thujone-free and standard absinthe’s legal status internationally. See the full unsegmented video here: reviewermagazine.com/absintheattowerfullvid5.mov.]

Video and review by Reviewer Rob

Tower Bar
4757 University Avenue
San Diego, CA

I went to the Tower Bar on University Avenue, one of San Diego’s foremost hipster bars where the best in indy rock bands can be seen amid 1940-60’s saloon brickabrac with Rus Meyer boobsloitation videos playing in constant loops on the monitors overhead, early last night to check out whether or not they had absinthe like their myspace says they did. Seems they do, sort of.

The brand they have is Lucid, a 124 proof, specially manufactured for sale in the USA and approved by the FDA on March 5, 2007, type of absinthe that doesn’t have high doses of thujone, which is the chemical found in wormwood that caused absinthe to be banned in 1915. In the 1970s Nature magazine published an article comparing the molecular shape of thujone to that of THC, and theorized it would act the same way in the brain of humans, sparking the myth that thujone is a cannabinoid – an easy comparison since in absinthe’s heyday thujone was blamed for the drink’s hallucinogenic reputation. In high doses thujone has been shown to cause epileptic seizures in lab mice but according to current data the hallucinogen connection has been proven false, and even modern thujone-containing absinthe contains such low levels of the substance one would have to drink enough to suffer from alcohol poisoning before seeing any ill effects from the chemical. So, soon perhaps the “real” absinthe they sell in Germany and the Czech Republic may make its way to US cocktail lounges (right after they legalize pot in hookah bars, maybe?).

As far as this non-thujone French manufactured brand Lucid goes, at 124 proof the intoxicating effects have not been tampered with, and I can assure you the absinthe Good&Plenty™ licorice flavor is there. It should remind you of a strong anise liqeur like Ouzo or Sambuca. In fact, it could basically be Ouzo or Sambuca with a little lime-green food coloring added to it and most of us wouldn’t know what the fuck.

Anyways… last night I also asked around at different bars and didn’t readily find anyone else except the Tower that had it here yet. Kudos to Mick for scoring the product – at $60 per bottle retail and $10 per shot to the customer we figured he’s tripling his money and counting big coup in San Diego’s nightclub scene.

Posted below are links to the video I shot last night of Matt, the Tower’s bartender, igniting sugar over the absinthe as he prepares each drink like a dealer cooking up a shot of heroin for a junkie. Chad Boyer, an account rep from San Diego’s City Beat newspaper chain franchise showed up before his 10 o’clock solo acoustic set at San Diego Sports Club to add engaging conversation about naked girls, The US Patriot Act and local city councilmen who are indicted and die under suspicious circumstances. Maybe there is something to the urban legend that absinthe was the inspirational spirit-muse behind the literary and artistic careers of several late-19th-century celebrities ~Ed.

Here’s part one…

and part two:

[Videos by Rob Rowsey, America’s greatest and most amazingest rock’n-roll photographer and alterna-journalist… (he’s amazing!)]


[Reprinted below is from http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/absinthe/absinthe_law.shtml]


Legal Status
by Erowid

Caution : All legal information should be verified through other sources. [see below]
STATUS FDA Regulated
SCHEDULE Un-Scheduled

Traditional absinthe has been illegal to sell in the U.S. since 1912, because it contains the chemical thujone. However, in 2007 some products labelled as “absinthe” were approved for sale in the United Stated. The situation is slightly complex and those interested should read Absinthe in the U.S.?, but the short version is that the agency that now regulates alcohol in the U.S. (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) defines “thujone free” (an FDA requirement for any food made with Absinthe’s defining herb wormwood) as meaning less than 10 parts-per-million (10mg/L) thujone. It is an ongoing debate whether “thujone free” absinthe should be considered authentic, with current manufacturers arguing that vintage absinthe was much lower in thujone than previously thought. Whatever the truth of their arguments, the modern low-thujone absinthes are being widely publicized as the first legal absinthes since the 1912 ban.

For more details about the legality of Absinthe, see Absinthe in the United States?

Another legal issue with absinthe is that it is illegal in the United States to distill alcohol (even for personal consumption) without paying special taxes, filing paperwork & requesting a license from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. We haven’t researched exactly what is involved in this process, but it seems quite complex and impractical. Some absinthe recipes call for distilling the product and some do not. So, technically a distilled absinthe could be illegal if made without a license. It is also illegal to sell any alcohol for human consumption without a license.

It is likely legal in the US to produce absinthe for one’s personal use using commercially available distilled liquor and infusing one’s own herbs into the alcohol, although any thujone-containing drinks are illegal to sell or distribute.

Absinthe has been unavailable in most of Europe throughout the twentieth century due to similar regulations governing thujone. This changed in 1988 when the European Economic Community issued directive 88/388/EEC, which set maximum legal levels of thujone in beverages sold in EEC member states: 5 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with up to 25% alcohol, 10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with more than 25% alcohol, and 35 mg/kg in bitters (see Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food and Thujone). Since this regulation was passed several European countries including France and Switzerland lifted their bans on absinthe, and it is now widely available throughout the EU.



According to Agnu, Doubs Absinthe with around 10mg/L of thujone is available for sale in Sydney. (March 2007) R told us that Absinthe containing Thujone at around 7.8 mg per litre and 60% alcohol is scarce but legally available in Australia. (Unconfirmed, thanks Agnu, R) (Last updated March 2007)

Absinthe is legal and common in Brazil. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in almost all stores and supermarkets including the brands: Camargo (Brazilian), Lautrec (Brazilian, poor quality), Pere Kerman’s (French), Neto Costa (Portugese). The law in Brazil requires that Absinthe be less than 55% alcohol and at most 10mg/kg thujone, but it’s not hard to find other absinthes like Hapsburg (85% alcohol). (Unconfirmed, thanks C).

EU rules allow beverages to contain 5 mg/kg thujone in beverages with less than 25% alcohol, 10 mg/kg in beverages with more than 25% alcohol and 35 mg/kg in bitters. (reference)

As of March 2007, thujone-containing absinthe seems to be regulated by the Provinces, with the central government’s agency Health Canada, only providing non-binding guidelines to each Province’s liquor board. We have been unable to find definitive information about the current regulatory status, but it appears that low-thujone abinsthe (< 5mg/liter) is now available in every Province. Higher thujone content absinthe seems to be available in BC, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. (Ontario & Quebec allow 10ppm thujone, BC has no limit). All other provinces have laws against thujone-containing absinthe. Generally, alcoholic products must be individually approved for retail sale in Canada and are thus tightly controlled by Provicial liquor boards. (Unconfirmed, thanks TOR) (Mar 2007)

Czech Republic:
Absinthe is legal and common in the Czech Republic. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in stores including Tesco, a large supermarket chain.

We have received several reports that absinthe is legal in Denmark and is commonly available in liquor stores. (thanks d!)

The sale of Absinthe has been prohibited in France since March 16, 1915. [Reference] In 1988, a law was passed which specified that the 1915 law only applied to products that do not comply with European Union regulations on thujone content and products which explicitly call themselves “absinthe”. Thujone-containing beverages are now available, often labelled as “spiritueux à base de plantes d’absinthe.” Higher thujone content absinthes are also produced in France for export.

Thujone-containing absinthe available at bars and stores in Germany, in 2002 it is quite popular in some parts of Germany and Austria

We have been told that Absinthe became legally available in Hungary in early 2004 but that quality and potency is generally low. (Thanks Gee)

Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some liquor stores in 2004. (Thanks AE)

Thujone-containing absinthe is not legal to sell in the Republic of Ireland, although personal importation is not blocked. (Unconfirmed, thanks TO)

Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some smartshops. (Thanks DiO-LeCclo)

Absinthe is available in bars and clubs. (Thanks Clint)

1909 ban on absinthe sales lifted Jul 2004. Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores, as long as thujone quantity remain within European-accepted levels. (Thanks Tino and Enrico)

New Zealand:
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores.

We are told that absinthe is legal in Norway and available in liquor stores but only with low thujone content.

Absinthe is not available in stores and presumed illegal. (Unconfirmed, thanks D)

Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores, bars, clubs, and supermarkets.

Thujone-containing absinthe (with as much as 50-75 mg thujone) available, mostly in stores geared towards foreigners. (unconfirmed, Thanks K)

Alexandar writes “Thujone-containing and absinthe above 50% is banned for sale in Serbia. You can buy French and Chech absinthe, but very poor quality.” (Unconfirmed, thanks Alexandar)

Absinthe is legal and common in Slovakia. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in stores. (Unconfirmed, thanks D)

South Africa:
We have been told that Absinthe is being legalised in South Africa, effective January 1, 2005. (Unconfirmed. Thanks Htms)

Thujone-containing absinthe widely available.

Absinthe sold in all liquor stores marked as containing wormwood extract:
“In Sweden absinthe can be bought in all liquor stores (Pere Kermann’s Absinthe, made in France). And the way it works in the EU is that if a product is legal in one country it is automaticaly legal in all EU countries.
It says on the front label “Spiriteux aux extraits de plantes d’absinthe” and on the back label ” ingredients: alcohol, water, aroma, wormwood infusion, sugar, colouring: E131-E102. It is sold as containing thujone.” – from Ulf

In June, 2004, the Swiss parliament voted to end a 96-year ban on absinthe. Although absinthe had been available in most of Europe for 20 years, it had remained outlawed in Switzerland until June 14, 2004. (Thanks Spacechild)

Thujone-containing absinthe is banned in Turkey. (Unconfirmed, thanks IS)

United Kingdom:
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some stores (liquor stores, Tesco, Harrods) and small number of pubs, as long as thujone quantity remains within European-accepted levels. Absinthe was never banned in the UK, as the market for it ended with the banning of French exports and the belt-tightening during and after the first world war. (Unconfirmed) (Thanks Air_guitar)

If you have information about the legal status of this substance in any other country, please let us know.