European lawmakers leave "green fairy" out of absinthe

Wed Mar 13, 2013 12:50pm EDT
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By Teddy Nykiel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Charles Baudelaire and Ernest Hemingway may well turn in their graves.

Absinthe, the green-tinged alcohol that fuelled poets, writers and artists in 19th century France, does not have to contain its most important ingredient to be labeled "absinthe", the European Parliament decided on Wednesday.

In a vote, lawmakers declared there was no need for the spirit to contain a minimum amount of thujone, the wormwood plant toxin that is believed to give it its peculiar intensity.

For devotees of the drink, often referred to as "la fee verte" (the green fairy) for its supposed psychedelic properties, the decision goes against tradition, and leaves the market open to all sorts of copycat absinthe spirits.

"We are disappointed," said Carole Brigaudeau, a spokeswoman for Spirits Europe, a lobby group for the alcohol industry.

"We are really disappointed that the parliamentarians have not understood our arguments."

Under existing European Union regulations, absinthe cannot contain any more than 35 milligrams of thujone per kilogram, but there is no minimum limit.

In an effort to standardize ingredients, the European Commission proposed that there should be a minimum of 5 milligrams of thujone and a maximum of 35 milligrams.   Continued...

A glass of St. George Sprits' Absinthe Verte is shown in the tasting room at St. George Spirits in Alameda, California July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith