The new rules for 'Absinthe de Pontarlier' require the drink to contain its notorious wormwood ingredient.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated September 04, 2019

Where does absinthe come from? Based on the spirit's sordid reputation — including purportedly adding to Vincent Van Gogh's so-called "madness" — your answer might be something along the lines of "the furthest depths of hell!" But if it's the good stuff you're after, the French want you to know that, no, actually, it comes from France.

After years of petitioning, France has finally received "protected geographical indication" (PGI) status for Absinthe de Pontarlier. The notorious wormwood-enhanced spirit can be produced anywhere, but now it will have to meet specific guidelines to bear the additional "de Pontarlier" distinction. That town, which is located in eastern France on the Swiss border, has a history with absinthe dating back to the 18th century, according to its official application to the EU, with 25 distilleries producing a third of all of the country's absinthe by the early 1900s.

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Of course, it all came crashing down for absinth when the drink's notoriety led to what was practically a global ban of the drink, including in France where production was halted in 1915. As such, receiving this PGI distinction can also be seen as cementing a comeback that began in 1988 when the French reversed the previous ban as science began to point to the possibility that maybe the supposedly psychedelic effects of absinthe had been exaggerated.

But speaking of science, interestingly enough, though absinthe was once spurned for its wormwood content, part of the new rules to meet the "Absinthe de Pontarlier" labeling requirement is that these spirits must contain wormwood's active ingredient — thujone — with at least 20 milligrams per liter. "Its quantity has been reduced to make it inoffensive but it remains essential for the taste," Francois Guy, who runs one Pontarlier's two main absinthe producers, told the Telegraph. But don't worry: These absinthes also have to be at least 45 percent alcohol by volume, so you will still be able to get a buzz… even if it isn't quite "mail your ear to someone" quality.