Absinthe in France: Legalising the 'green fairy'

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Green, incredibly alcoholic and some say mind-altering - these are the qualities that led to absinthe being banned in France almost 100 years ago. But all that's about to change, after the government voted to allow sales of the drink nicknamed the "green fairy".

"I will not be seen as a drug addict anymore," says Clement Arnoux, an absinthe drinker and enthusiast.

"It changes everything from the point of view of my friends and family," he said.

The green, anise-flavoured spirit is associated with many of the country's most famous and esteemed artists and writers - like Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Paul Verlaine - but it was banned in France in 1915 for its alleged harmful effect....

Absinthe's heyday was in the mid-to-late 1800s.

"Absinthe was the queen of the Parisian boulevards," says Marie-Claude Delahaye, director and founder of the Museum of Absinthe in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Artists would hang out in the Parisian cafes to escape the chill of their studios, and a whole social scene developed around the drink, which was nicknamed la fee verte, meaning the green fairy.

Absinthe conveniently filled a gap left by the wine industry, which had been decimated in previous years by the vine disease phylloxera - but it also had its own attractions.

"It was cheap, it was an industrial alcohol, and it was very easy to buy," says Jad Adams, author of Hideous Absinthe: History of the Devil in a Bottle.

"It was the drink of the poor, and if you were a poor artist, like Vincent Van Gogh, you were going to take the cheapest kind of alcohol you could."...

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