Absinthe is a very strong liquor that has been around for centuries. It’s made from herbs such as wormwood, anise, and fennel (among others) and it can be as high as 75% alcohol by volume (ABV).
In the Belle Époque and Victorian eras, absinthe became incredibly popular. It was enjoyed by people from all walks of life including famous creatives like Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, and Charles Baudelaire.
However, it would eventually find itself banned and blamed for the decline of an otherwise “civilized” society.
While absinthe was slandered with all kinds of myths about supposed hallucinogenic effects and causing “absinthe madness,” it was also the drink’s high alcohol content that sparked outrage from a growing temperance movement.
However, absinthe has become legal again in relatively recent years which means that absintheurs like you and I are free to enjoy this complex beverage!
That said, it’s no pushover! Absinthe is some very potent stuff!
You might find yourself wondering just how much alcohol is in absinthe anyway.
This article will cover how much alcohol is in absinthe, why it’s so strong, and the effect of preparing absinthe on the drink’s ABV.
How Much Alcohol Is In Absinthe?
Absinthe is a very potent spirit that is typically between 45 and 75% ABV (90-150 proof).
Of the two most common styles of absinthe (verte and blanche), verte absinthes tend to be stronger.
The average absinthe verte usually falls somewhere between 65 and 70% ABV. Meanwhile, the average absinthe blanche falls somewhere between 50-60% ABV.
For example, La Clandestine is a very popular absinthe blanche and is bottled at 53% ABV.
Meanwhile, popular vertes like Jade 1901 and Pernod Absinthe Superieure are both bottled at 68% ABV. A new favorite of mine, Violet Crown’s Emerald Absinthe, is at the higher end of the spectrum with a 70% ABV.
There are exceptions, of course, as some vertes might be weaker and some blanches might be stronger. However, in most cases, blanches will have a lower ABV than their green counterparts.
Related: Guide to the Styles of Absinthe
The Effect of Preparing Absinthe on ABV
Absinthe is certainly no joke!
“70% alcohol!” you might say, “how is someone supposed to actually drink that?”
If you’re preparing your absinthe the right way (and I really hope you are!), you do dilute the alcohol in the absinthe by adding the water. It’s still very strong so moderation is key, but it shouldn’t taste like your drinking kerosene!
Absinthe is usually prepared with a water-to-absinthe ratio of around 3:1, though it depends on your taste. Naturally, a lower ratio of water to absinthe results in a stronger drink.
So, as an example, if your absinthe is at 70% ABV and you want to prepare it with a ratio of three parts water to one part absinthe, your resulting absinthe will be around 18% ABV.
That makes the absinthe a bit stronger than the average wine’s ABV of around 10-13%.
Of course, absinthe is so much more than just its alcohol content and preparation process! It’s also a little complicated to learn how absinthe works (and fun too!), but that’s another blog post entirely…
Why is Absinthe So Strong?
There are two primary reasons behind why absinthe is as strong as it is.
Firstly, absinthe was originally created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire as a medicine. Remember: medicines in those days were meant to promptly knock you out cold.
Stomachache? Get drunk!
Roundworms? Get drunk!
Ok, so there was more to it than that… The herbs in absinthe were included for their health benefits as well as their flavor. The alcohol is what worked as a delivery mechanism that would also help the patient get some rest.
In fact, a wide range of beverages both alcoholic and otherwise were originally used for medicinal purposes. It makes you wonder how these even became recreational drinks!
But speaking of alcohol as a delivery mechanism, that takes us to the second reason absinthe is so strong!
For the aromas, flavors, and oily goodness of the herbs to actually keep, they need to be distilled with very strong alcohol.
People who try to make absinthe at home will often try to create their own absinthe by soaking various herbs in vodka or some other supposedly “neutral” alcohol.
Not only is this just wrong since actual quality absinthe requires a ton of specialized skills and equipment, but the vodka isn’t strong enough to preserve the herbs’ essences. They make keep for a few days at the absolute most.
Strong and (ideally) neutral alcohol spirits are required to truly capture everything that the herbs have to offer.
Is Absinthe the Strongest Alcohol?
As far as alcoholic beverages go, absinthe is certainly among the strongest. Well, at least if you’re just looking at the ABV on the bottle anyway. As I mentioned, properly preparing absinthe reduces that quite a bit.
So with the majority of absinthes being somewhere between 45-75% ABV, it’s interesting to see how unprepared absinthe’s alcohol content compares to other drinks.
People will likely raise their eyebrows if you tell them that you’re enjoying an absinthe.
Honestly, that’s part of the fun!
Between the myths that still exist today and absinthe’s high alcohol percentage, it’s not uncommon for people to have a concerned look on their face when it’s mentioned in conversation.
Can You Drink Absinthe Straight?
The number of times that I’ve seen people on video or in-person just blatantly abusing their absinthe is astounding.
If there were a list of absinthe sins, drinking it straight would probably be up at the very top. I might even place this higher on the list than the trend of setting the absinthe on fire.
No, you should absolutely not drink absinthe straight.
Not only is it so potent that it’s bound to be a terrible experience for you, but you’re also depriving yourself of everything that the absinthe has to offer!
When you add water to absinthe, you’re bringing the drink’s ABV down to a level that’s able to be enjoyed while also giving the absinthe the opportunity to really come to life. The delicate flavors and aromas are released when you prepare absinthe properly.
If you’re just slamming shots of the Green Fairy, you’re really missing out on what makes absinthe so great.
Oh, and, you’re also waging an all-out war on your liver…
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of absinthe and why it is so strong.
Remember, absinthe was created as medicine which means the alcohol content in absinthe should be taken into account when drinking or preparing absinthes.
This drink may not always be for everyone but there are many who enjoy it on special occasions.
To make absinthe with maximum flavor potential, prepare the drink properly by adding water to release all of its flavors!