Absinthe No Longer Absent From American Bars

03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"Absinthe?" a diner said last week, scanning the cocktail menu at Amalia, a pan-Mediterranean restaurant that opened in February, tucked beside the Dream Hotel on West 55th Street. "Is that legal? In Midtown?"

The answer is yes, even in Midtown. Selling and importing the greenish-gold anise-flavored absinthe has been illegal in the United States since 1912 because of fears about purportedly hallucinogenic side effects. (The novelist Émile Zola offered a typical bogeyman in "L'Assommoir," writing of an absinthe drinker who "stripped himself stark naked in the Rue Saint-Martin and died doing the polka.")

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