Absinthe was first invented in Switzerland by a French doctor Dr. Pierre Ordinaire. Initially it was considered as a digestive tonic. The first absinthe distillery was opened in Switzerland by Henri-Louis Pernod. In the year 1805, Pernod moved to a bigger distillery in Pontarlier, France. By the middle of the nineteenth century, absinthe had become the favorite drink of the upper class in France and Europe. It came to be affectionately called as the green fairy (La Fee Verte) or absinthe fairy.
In the initial years it was wine based; however, in 1870’s the destruction of the vineyards forced manufacturers to use grain alcohol. This made absinthe very popular as now everyone could afford it and the bohemian lifestyle of the nineteenth century embraced it. The green fairy was very popular in France and it was common for the French to begin their day with the drink and end the day in the company of the green fairy. It was widely believed that absinthe had aphrodisiac properties. Great writers and artists attributed their creativity to absinthe.
Absinthe is basically an alcoholic drink made with an extract from the herb wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). When poured in a glass it is emerald green and very bitter. The bitterness is due to the presence of absinthium. Traditionally absinthe is taken with sugar cube and ice cold water. Elaborate ritual is followed in the preparation of the drink which also adds to its aura and mystery.
The traditional French ritual involves pouring an ounce of absinthe in a glass and placing a special flat perforated absinthe spoon on the glass. A sugar cube is then placed on the spoon and ice cold water is slowly dripped on the sugar cube. As the sugar cube dissolves in the water it falls in to the glass. Ice cold water is then added to the glass. As water is added, the absinthe drink turns opaque white. This is called the louche effect. Louching happens as essential oils are precipitated out of the alcoholic solution. The drink is stirred with the spoon and then sipped slowly. The Czech ritual is more fun and interesting. In the Czech ritual, absinthe is poured in the glass and a flat perforated spoon is placed on top, a sugar cube is then placed on the spoon and then the cube is soaked in absinthe and ignited. As the cube caramelizes and melts it falls in the glass, ice cold water is then added and the drink is sipped slowly.
Absinthe is also called as absynthe; it is called absenta in Spanish. Some of the famous personalities that were avid drinkers of absinthe included Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde. Absinthe has made a stunning comeback in the 21st century with most European countries lifting the ban imposed at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is fine liquor with high alcohol content. Pastis is similar to absinthe and it was also originally made from wormwood. However, licorice is the dominant flavor in pastis.
Anyone in Europe can now buy absinthe and enjoy the company of the green fairy or absinthe fairy. US citizens can buy absinthe online from non-US producers. It is legal to posses and drink absinthe in the US.