Here is some information about the mythical drink Absinthe, the Green Fairy, the favorite drink of the likes of Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Gauguin, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Degas and many other famous artists and writers.
Absinthe is a strong alcoholic beverage distilled at high proof but generally served diluted with iced water or in cocktails. Absinthe liquor is usually made from a wine alcohol base and is flavored with herbs and essential oils including wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium), aniseed and fennel. Other herbal ingredients used in the manufacture may include hyssop, lemon balm, star anise, angelica, juniper, nutmeg, dittany, calamus root and mint.
Information about Absinthe History
Absinthe has a very long and interesting history. Its main herbal ingredient, wormwood, has been used in medicine since ancient times as a tonic and to stimulate digestion. Legend says that Absinthe was created by a French doctor Dr Pierre Ordinaire in the late 18th century, in the Swiss town of Couvet in the Val-de-Travers. Ordinaire used it on his patients, as an elixir, with miraculous results.
By the turn of the 19th century, Henri-Louis Pernod was using the Absinthe recipe to distill Absinthe in Couvet and then the French town of Pontarlier, under the name of Pernod Fils. By the middle of the 19th century, the Pernod company were producing 30,000 liters of Absinthe each day!
Absinthe was a popular drink in France, in La Belle Epoque, and also many other countries. Absinthe’s popularity affected wine producers as it overtook wine as the favorite drink of the French people. At the same time, there were concerns about health and the effects of Absinthe. The liquor was linked to the Bohemian culture of Montmartre with its loose morals and artists and writers. People became convinced that thujone, the chemical in wormwood, was psychoactive and caused psychedelic effects, convulsions, insanity, brain damage and death.
Absinthe was blamed for Van Gogh’s insanity and his suicide, for a man killing his family and for the rising rate of alcohol abuse in France. Absinthe was banned in the USA in 1912 and France in 1915. Other countries also made it illegal to buy and sell Absinthe.
During the ban, people either drank Absinthe substitutes, such as Pernod Pastis, or bought bootleg Absinthe. Many people were convinced that the claims made about Absinthe were untrue and studies and research took place.
Studies showed that Absinthe was no more dangerous than consuming other strong alcoholic beverages, such as whisky and vodka, and that Absinthe contained only very small amounts of thujone – not enough to cause any harmful side effects.
Absinthe with up to 10mg/kg of thujone was legalized in the EU in the late 20th century and in 2007, in the USA, certain brands of Absinthe, those containing up to 10 ppm, were legalized and Americans can now enjoy buying brands such as “Lucid” .
France, home of Pernod’s original Absinthe still has a ban on products labeled “Absinthe” and France also strictly regulates drinks containing fenchone, a chemical in fennel which is a key ingredient in Absinthe. To be sold in France, Absinthes have to be called another name like “spirit a base de plantes d’absinthe” and only contain up to 5mg per liter of fenchone.
In these times of revival, it is possible to order Absinthe online, buy it in a liquor shop or buy real wormwood Absinthe essences to make your very own Green Fairy – see AbsintheKit.com for further information about Absinthe essences. They also sell replica Absinthe glasses and spoons like a Pontarlier glass and Eiffel Tower spoon.