Where is the Birthplace of Absinthe?
Many Absinthe aficionados want to know more about the drink of the Green Fairy and its history. So, let’s find out where is the birthplace of Absinthe.
Legend has it that Absinthe was created by Dr Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor in the Swiss Val de Travers town of Couvet. Ordinaire created Absinthe as an elixir or tonic for his patients and it was said to have miraculous effects on his patients.
The key ingredient of Ordinaire’s elixir was the herb worwmood, artemisia absinthium, a plant named after the goddess Artemis. Wormwood had been used since ancient times in medicine so it was a good choice for Ordinaire’s tonic. Wormwood contains a chemical called thujone and it was this chemical that caused the banning of Absinthe in the early 1900s. Thujone was claimed to be psychoactive and to cause psychedelic effecs just like THC in cannabis. We now know that thujone is not like THC and, although it can effect the GABA receptors in the brain, a person needs to ingest large amounts of thujone for this to happen and Absinthe only contains very small amounts.
Couvet is in the Swiss canton of Neuchatel in the Val de Travers region. It is known for being the birthplace of Absinthe and for being the home of the distillery of bootleg Absinthe distiller and artisan, Claude-Alain Bugnon. Bugnon was given an Absinthe recipe by a friend that his aunt, distiller Charlotte Vaucher, had been using since 1935. Bugnon decided to use the recipe to distill his very own bootleg clandestine Absinthe during the Absinthe ban. He was the first Absinthe distiller to ask the Swiss government for a license to distill Absinthe in 2004. In March 2005, the Absinthe ban was lifted and Bugnon was able to legally distill his Absinthes and La Clandestine was put on sale.
Bugnon’s distillery “C A Bugnon Artemisia Distillerie Artisanale” now distills his award winning range of Absinthes using the best traditional Absinthe herbs and alpine plants. His range includes:-
La Clandestine Originale – This was the first Absinthe to be distilled by the Artemisia distillery in 2005. It is made from 10 different herbs, including wormwood and anise (or anisé) and is a winner of a gold medal in the Concours Nationale des Spiritueux Suisses. La Clandestine is 53% abv or 106 proof. La Clandestine is a classic Swiss La Bleue (clear) Absinthe.
La Clandestine with wine alcohol base – This is just like La Clandestine but is made using wine alcohol which was used by Pernod in the 19th century but is not a traditional base for Swiss clandestine Absinthes. Bugnon describes this Absinthe as giving a “roundness in the mouth”.
La Capricieuse – This Absinthe is a stronger Absinthe with a higher alcohol content (72% abv, 144 proof). It is based on the recipe for La Clandestine but with a higher alcohol content.
Recette Marianne – Bugnon created this absinthe because he wanted to take part in the Absinthiades in Pontarlier, France. France still have strict rules governing Absinthe – Absinthe drinks cannot be labeled Absinthe and as well as complying to EU regulation regarding thujone, they also have to have low fenchone levels. Fenchone is the chemical found in fennel, a classic Absinthe ingredient. Bugnon created this low fenchone Absinthe especially for the French market and it won the Golden Spoon award at the Absinthiades in 2005, 2006 and 2007. It has an abv of 55% (110 proof).
Angelique Verte Suisse – This is a classic Swiss verte, or green, style Absinthe and is made using 12 herbs including wormwood and angelica. It has an abv of 72% (144 proof) and was launched by Bugnon in 2007.
Bugnon’s Absinthes are available to buy on many websites including his own absinthe-suisse.com.
You can make your own Swiss style La Bleue by using the Absinthe Clear essence from AbsintheKit.com. This essence can be ordered online for $3.95 for 20ml which makes one 750ml bottle of Absinthe or as part of a kit to make 14 bottle of Absinthe for $29. AbsintheKit’s essences are made by distilling natural Absinthe herbs and you just have to mix the essence with vodka or everclear to make a true wormwood Absinthe.
So, where is the birthplace of Absinthe? Couvet is the birthplace of Absinthe and is also home to some great present day Absinthes.