The Green Fairy: A History of Absinthe

The Green Fairy: A History of Absinthe - Spirits of France

When we talk about Spirits, perhaps the most controversial is the one that is slightly green in colour and believed to drive a person from being a silly drunk to a heinous murderer. But those are just stories or myths that often encircle the green fairy, Absinthe.  

Throughout history, this drink is blamed for driving a man crazy, causing hallucinations and convulsions. Still, in spite of being so potent, this drink can be the centrepiece of your cellar. 

So let's time travel to 18th Century Europe and dive deeper into this dangerously addictive yet delicious drink, Absinthe. 

What is Absinthe? Find out from the experts!

Originating in the 18th in Switzerland, the etymology of Absinthe can be traced back to the Latin word “absinthium” which in turn originated from the Greek word “apsínthion” meaning “wormwood”. Now, the precise origin of Absinthe is unclear to date. Some say that this drink was produced commercially back in 1797 by a man named Henry- Louis Pernod.

Art is inspired by philosophy and philosophy originates from events that represent a culture.

Having an alcohol content of around 68%, the history of Absinthe is intertwined with the literature, art, and culture of Europe. Famous writers, artists, and bohemians of the long-established European and American society were well known for consuming Absinthe. 

Earnest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, and even the famous occultist Aleister Crowley was among the notable Absinthe drinkers of that time. 

So is Absinthe truly the devil’s poison as most say or it is just a catalyst that enhances the chemical activities in the brain? The mystery remains unclear today!

What is Absinthe made from?

La fée verte or Absinthe is a flavoured spirit, green in colour, and primarily made from the flowers and leaves of grand wormwood or Artemisia absinthium. Culinary herbs like hyssop, Florence fennel, green anise, angelica root, peppermint, aniseed, coriander, and liquorice give this drink its highly aromatic and enticing smell. 

The production of Absinthe became popular in the 1840s and was initially given to the French troop as a preventive measure against malaria. Slowly it made its way to the bars, and cafés and was appreciated by men of all classes. 

Absinthe’s History:

The green elixir, although known to inspire most, soon became the reason for violent crimes and a number of social disorders. 

Most people believed that Absinthe made a man lose his marbles. It had the power to evoke the untamed beast of a man, immolate a woman, disintegrate a family, and wipe out the future of an entire country!

Although most of these accusations were a mere fabrication of claims and defamation that were orchestrated by the wine industry, nevertheless the future of Absinthe was at stake, and it was banned in Switzerland in 1908.

Ironically, Switzerland is the very place Absinthe originated before enchanting the rest of the world.

The modern revival of Absinthe was in the year 2000, in France where they came up with La Fée Absinthe, which was the first distilled and bottled Absinthe since the ban in 1914. Slowly and steadily, it spread among people and now it's available in most places throughout the globe.

Production of Absinthe:

It is baffling to know that although the production of spirits like Whisky, Brandy, Gin, or Vodka has a set of regulations, most countries still don’t have the legal definition for the production of Absinthe. Hence it gives the producers the liberty to name it Absinthe or Absinth, which does not coincide with the generalised definition or the quality of this spirit. 

Some produce distilled absinthe which is similar to premium quality gin with a much more complex texture. Distilled Absinthe is kept in Alembic stills with an alcohol volume of 72%. This is later reduced and bottled clear as Blanche or la Bleue. At times it is mixed with artificial color to create Verte (Green).

How to drink Absinthe?

Absinthe is perhaps considered to be the only spirit that nudges the curiosity of people in every corner of the world, starting from veterans to the uninitiated. The most common question that arises in the mind is, “Can I have Absinthe straight?”

 You certainly can! Just be aware, for those who aren’t experienced in highly alcoholic drinks (such as Navy strength Gin or Rum), you may burn your taste buds! 

Absinthe has no added sugar and a high percentage of alcohol, which makes it a high-proof spirit. 

Hence it is always suggested to dilute it to make it more palatable. Take a glass and pour one ounce or half an ounce of Absinthe in it. Keep a slotted spoon over the glass and keep a sugar cube. Now slowly drop four to five ounces of water into the sugar cube to dissolve it. Now when the colour becomes cloudy white take a sip and enjoy! 

You can also have classic Absinthe cocktails as it is a more approachable way to have this drink. There is “The Monkey Gland”, “The Morning Glory Fizz”, and “The Chrysanthemum” which are famous Absinthe cocktails. Make sure you ask your bartender for the recipe the next time you decide to have one of these!  

Absinthe is the perfect nightcap. Having a high alcohol content, it is a bit too strong to be consumed as a pre-dinner beverage or even while having a meal. Hence enjoy it as an after-dinner beverage.

Characteristic of Absinthe

For those who haven’t had even a sip of Absinthe, they might wonder, “ what does Absinthe taste like? How does it smell? What does it look like?

Well, we can only get an idea of the same by reading or scrolling through the uncountable pages of Google. But the best way to know is by having a glass of absinthe.

However, the colour of real Absinthe is slightly greenish. This green colour comes from the chlorophyll of the herbs - wormwood, hyssop, and melissa from which it is extracted during the second maceration process. On adding water, it becomes cloudy also known as louche, due to the presence of nonsoluble components like fennel and star anise.

The taste of Absinthe is similar to black liquorice and has a sweet and woody fragrance.

Shop Absinthe from Spirits of France

If you also want to indulge yourself in the layers of this enticing drink, do visit Spirits of France. Our range constitutes an array of Absinthe that is sure to make you a creative soul!

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