History of Absinthe by
What's Cooking America.
Absinthe Cocktail Recipes:
In the past, absinthe was a very popular
cocktail ingredient. In the 1930s, The Savory Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, it listed 104 cocktails using absinthe.
is considered by historians as the first cocktail ever invented. It was
originally created by a New Orleans pharmacy in the early 19th century to ward off tropical malaise.
1 1/2 ounces absinthe
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Shake with ice and strain into an old-fashion glass (or an egg-cup, garnish
with lemon peel.
cocktail is a staple at The Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. There are
many variations of this drink. It is also one of the finest "morning after" remedies you will ever taste.
1 1/2 ounces absinthe
1 egg white
1/2 ounce cream
4 ounces shaved or crushed ice
syrup is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and either rose water or
Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend for 5 seconds and serve in a
chilled cocktail glass.
Ernest Hemingway's 'Death in the Afternoon
A recipe verified in the 1935 humoristic celebrities' cocktail book titled
So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon.
Hemingway wrote: "This was arrived at by the author and three officers of
the H.M.S. Danae after having spent seven hours overboard trying to get
Capt. Bra Saunders' fishing boat off a bank where she had gone with us in a
Pour one (1) jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass.
Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness.
Drink three to five of these slowly.
Absinthe Martini - European style
The mixture below was created around the beginning of the 20th century, when
it became fashionable in France to drink American-style' cocktails.
1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
1 dash absinthe
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Green Fairy Cocktail
1 ounce absinthe
1 ounce water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons egg white
Shake thoroughly with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Did You Know?
Men loved the drink so much that they had built-in
compartments in the top of their walking canes so they could carry a
vial of absinthe and a drinking glass.
According to the Journal of Agriculture
and Food Chemistry, April 2008 Issue:
A team of scientists has managed to get their hands on 13 unopened bottles of the original,
pre-ban absinthe, produced in France before 1915.
They find that the stuff
contains too little thujone to alter anyone’s mind—but more than enough
alcohol to do so: the absinthe contained 70 percent alcohol, making it
140-proof, compared to proofs of 80 to 100 characteristic of most gin,
vodka and whiskey.
Absinthe - The Revival of the "Green
A now legalized liquor that has long been "rumored"
to cause madness. No other drink has inspired so much fear, so much awe, and allure as absinthe.
In French, the word "absinthe" means
"wormwood." It was also known as the "green fairy" during its heyday in France in the 1800s. The Green Fairy is the English
translation of La Fee Verte, the French nickname given to absinthe in the 19th
century. The nickname stuck, and over a century later, "absinthe" and "Green Fairy" continue to be used.
Absinthe is an anise-flavored liquor or spirit that is made by steeping wormwood (wormwood has been defined as the quinine
of the poor) and other aromatic herbs (hyssop, lemon balm, and angelica) in alcohol.
The drink is distinguished by its dazzling emerald
blue-green clarity, due to its chlorophyll content. When mixed with water, the liquor changes to cloudy white.
Pernod was the original absinthe. It is still distilled today, only without the
wormwood. Other liqueurs used today as a substitute for wormwood are Ricard, Hersaint, Anisette, Ouzo, and Sambuca.
Definition of Wormwood:
Wormwood is a derivation of the German word "wermut" or the Anglo-Saxon
word "wermod," and has a lineage to the word "vermouth." Wormwood has also come to mean a bitter or mortifying experience. Any of 250
strong-smelling plants with white or yellow flowers that are generally classed as weed. It is specifically the Eurasian perennial (Artemisia
absinthium) that is so notorious in the cocktail world. It produces a bitter, dark-green oil once used in making absinthe, vermouth, and other
bitters. Wormwood had been used medicinally since the Middle Ages to exterminate tapeworms in the abdomen while leaving the human host
uninjured and even rejuvenated by the experience.
Absinthe is traditionally served with water and a cube of sugar. The sugar cube
was place on an absinthe spoon (a small slotted spoon), and the liquor
was drizzled over the sugar into the glass of cold water until the sugar
was dissolved and the desired dilution was obtained. The sugar helped
take the bitter edge away from the absinthe, and when poured into water,
the liquor turned a milky white. The spoons themselves were often works of
art, covered with filigree flowers and stars, or shaped like sea shells.
The effect of this drink was related to the degree of dilution, the amount
imbibed, and the frequency of drinking. Physical effects of nausea,
disorientation, hallucination and seizure were noted by the drinkers of
absinthe. Of course, these effects can be noticed by anyone who drinks too much!
The popularity of absinthe lasted just over 100 years.
History and Legends of Absinthe
15th Century B.C.
Accounts in ancient texts dating as far as 1500 B.C. mention that wormwood's
medicinal as well as religious significance, and even a drink that was
fortified with extract of wormwood. We will likely never know the exact
origins of the very first absinthe ever distilled or the name of its original inventor.
1st Century A.D.
The first written detailed description of absinthe's use and therapeutic properties was
written by Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus (23 A.D.-79 A.D.), better known as Pliny the Elder's. He was an Roman scholar,
author, naturalist, and naval and military commander. He is known for his great compendium of the knowledge of the ancient
world called Naturalis Historia (Latin for Natural History):
"There are several
kinds of absinthe: that called Santonic from a city of Gaul, the
Pontic from Pontus, where cattle grow fat on it and because of it
are found without gall; there is none finer than this: the Italian
is far more bitter, while the pith of the Pontic is sweet. About its
use all agree, for it is a plant very easy to find and among the
most useful; moreover it is honoured uniquely in the rites of the
Roman people in that at the Latin festival when four-horsed chariots
race on the Capitol the victor drinks absinthe, because, I believe,
our ancestors thought that it was an honourable reward to be given
18th Century A.D.
1789 - 1792 - According
to history or legend, absinthe was originally developed by Dr.
Pierre Ordinaire. He was a French doctor in self-exile due to political
reasons, who was living in the Swiss town of Couvet. It was said that he
discovered the plant wormwood while traveling in the Val-de-Travers. He
mixed wormwood and other herbs with alcohol to create his 136 proof
elixir. He used this elixir in his treatment of the sick. After many
claims of miracuous healing powers, it became a cure-all. It was
eventually nicknamed "la Fee Verte," which means the Green Fairy.
It is also believed that Dr. Ordinaire
either gave or sold his recipe to Mademoiselle Grand-Pierre, who then
sold it to two sisters named Henrod in Couvet. Some historical
information suggest that the Henroid sisters were making the elixir
before Dr. Ordinaire even arrived in the area, and his is credited with
being one of the first people to promote it. The Henrod sisters promoted
the elixir commercially by offering sample of the elixir to be sold in
1794 - Abram-Louis Perrenoud
(1776-1851), a distiller by trade, living in Couvet in the Val de
Travers region of Switzerland. Somewhere around the year 1794,
Abram-Louis actually scribbled his recipe for absinthe in his diary.
1797 - A Frenchman named Major
Daniel-Henri Dubied, a lace merchant, recognized the commercial
potential of the formula and purchased the recipe from Perrenoud. Since
he had to distilling experience, he employed Abram-Louis’ son,
Henri-Louis Perrenoud, who had learned the distilling trade from his
father. It is also said that the Major's daughter, Emile, married
Henri-Louis in 1797. In 1798, along with Dubied’s sons, they began
producing absinthe under the name of Dubied Père et Fils.
1805 - In 1805, after several
permutations of partnership, Henri-Louis changed his surname from
Perrenoud to Pernod and he established a distillery of his own in
Pontarlier, France called Maison Pernod Fils.
19th Century A.D.
1847 - Absinthe’s progress from
medicine to social poison started with the military. It is said that the
demand for absinthe rose dramatically after the Algerian War (1844-1847)
when the soldiers were given rations of absinthe along with their
drinking water as a bacterial deterrent. The soldiers, now hooked on
absinthe, began drinking it in peace time France, thus starting the
first surge in absinthe popularity.
1870 - 1900 - Grape Phylloxera (a
tiny aphid-like insect that attacks the roots of grapevines) attacked
the root stock of vineyard all over the France and Europe. The epidemic
devastated most of the European wine growing industry. Within 25 years,
grape phylloxera had destroyed two-thirds of the vineyards in Europe.
The price of wine skyrocketed and became scarce and very expense. The
aristocrats bought and consumed what wine was available. The middle
class (the artisans and tradesmen) began looking for a cheaper
alternative to wine. As absinthe was already growing in popularity, it
became the perfect alternative.
1880 - From the 1880s to the turn
of the century, drinking absinthe during the cocktail hour in France
became so popular that people begin calling it the I'heure verte (the
green hour) for the liquor's bright green color. Generally, from 5:00
p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the cafes in Paris would be crowded with people
drinking absinthe. At cafes, one could find policemen, laborers,
bankers, and artists, all enjoying the elaborate absinthe ritual and all
Absinthe was the "beaverage du jour" for
artists, writers, and poets in Europe. It was known as the drink of the
Bohemians. The bohemians were self-impoverished artists, writers,
musicians, free-thinkers, and counter-culture types. Manet,
Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Picasso, de Maupassant, and especially Vincent
Van Gogh are associated with absinthe. The "green fairy," as absinthe
came to be called for purportedly causing hallucinations, is thought to
have encouraged Van Gogh to cut off part of his left ear. They believed
absinthe stimulated creativity. Absinthe was believed to raise the
drinkers consciousness, insights, and emotional experience to another
level. It seemed that everyone indulged themselves enthusiastically; so
enthusiastically in fact that alcoholism began to be a serious problem
Men and women became enthralled with the
ritual of presentation as well as with the appearance, taste, and
excitement of the liqueur. Absinthe was one of the few drinks considered
ladylike and women freely enjoyed drinking it in the dance halls and
coffee houses where it was most commonly served. Picasso painted several
haunting images featuring absinthe women drinkers.
Absinthe drinking was exported to New Orleans and its French Quarter,
where the Old Absinthe House have been a tourist attraction for more
than a century. Absinthe appeared in New Orleans liquor
advertisements as early as 1837, but its popularity didn't take off
until the latter half of the 19th century with the opening of the
barroom that would become the Old Absinthe House in 1874.
20th Century A.D.
At the turn of the 20th century, much of
France (and parts of the rest of Europe and the United States) were on
an absinthe binge. This wide spread popularity led to an attempt at its
prohibition. Backed by the French wine growers, the temperance movement
targeted absinthe as responsible for alcoholism, racial degeneration,
and social instability.
1910 - Absinthe was banned in
1912 - When the prohibition
movements were underway, on July 25, 1912, the Department of Agriculture
banned absinthe in America. One of the reasons it is banned in the U.S.
is that it was thought to have caused insanity and hallucinations that
drove drinkers to commit criminal acts. In other words, it was pretty
much like any other alcoholic drink.
1915 - At the outbreak of the First
World War, the drink was seen as a threat to the nation, and the
National Assembly voted for the bill to ban absinthe as an act of
national defense. The France banned absinthe use in 1915.
A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, when countries in Europe began
to reauthorize its manufacture and sale.
Absinthe is once again legal in most of
2007 - In 2007, after 95 years of prohibition, absinthe was finally authorized
again for sale in the United States in bars and liquor stores. U.S. re-evaluation came
after European distillers pressured American officials to conduct real research and approve authorization of selling
How To Drink Absinthe - Chasing The Green Fairy
My daughters, Nancy Hartman and Brenda Weller,
and my granddaughter, Tabitha Hartman, spent several days in Las Vegas
celebrating Tabitha’s 21st birthday. I still can’t believe that I
am old enough to have a 21-year old granddaughter. The years just slipped away!
One of the
things that I have wanted to do (my bucket list), was to taste absinthe. I
had researched this drink for my web site in the past, and wanted to taste
it. Now that it is legal again, this was my chance. My daughters have also
wanted to taste absinthe. What a better time than on my granddaughter’s 21st
birthday! I guess that gives me several excuses and reasons to partake and
"Chase The Green Fairy."
photos that I took while our drinks were being made and instructions for you
to make your own absinthe drinks:
Traditional Method - Absinthe Drip (Traditional French Method):
Select a quality bottle of absinthe for your drink (as you can see from the photo, there is a wide choice of absinthe).
The best tasting bottles of absinthe are in the range of 45 to 68% alcohol by volume.
A big part of absinthe's lore comes from the rituals surrounding its consumption and the special equipment required to make this drink.
Pour a shot (approximately 1 to 2 ounces) of Absinthe into an absinthe glass or a glass of your choice.
Absinthe spoon (flat-slotted absinthe spoon) on the top of the glass and set
a single sugar cube on top of the spoon. The sugar is traditionally used to balance the bitter taste of the absinthe.
Various styles of absinthe spoons.
NOTE: If you don’t have an absinthe spoon or
sugar cubes, you can just use granulated
sugar, mixing it in any glass of your choice.
Very slowly drip 3 to 5 parts of iced water onto the sugar cube to dissolve the sugar
into the absinthe using an Absinthe Fountain (see above photo) or slowly
pouring from a carafe or pitcher. It is important to do this drop-by-drop.
The water added to the absinthe must always be iced, as cold as possible. The advantage of using an
Absinthe Fountain is
that you could add ice cubes to the water to keep it cold.
The usual ratio for absinthe to water is either 1:3 or 1:5. A traditional 2 ounces of
absinthe with 6 ounces water will equal an 8 ounce drink and fill most of the glass
The amount of water
added to your absinthe drink is entirely at the customer’s discretion and taste.
The sugar cube will slowly start to collapse and drip into the glass, eventually leaving only a
few drops of sugared water on the spoon.
As water is slowly poured water into the absinthe, it slowly turns a milky white (opaqueness).
This is known as the "louche" effect. According to the brand of absinthe you use in
your drink, there is a considerable variety both in color and in the opacity of the louche.
As you pour in the water, watch the as it mixes with the absinthe. When the water-to-absinthe ratio
reaches a certain level, the essential oils which are dissolved in the absinthe during distillation will emulsify with the water and create the
opalescent and cloudy effect known as the "louche."
Seeing the absinthe drink gradually change
color was considered a part of its ritualistic attraction.
When the sugar cube has almost completely dissolved, add the rest of the iced water needed (your choice) in a thin stream.
Now mix it all together (this is called muddling) with your absinthe spoon.
Your absinthe is now ready to drink.
"After the first glass you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not.
Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish poet and dramatist
Sip your drink and enjoy.
Option: Some people will add 2 or 3 ice cubes to the finished drink. You may do this, but it may
be frowned upon by absinthe purists.
"Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife
tricks. Great success shooting the knife into the piano. The woodworms
are so bad and eat hell out of all furniture that you can always claim
the woodworms did it."
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), famous
Non-Traditional Method - Bohemian-Style Absinthe
The Czech method is more dramatic, but burning absinthe is not traditional, but it makes an
impressive exhibition. This method or gimmick was introduced by the producers of Czech Absinthe (considered a fake absinthe) in the 1990s.
It is not recommended because it can be dangerous due to the high alcohol content in absinthe.
To do this method, drip some absinthe onto the sugar
cube, sitting on the absinthe spoon, and light it on fire for approximately
1 minute. The fire will caramelize the sugar as it drips down into the
absinthe in the glass (the caramelized sugar adds a little additional flavor, This unusual method uses 1/2
the water of the French method, and thus makes a stronger drink.
Absinthe, Cocktails, by Kathy Hamlim.
Absinthe: History in a Bottle, by Barnaby Conrad III, published by Chronicle books, 1988.
Absinthe: The Cocaine of the Nineteenth Century, by Doris Laniers, published by McFarland Books, 1995.
The Virtual Absinthe Museum.
Famous Absinthe Drinkers, by Randal Huiskens.
Handy-Book of Curious Information, by William S.Walsh, published by Omnigraphi, 1998.
The Hemingway Cookbook, by Craig Boreth, published by Chicago Review Press, 1998.
The Savory Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock.
The Wormwood Society.