I know I normally put out a graphically great newsletter, but this month I can’t find any hours to steal away to do that. No worries though because I created a mini-newsletter for you.
Absinthe is the subject for my October newsletter.
You can find tons of info on absinthe, but here are the main points I feel are important to know.
• Absinthe (Ab-sent) is a French
word that means wormwood.
• In 1912, Absinthe was banned in America. By 1915, it was banned worldwide except for 2 countries (the UK and Spain).
• Originally, it was crafted
as distilled folk medicine in the Swiss outback by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in th
elate 1700s. A traveling salesman became enchanted by it and brought it to France.
• In the early 1800s and was drank by high-society during the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era).
• In 1863, France imported some Native American grapes in hopes to cross-breed and create a new grape/wine, the grapevines contained a disease called phylloxera and destroyed all of France's crops (as well as most of Europe). So, the price of wine sky-rockted and Absinthe was made and drank by all the common folk.
Can you imagine? For over 5000 years grape culture thrived from generation to generation without any problems through Egyptians, Romans, biblical times then grapes from America caused wide spread disease. No wonder the French hate Americans!
• Absinthe had a very artsy bohemeim following with many artists such as Picasso, VanGogh, and Manet drinking and painting absinthe.
• Many years later, when the
wine industry's crops were disease-free they set out on a fierce marketing plan
to demonize absinthe so that they could win back their wine drinkers. The wine
community teamed up with the temperance movement and spread gossip and lies
about absinthe, which included that it made you do criminal activities to that
it made one go crazy.
• Now, fast-forward almost 100 years to my friend, Ted Breaux, a professional scientist who has dedicated his life-studying absinthe. From what I understand he acquired a bottle of absinthe that was over 100 years old then stuck a syringe through the cork and into the bottle extracting the absinthe. For 12 years he worked in his lab breaking down the elements of what was inside that absinthe bottle. He now distills it in France and one of his creations is available in America. Check these websites to order Ted’s absinthe: http://www.vintageabsinthe.com and http://www.drinklucid.com. You can purchase absinthe-ware here: http://www.lamaisondabsinthe.com. My friend, Robert Hess (www.drinkboy.com) wrote a great article on absinthe here: http://thespiritworld.net/2007/06/21/lucid-absinthe. I also recommend http://www.wormwoodsociety.org.
Absinthe has mystery and intrigue, no doubt. I get emails every single day about it and that’s the main reason I wanted to do a newsletter about it. I will tell ya one thing, at Tales of the Cocktail (www.talesofthecocktail.com) in New Orleans last July, Ted Breaux and I had tables side by side at “Cocktail Hour.” Well, our corner of the room stayed jammed packed for the whole 2 hours. At first I thought it was my cleverly named cocktail combined with my smile and cleavage, but I learned very quickly that they were there for the absinthe.
Happy October everyone! May the spirits be with you.
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P.S. Oh, absinthe has the flavor of licorice. Similar tasting liqueurs are, Anisette, Sambuca, and Ouzo.
Mere mention of the word “absinthe” conjures colorful imagery of
a world gone by, a world filled with beauty, creativity, controversy and madness.
Originally crafted as a distilled folk medicine from the Swiss outback, absinthe emerged as a curious tonic of the rural Franco-Swiss culture. Having caught the fancy of an intrepid businessman who became enchanted with its powers, the commercial world was allowed to receive its first taste of the distinctive green spirit in 1805.
Throughout the 1800s, absinthe emerged as the de facto tipple of the bourgeoisie, and reigned as a defining icon of the Belle Époque. The unique, stimulating libation earned its place as the epitome of high-fashioned decadence, sparking the revolution of France’s resilient café culture. Upon the onset of the daily ‘L’heure Verte’ (‘green hour’), the unmistakable aroma of absinthe permeated the air of Parisian bistros and cafés, curing the ills of those “who sit at the little marble tables, drink absinthe, and are invariably decorated” (Harper’s Monthly, 1889). Many an artist caught a glimpse of the world through absinthe-colored glasses, including the likes of Van Gogh, Manet, Degas, and Picasso. Its seductive perfume likewise intoxicated literary artisans like Verlaine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Wilde. And while Ernest Dowson noted that, “Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder”, Wilde asked us, “What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?”
Across the pond in the ‘little Paris’ that we call “New Orleans”, the creoles were reveling in a café culture all their own, doling out ‘healthy’ libations such as the indelible Sazerac cocktail and the frothy absinthe suissesse. The ‘wicked’ Aleister Crowley enjoyed his turn at the bar in the Old Absinthe House, remarking that, “Art is the soul of life, and the Old Absinthe House is heart and soul of the old quarter in New Orleans”. And in this notoriously warm, humid city, there was nothing so refreshing as the ever popular absinthe frappé at the end of the day.
But like all good things, the bittersweet popularity of absinthe would come to a controversial end at the hands of those who stood to profit from its demise. Bad science, bad religion, and bad government would pin all societal problems not on the decadent culture that fostered them, but on the cloudy green national drink. The initial cannon shots of the First World War would serve as the last nail in the coffin of the ‘beautiful period’, and the absinthe tradition was buried along with over one million French soldiers … gone … lost … forgotten for decades.
Almost a century later, armed with better science, strange religion, and sympathetic government, the few, the proud, the champions of all things absinthe have resurrected the Green Fairy and vindicated her from the accusations. First in Europe, and now the U.S., we are once again allowed to taste the seductive green spirit. The distillers are distilling, the corks are popping, and the absinthe fountains are once again dripping their cool water into the glasses of ‘humble, ephemeral absinthe’ (Verlaine). Enjoy!
T. A. Breaux
Absinthe Historian / Chemist
Creator – Lucid Absinthe