Absinthe is a herbal spirit, typically of green colour, and it contains
the active agents of a herb called wormwood (artemisia absinthium).
In a newspaper ad of 1769 the two Henriod sisters from Neuchatel,
Switzerland, advertised their remedy "Bon Extrait d'Absinthe" which
consisted of alcohol, wormwood, aniseed, lemon balm and other herbs.
This formula was later distributed by a certain Dr. Ordinaire – and the
success story of the "Green Fairy" was born. Around the year 1800 the
formula was sold to Mr. H. L. Pernod of Pontarlier, France, where a
minor production line was started and helped Pernod to gain a fame that
lasted until our present time.
During the Algier War in the 19th century France made use of the
inciting effects of Absinthe and provided the Soldiers with regular
rations of the liquor. The veterans who had survived this war soon
pushed the production output from 400 liters daily (appr. 90 gallons) to
more than 20.000 liters (appr. 5.000 gallons) a day and more. Absinthe
distilleries started to spread all over France like mushrooms.
However, artists and intellectuals of those times were the ones
especially devoted to Absinthe. Many great works of contemporary art owe
their existence to the inspiring effects of the spirit. Great names like
Baudelaire, Manet, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, Degas,
Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Gauguin and Picasso are found among these
early adepts of Absinthe.
Around 1910 the total turnover of Absinthe distribution had reached
immeasurable peaks. To satisfy the large demand some distilleries made
use of low-grade alcohol and used poisonous cooper sulfate for
artificial coloration. These irresponsible dealings with the drink
finally resulted in the prohibition of Absinthe in (almost) all
countries of Europe by the year 1920.
In 1998 the European Community has returned to legalizing the production
and distribution of Absinthe. From this day on the magic around this
drink has experienced a true revival.