The Lure of Absinthe…
Absinthe refers to potent liqueur of emerald green color, made from a mixture of wormwood and a variety of herbs. It has amazingly-high alcohol content and a licorice flavor that users find rather appealing. Poets and painters hailing from Belle Epoque, France, passionately embraced the alcoholic beverage in early times. This action could have been due to its mind-altering effects or spirituous potency.
The drink was popularized by Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Manet and a host of other prominent 19th Century writers and artists. It served as symbol of French decadence during this time period. Though notoriously addictive, absinthe is slowly regaining popularity among smokers in Europe and generally the Western hemisphere.
Prominent figures in history have come under allure of the legendary alcoholic drink. They include Alfred Jarry, W. Somerset Maugham and Edgar Allan Poe. Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud are however the two scribes who most often are associated with the addictive beverage, apart from mythologizing it as elixir of Bohemes.
From its first medicinal use in Ancient Greece through its prohibition right before start of World War I, absinthe is rising in popularity once again. Artemisia Absinthium, known commonly as wormwood, is the chief ingredient for constituting absinthe. Wormwood was used for medicinal purposes dating back to the Egyptian Era, finding use as stimulant, antiseptic and tonic, whereby it remedied menstrual pains and fevers.
The Greeks offered it as prescription for anemia, rheumatism and jaundice. Romans utilized it for aiding in digestion and relieving stomach upsets. Leaves from this perennial were used for expelling intestinal worms, where the liquor obtained its name. Absinthium’ is believed to derive from apsinthion’, implying undrinkable, perhaps owing to its extreme bitterness.
Absinthe was produced at first during late of 18th Century in Val-der-Travers, Switzerland. Wormwood abounds here, together with other wild-growing alpine herbs. Pierre Ordinaire is the French doctor believed to have invented this alcoholic concoction back in 1792. The intention at this time was to patent absinthe as a medicine, though it tasted strongly of anise and licorice. Due to its often alluring color Come late of 1790s, this herbal mixture already was termed La Fee Verte, implying The Green Fairy in English.
Chlorophyll content present in the herbs used to distill the strong beverage laced it with the characteristically green color. Some dishonest manufacturers however adulterated the drink with toxic chemicals in a bid to achieve the color as well as clouding effect (louche). In reputable brands, the clouding effect resulted from precipitation of essential oils within the herbs.
Quite possibly, absinthe later developed a bad name owing to such disreputable acts, which posed grave danger to its consumers at the time. Major Dubied, a Frenchman, found the tonic impressive and having purchased the recipe in 1797, began manufacturing it for sale with Son-in-law, Henry-Louis Pernod. After experiencing great success with their modest Swiss distillery, Pernod split from Father-in-law in 1805. He then opened up a new factory in bordering Pontarlier, where he started producing small volumes of liquor. Production however later shot from 16 liters at infancy to 400 liters on daily basis within just few years.
The original recipe of Pernod Fils included a total of six aromatic herbs, which were namely Roman wormwood, wormwood, hyssop, anise, fennel and lemon balm. Angelica, nutmeg, juniper, dittany and star anise later on found way into the original recipe. There were other distillers who sprang up to tap into the market, which was growing quite fast, but Pernod Fils largely remained the standard.
Absinthe was mostly a European phenomenon, though it did take root in New Orleans that became the capital for absinthe in North America. The Old Absinthe House had probably turned to be the most famous city bar by when Prohibition came. While in New Orleans Alistair Crowley, the British occultist termed as wickedest’ in the world, composed The Green Goddess’, a lyrical essay describing abysinthe. In it he hailed the significance of absinthe in the life of New Orleans dwellers.
Even kitchen recipes eventually embraced the highly-intoxicating drink, which later got effectively banned in North America by the Food Inspection Unit in the US Department of Agriculture. The action was well-considered and followed rampant reports of proactive abuse of Abysinthe in Europe.
Today , this alcoholic beverage remains widely available for sale in France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Czech Republic, Ibizz, Andora, Japan and the UK.