What actually is absinthe?

Many myths and stories surround Absinthe, most of which are based on half-truths and have been fueled by Hollywood films. Absinthe owes its nickname "Green Fairy" to the fact that absinthe was usually colored green in the 19th century.

The myth of the supposedly hallucinogenic effect persists to this day, although there is certainly nothing to it. No legislator in the world would allow a spirit with drug-like effects, apart from alcohol.

But first, let's get back to the origin of absinthe:

Absinthe is the French term for wormwood (lat. Artemisia Absinthium) - the most important component of absinthe.


Even in ancient times, the therapeutic effect of wormwood was known and, for example, wine was made with wormwood shifted.
Absinthe as we know it today was first mentioned in a newspaper advertisement in the Principality of Neuchâtel in 1769. The Henriod sisters produced a panacea that Dr. Ordinaire sold in the region around Neuchâtel.
Henri Louis Pernod's father-in-law acquired the promising and popular recipe and founded the first commercial distillery in 1798 in Couvet (Val de Travers), producing just 16 liters a day.
The majority of this filigree production volume was sold to nearby France, which caused problems with customs even then. For this reason, Henri-Louis Pernod decided in 1805 to purchase a property in Pontarlier, France, and set up his own distillery there.

He sold his absinthe through agents with growing success in the catering industry. In this way he was able to increase the production volume to around 400 liters per day by the time he died in 1851.
The breakthrough came when Pernod made a deal with the French military fighting in Algeria in the 1869s. The soldiers were given absinthe as a daily ration to clean the water from microbes. When they asked for absinthe in the bistros of the big cities after the war, there was no holding back for the green elixir from the Jura.
By the end of the 19th century, around 200 km around Pontarlier, around 100 distilleries were established, which mainly produced absinthe. At that time there were more alcohol sales outlets in Paris than bakeries... The bohemian in particular loved this drink, but absinthe was also enormously popular in all other social classes.

The sudden end came between 1907 and 1923 in almost all of Europe. Too many supposed absinthe addicts, moral decay and a family drama with a fatal outcome, caused widespread rejection.
Prohibition was unstoppable.The strict ban on absinthe in France was ultimately based on the fear that the military would no longer be operational due to the excessive consumption of absinthe. In the beginning, the military ensured the spread of the vermouth drink and is also responsible for its demise. Nonetheless, absinthe survived in Switzerland through moonlighting.

Although it was never banned in Spain and England, it did not achieve the popularity it enjoyed in France and Switzerland. About 80 years after the ban, absinthe was allowed again in the EU. Since then, absinthe has been steadily gaining popularity. $
The legalization of absinthe in Switzerland on March 1, 2005 is almost sensational. Banned by the federal constitution since 1910, absinthe is now experiencing a real revival in its country of origin. 


Absinthe must contain wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). If one of these components is missing, strictly speaking one cannot speak of absinthe - then it is a herbal schnapps. 


Basically, it is not advisable to make offers that only focus on the thujone value. While thujone is an important ingredient, it is wrong to assume that the more thujone an absinthe contains, the better it is.

The production:

Even before the ban on absinthe in 1910, numerous manufacturers recognized that absinthe could be produced very cheaply if to simplify the production method. Even then there were macerations and oil mixes! However, the highest quality (and tastiest) results can (then as now) only be achieved through the distillation of herbs!

The bottling:

Alcohol content: 45% vol. - 72% vol. Anything above that normally has nothing to do with absinthe. The only exception: undiluted direct fillings (Brute d'Alambic). 


Oil mix: 

Products that are mixed with synthetic colors, flavors and sugar. They are not among our favourites.


Herbs steeped in strong alcohol. The taste is often very bitter and not very pleasant. 
Clear distillates: 

A herbal mixture is prepared in high-proof alcohol, then diluted with water and distilled. You can expect quality products here.

Naturally colored distillates: 

In principle the same as with the clear distillates, but with an additional production step in which the distillate is colored with special herbs. The result is usually very flavorful and complex. 

Quality features

How do you recognize good absinthe?

First of all, absinthe that gets its color from additives or artificial coloring should be avoided. Furthermore, Swiss legislation defines exactly what is important for good absinthe:

Art. 80 Absinthe Absinthe is a spirit drink made from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or from a distillate of agricultural origin, which:
a. flavored with wormwood herb (Artemisia absinthium L.) or its extracts, in combination with other plants or plant extracts such as aniseed, fennel and the like;
b. is made by mashing and distillation;
c. has a bitter taste and smells like aniseed or fennel; and d. gives a cloudy drink when diluted with water.

In order to have something of high-quality absinthe for a long time, the correct storage of the spirit should finally be observed:Like all spirits, absinthe should be protected from light and stored at a constant temperature below 30 degrees Celsius.
In order to be able to keep absinthe longer in your own home bar, the bottle should be closed with a cork. A metal or plastic stopper should be replaced with cork to retain the alcohol and preserve the flavors.
If there is only a little absinthe left in the bottle, it should be poured into a smaller container. This prevents too much air from damaging the absinthe.
Anyone who would like to have a few closed bottles of their favorite absinthe mature should keep them in the cellar.  

But what do we recommend as absinthe connoisseurs?

The products from Switzerland are exciting, such as Mansinthe, Duplais (actually everything from Matter)  or Kallnacher.  But the French are also very interesting and can look back on a long tradition. Here we recommend Jade, Distillerie Guy or Devoille.   

There are many myths and stories about absinthe, most of which are based on half-truths. In this article we go into the myth of absinthe, as well as the origin, the production and the different qualities of absinthe.

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