The History Of Absinthe
February 26, 2020
The Green Goddess, the Devil in the Bottle or the Green Fairy – whatever you may call it, Absinthe has had a long and mysterious history throughout the ages. Some refer to it as a magical medicine able to cure pain and aid in childbirth. Or, an elixir used to induce the utmost levels of creativity – Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde were fans. While others still, viewed it as an liquid pathway to distruction, death and murder.
It is thought that absinthe was first created in 1792 by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Switzerland. The doctor, a believer in the benefits of wormwood for the sick, combined it with liquor to create a sippable medicine to aid in ailments from an upset stomach to malaria.
Absinthe made its way to France partly by the conquering of Algeria. Tens of thousands of soldiers used the drink to ease pain and injuries and when returning home, brought their love of absinthe with them. Affectionately called “une verte”, it was soon a favorite of the wealthy aristocrats, who would dilute the potent liquor with water and sip it in the afternoon, charmed by it’s supposed hallucinogenic tendencies. By 1849, there were 26 absinthe distilleries in the country.
Although wild stories about absinthe do exist – the arresting tale of Jean Lanfray, who spent the hours after work imbibing in absinthe, wine and cocktails and murdered his family in a supposed absinthe craze – absinthe (unfortunately) does not cause hallucinations. Absinthe’s real potency is in its elevated alcohol leading to the practice of “louching.” The absinthe ritual of “louche” which simply translates to “touch water” is the process of adding iced water and sugar to absinthe, transforming its color from emerald to an opalescent shade of milky green and diluting the potency of its alcohol level.
This ritual gained popularity in the “Absinthe room,” a New Orleans bar, known for its marbles fountains and ornate perforated suag spoons, which promised the desired taste of the drink. This continues to be the most traditional way to have an absinthe – and how it is done at Everest.
Please explore some of our favorite absinthe below and in person, the next time you visit Everest.
Emile Pernot is located in Pontarlier, the birthplace of absinthe in France. Established in 1889, to this day the distillery uses the two century old copper alembics made by the famous firm of Egrot in the early 1900s. They are the only stills of their kind in operation in the world. Pernot’s La Maison Fontaine Absinthe Blanche is clear in color. On the nose, confectioner’s liquorice infused with faint peppermint and lavender. The style is clean and fresh
Carrying on 100 year old traditions despite changing ownership, Paul Devoille stores its wormwood, one of the key ingredients of absinthe, in its attic where it grows until it is old enough to be planted in the fields around Fougerolles. Unique to Paul Devoille, every plant is macerated on its own and distilled afterwards to compose a blend which is then macerated one more time to give the absinthe its green color. Devoille’s Enigma Verte – Verte de Fougerolles is made from a traditional Swiss recipe from the 19th century. Minty anise and wormwood fades to spicy licorice
Claude-Alain Bugnon initially made his reputation as a bootlegger, producing some of the best absinthe prior to its legalisation. His ‘Clandestine’ is considered one of the best examples of La Bleue to this day. His alembics of choice are single walled, providing access to fiecer heat which Claude believes gives better extraction of the herbs. His La Clandestine, La Bleue is the Bleue against which all other Bleues are measured. Its clear color helped Bugnon surreptitiously distill and distribute this absinthe pre-legalization. Sweet enough to not require sugar. Heady anise infused with white pepper, mint, and lemon balm