Absinthe is a highly aromatic and flavorful alcoholic beverage that has a storied and often misunderstood history. This popular spirit has been the subject of much fascination and controversy over the years, and has been enjoyed by artists, writers, and bohemians for generations.
Origins of Absinthe
Absinthe was first created in the late 18th century in Switzerland by a French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire. He developed a recipe for a medicinal elixir that included wormwood, which was believed to have therapeutic properties. Over time, the recipe evolved to include other herbs and botanicals, including anise, fennel, and coriander, which gave the drink its distinctive flavor and aroma.
Absinthe soon gained popularity in France, where it became the drink of choice for artists and writers who were drawn to its unique effects and creative inspiration. In the late 19th century, the popularity of absinthe had spread throughout Europe and the United States, and it became associated with bohemian culture and rebellion against traditional societal norms.
Controversy and Banning of Absinthe
Absinthe was not without its detractors, however. It was believed to be highly addictive and to cause a range of negative side effects, including hallucinations, seizures, and even insanity. These claims were largely based on misinformation and sensationalized stories, but they gained traction and led to a growing anti-absinthe sentiment.
In 1905, a Swiss farmer named Jean Lanfray murdered his wife and two children while under the influence of alcohol. It was claimed that he had consumed large quantities of absinthe prior to the crime, and this incident helped to fuel the anti-absinthe movement. In 1915, absinthe was banned in Switzerland, and other countries soon followed suit.
How to Drink Absinthe
Despite its controversial history, absinthe remains a popular and beloved spirit to this day. It is typically consumed by diluting it with water and sugar, which helps to soften the intense flavor and aroma. The traditional method of preparing absinthe involves using a slotted spoon to hold a sugar cube over the glass, while ice water is slowly dripped over the sugar and into the absinthe. This creates a cloudy, milky appearance known as the "louche," which is characteristic of absinthe.
Absinthe can also be used in a variety of cocktails, such as the classic Sazerac or the popular Death in the Afternoon, which was invented by Ernest Hemingway. It is also sometimes used as a cooking ingredient, adding a unique and flavorful twist to dishes such as sauces and desserts.
In conclusion, absinthe has a fascinating and controversial history, and its unique flavor and aroma continue to captivate drinkers around the world. Whether consumed in the traditional manner or in a modern cocktail, absinthe remains a beloved and iconic spirit that is sure to inspire creativity and spark conversation.
How to make a Absinthe Cocktail
DEATH IN THE AFTERNOONAn Ernest Hemmingway Classic
- 1 oz. Absinthe
- 1 oz. Chilled vermouth. (Briand recommends Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry for its lighter, crisper qualities.)
- Chilled champagne
- Lemon twist for garnish
- Pour absinthe into a champagne flute.
- Add chilled vermouth. (Either pre-chill, or shake the vermouth over ice and strain into the glass.)
- Top off the glass with chilled champagne.
- Garnish with a twist of lemon.