Absinthe, the Notorious Liquor

Absinthe, the Notorious Liquor

It would be difficult to imagine a more notorious liquor than absinthe. Even though just about everybody has heard of absinthe, a much smaller number know much about it, and even fewer people have given it a try. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to reveal what absinthe really is, along with some of its history as well as its status today.

It is generally agreed that absinthe was first created as a medicinal tonic in the late 1700s in the village of Couvet, Switzerland, but there is a difference of opinion regarding exactly who the creator actually was. The anise-flavored tonic was claimed to have been invented by a French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire, but locals in Couvet said that, long before the appearance of Dr. Ordinaire, the Henriod sisters were doling out absinthe for medicinal purposes.

Regardless of who the originator of the recipe was, it is a fact that the Dubied-Pernod family purchased the recipe from Dr. Ordinaire and set up the first commercial distillery of absinthe in Couvet.

As time went by, and the popularity of absinthe increased, the beverage became acclaimed not only for its health-oriented benefits, but also for its effect on the mind, conjuring up the legend of the Green Fairy with her visions, dreams and artistic inspiration.

Several factors led to boost the fame of absinthe even further. French soldiers were given the beverage as a tonic that indeed boosted both their health and their morale. Then, in the third quarter of the 19th century, France’s vineyards were nearly destroyed by a plant disease. As the price of wine skyrocketed, the absinthe recipe was changed to make it even more economical an alternative.

During the years leading up to World War I, some of the most famous artists and writers of the era were not only drinking absinthe, they were immortalizing it. For example, it is known that Mary Shelley wrote most of “Frankenstein” while under the inspirational influence of absinthe.

And it was not only Europe where the Green Fairy was celebrated, she was imported to the USA where, especially in New Orleans, the absinthe drinking ritual became one of the rituals of high society. But, in the words of the old proverb, everything that goes up must eventually come down. Several powerful forces were at work against absinthe, and it was made illegal in the United States and several other European countries in 1912, and in France in 1915. However, it has remained legal in Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Czech Republic and Portugal. Today in the USA, drinking and possessing absinthe is allowed, but making it and selling it are against the law. Therefore, Americans wishing to enjoy the Green Fairy may legally buy absinthe from, for example, legitimate online sources.

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