Absinthe, the spirit that was banned a century ago, is back, legal, and making its local debut on Thursday night at the Party Source. Often with a green hue, it’s often known as The Green Fairy.
Absinthe originated as a “remedy” in the late 1700’s in Switzerland. It contains wormwood, green anise, and fennel. It was brought to popularity by Henry-Louis Pernod, who opened the first absinthe distillery in 1797. In 1805, they were producing enough absinthe to open a second distillery in France called Maison Pernod Fils.
In the 1840s, absinthe was given to French troops as a malaria treatment. When the troops returned home, they brought with them a taste for the green spirit. By the 1860s, most French restaurants and clubs had the 5 pm l’heure verte, the green hour. I like to think this is how Happy Hour originated.
All social classes enjoyed absinthe, but the drink became associated with bohemian artists and poets, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, and more. Remember the scene in the beginning of Moulin Rouge with the floating green fairy? It makes more sense now, yes?
Absinthe was banned shortly before the movement towards prohibition. There were rumors (inaccurate) that it made you crazy, depressed, suicidal, even murderous. Of course, it didn’t – at least not any more than other spirits. Bans on absinthe began in 1905 in Sweden and continued internationally until France finally banned it in 1915.
Absinthe preparation is almost a ritual. Called la louche, it involves draining a thin cold line of water over a cube of sugar into the glass of absinthe. The sugar is generally sitting on an absinthe spoon, which is a beautifully decorated slotted spoon.
Absinthe fountains (for the perfect stream of cold water), absinthe spoons, reservoir glasses, and more will all be available at The Party Source, starting now! Tonite, you can come to an absinthe “party”, starting at 5 pm, where you can learn about la louche and try two different types of absinthe.
Absinthe can also be used in cocktails. One of the most famous is Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, which is a mixture of iced champagne (replacing the water and sugar in la louche) and absinthe. A dash of absinthe can be used effectively in a Manhattan and in the distinctly New Orleans style Sazerac.
The Absinthe Party at The Party Source starts at 5 pm tonight and is free.
The artwork used in this article is in the public domain.
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