The Green Fairy, the Green Goddess, la fée verte … absinthe has many nicknames, followed by many stories, more or less accurate. But what is true is that absinthe had an essential role in culture and art, and for 200 years it inspired writers, painters, and cocktail makers.
During the time of its greatest glory, absinthe was considered a miraculous tonic, the fairy of inspiration, but also a devious drink to be abolished, which eventually happened. It started its magic career as a cure for disorientation and malaria at the end of the 18th century, and then French soldiers began drinking it in North Africa but added anise to improve its taste.
The drink soon got the nickname “La Fée Verte” or “green fairy” because of its specific color. In a short while, absinthe reached the circle of artists, and so a remedy for dysentery became a mysterious drink that inspired and influenced artists like no other drink ever did or will.
Manet painted the famous Inspired Apprentice, Picasso created the notorious Sculpture of the Absinthe Glass, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Maupassant wrote about it, and Verlaine was photographed as he was drinking it in a café in Paris.
In France, a green hour ( l’heure verte) was also set up, every day at 5 pm, which was considered to be the time of drinking absinthe.
As the popularity of the absinthe grew, so the drink got its first opponents. Green Fairy soon gained a reputation for various cases of recorded hallucinations due to drinking. The hallucinations were attributed to cheap copies of drinks that contained toxins like copper sulfate, which contributed to the strengthening of green color.
French physician Valentin Magnan carried out a series of experiments with animals, feeding them with isolated thujone, poisonous chemistry found in the mugwort, one of the primary ingredients of the absinthe. The study concluded that there were multiple seizures in animals, and this was stated as a proof of the harmfulness of this drink.
The drink of the artists
Absinthe began to gain more and more popularity and was soon accepted by artists and members of the high society. Famous people who drank absinthe and sought inspiration in it, amongst others, were: Pablo Picasso, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Brian Warner and Oscar Wilde.
In his way, Degas paid tribute to absinthe in his 1876 picture – L’Absinthe, later used as evidence of all the negative of this drink, as it provoked the misery of the user.
Cases of alcoholism, aggressive behavior as a result of hallucination – as in the case with worker Jean Lanfray, who killed his wife and two children after a full day’s drinking in 1905 – led to public anxiety and revolt at that drink. In Switzerland, where the crime took place, a petition was launched to ban the absinthe, and in a short time, it collected 82,000 signatures.
The crime was named “absinthe murder” in the press, although the killer (besides absinthe) consumed wine as well. Besides, various inexpensive versions of the distillation companies produced under financial pressure were also banned, and these two things turned absinth in a green curse.
In Belgium, it was banned in 1905, in Switzerland and the Netherlands in 1910, in the United States in 1912, and even in France where about 36 million liters of absinthe were sold annually, the ban came into force in 1915.
What we know today is that absinthe doesn’t have any hallucinogenic effect, no matter how attractive its very characteristic sounded. All the hallucinations and all the absurdity-related crimes are linked to the excessive enjoyment of alcohol, especially the bad quality one.
The same would happen and is happening, from lousy brandy, whiskeys or vodka. Additionally, Baudelaire combined his absinthe with opium, Rimbaud with Hawk or LSD, so they certainly had hallucinations.
Unlike the twentieth century, absinthe is now widely available, and it can be obtained from the absinthe of a new date, to the preserved rare original drink that you would need to pay $10,000 per bottle.
As far as the manufacturer is concerned, there are three hundred brands in the world. Of all brands, Bairnsfather (Kyle Bairnsfather) is the only Absinthe product with an old filtration method, no additives, color, and chemistry, with a minimum required amount of alcohol and a maximum permissible volume of Thujone (35mg / lit).
How to Drink Absinthe:
Absinthe is given in a specific way. A small glass of wine is poured into the glass, then poured on a spoon on which the sugar is poured, coldly pouring cold water, which should slowly drip into the cup with the absinthe. The rule is to add absinth to three to five measures of water. Sugar serves to alleviate the bitterness of the Pelin, and the preparation method itself gives the beverage an additional flavor.