What is absinthe?
Today, it is thought that there are about fifty brands of the absinthe drink available, produced mainly in France, Switzerland, Spain and Czech Republic. Absinthe is typically green, but there are a few Swiss breeds that are clear. Best absinthe should be made with all natural ingredients and no artificial colorings added. Quality green absinthe always get released its color from the chlorophyll from the herbs.
Absinthe: The iconic drink of bohemians
Absinthe first gained his fame in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the beverage of choice among bohemian intellectuals, writers, poets and artists in France and throughout Europe. Soon the emerald liquor was consumed by people from all walks of life. While the lower classes celebrated l'heure verte (the green hour) in the Parisian bars and cafes (a pre-dinner period where patrons drank a glass or two as an aperitif), painters and poets created art and poems dedicated to La Fee Verte (the "Green Fairy") as the drink became known.
At that time, absinthe was much more than just another alcoholic drink: absinthe was the icon of la vie boheme, also a way of life for some. The Fairy reached the shores of America, even if the drink was especially popular in New Orleans.
Absinthe was originally served with chilled water, which in a glass of the green spirit over a sugar cube that was placed resting on a perforated spoon poured on top of the glass. Although other methods of drinking absinthe since evolved, particularly in the late 1990s, the original nineteenth-century ritual of preparing absinthe, known as la louche, remains an important part of the absinthe experience for all serious absinthe connoisseurs.
A drink with strange powers?
It is believed that the seedy process of adding water to the strong alcohol allows the delivery of essential oils of herbs which the drink is made wormwood, thujone-bearing particular wormwood. These oils, drinkers believe it, not just the usual intoxicating effects of alcohol counter, but the mind also bring a special state of alertness, improve one's sensory perception and even unlock hidden creative forces - hence absinthe popularity among the nineteenth-century avant garde artistic community.
Perhaps the most remarkable celebrity absinthe drinker of that time was the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin was also fond of absinthe, if the child was rebel poet Arthur Rimbaud. Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and many other writers, poets and artists drank absinthe for its unusual effects.
A fairy or a demon?
The amazing popularity of the Green Fairy causing its eventual downfall. Many European governments and the US government gave in to pressure from the anti-alcohol lobby and banned the drink in the early years of the twentieth century. Absinthe proved to be a relatively easy target for the anti-alcohol movement that widespread "absinthism" debt - a mental state of the drink probably caused - for a whole range of social problems. French winemakers, nervous about the sharp decline in the consumption of wine, also supported the call for banning the "green devil."
The drink was never banned in some European countries, notably in Spain, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. Consumption was relatively low, however, and it took almost a hundred years for the fairy to the greatest comeback we today witness of it.
So absinthe is legal again?
Absinthe is legal again in all Member States of the European Union, thanks to a 1988 European-wide law that authorized again wormwood as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages. In the United States, absinthe still can not be sold in bars and shops, but personal possession and consumption is legal. Absinthe is sold in Canada, Australia, Mexico and Japan. Laws vary in other countries.
Today's celebrities who have the taste of the drink developed include Johnny Depp, for instance, as well as the controversial Marilyn Manson and Eminem. The singer Bjork spent the last absinthe fever returned to her native Iceland a few years back. A large number of Hollywood stars are known to devotees of the Green Fairy, as former Czech President Vaclav Havel.
But even today, the story of absinthe remains polarized opinions: romanticized by many, and cursed by a few. While an increasing number of people are rediscovering the joys of the Green Fairy, a small minority still shaking their fingers and the talk of the green devil.