The story of the green fairy
What was banned and forbidden for years is now enjoyed and celebrated again. There’s no denying that absinthe – aka ‘The Green Fairy’ – is cloaked in a bit of mystery due to its – let’s say – controversial history.
Let’s look at the history of absinthe a little closer.
Invented in Switzerland – made infamous in France
When looking into the history of Absinthe, there are various claims to its origins.
We love the one featuring Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor who fled the guillotines during the French Revolution and settled across the border in a small town of Couvet in Switzerland in the late 18th century. While living and working as a doctor in Switzerland, he created a medicinal elixir made from alcohol mixed with local herbs and roots. One of the ingredients was artemisia absinthium (the scientific name for wormwood) – rumoured to cure everything from flatulence to anaemia.
On his deathbed, Dr. Ordinaire passed on the secret recipe to the Henriod sisters of Couvet, who carried on producing and selling the medicinal elixir. The exact details of Dr. Ordinaire’s life, including his birth and death dates, are not widely known.
A few years later, a certain Major Dubied acquired the formula from the Henriod sisters and opened the first Absinthe distillery in the early 19th century named ‘Dubied Père et Fils’ in Couvet Switzerland together with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod.
In response to the popularity of Dr. Ordinaire’s wormwood potion, ‘Dubied Père et Fils’ soon opened a second distillery under the company name ‘Maison Pernod Fils’ in Pontarlier, France, where absinthe would gain its international reputation.
These historical details are based on legends and claims from absinthe manufacturers. The true origins of absinthe are still a matter of debate among historians.
The rise to stardom – The Green Hour and The Green Fairy
Absinthe became so popular in French bars, bistros, cafés, and cabarets by the 1860s that a stroll through Montmartre at 5 pm would have revealed tables with men and women, often alone, contemplating their glasses of the bright green spirit.
L’heure verte (‘the green hour’ – and the origin of what’s today commonly known as ‘Happy Hour’) was born. Absinthe quickly became the drink of choice for artists, writers, and intellectuals.
Writers such as Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe and Verlaine relied upon it. Many artists are associated with the green spirit, often for including it in their paintings, such as Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh.
The Green Fairy got its name from the swirling emerald opalescence triggered by adding iced water to the neat liquid.
Banned for over 100 years
As Absinthe’s popularity spread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, incidents of absinthe-related alcohol abuse did as well.
Governments were highly concerned over heavy Absinthe consumption and its consequences on society. High in alcohol, cheap, seductive, and reputedly hallucinogenic, the green spirit was blamed for mental illness, madness, and crime.
While claims of absinthe having hallucinogenic properties have since been largely disproven,a terrible crime was committed in 1905, when a vineyard worker who had drunk an awful lot of wine but also absinthe killed his pregnant wife and two children and found himself centre stage of the debate. Of course, even back then, political forces were at play and the many vineyard owners in France didn’t like the popularity of Absinthe and helped fabricate these horror stories.
As a result, Absinthe became a great scapegoat for a perceived lack of morality in society at the time. In 1915, Absinthe was banned in the United States and much of Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary.
In 2005, the spirit was legalised again in Switzerland and slowly began making its comeback. Distilleries around the globe, including Studer, started producing Absinthe and re-igniting interest in this fragrant spirit.
In France, where absinthe was overwhelmingly popular, the ban on the spirit was lifted only in 2011.
Studer’s Swiss Premium Absinthe
55.0% vol. (golden yellow)
Studer’s Swiss Premium Absinthe is one of the finest spirits produced by the distillery since 2005. The recipe for this noble Absinthe contains wormwood herb, a mixture of 8 selected herbs, pure alcohol and fresh spring water from Studer’s own wells.
The distillation is done in a column still. The result is a wonderful Absinthe in golden-yellow with anise top notes; you will most likely also identify notes of wormwood and fennel.
Studer’s Swiss Premium Absinthe has won several awards, among others at the CWSA Hong Kong (Double Gold) and the ISW/DistiSuisse (Gold).
The recommended drinking method is a 1:4 ratio with fresh water. Depending on your preference, you can also add some sugar.