From the iconic green fairy to a one-way ticket to a Lunatic Asylum in France, Absinthe has one hell of a story.
The History of Absinthe
Traditionally Absinthe is thought of a French spirit but the use of wormwood as a medicine has documented all throughout history. The Ancient Greeks thought it could cure flatulence, or ease childbirth. Doctors in the Middle Ages used it to cure ringworm. But the first clear evidence of a wormwood based distilled spirit dates back to the 18th century. According to legend Dr Pierre Ordinaire, or Ordinary Pete, a French doctor living in Switzerland created an all-purpose Patent Remedy. The unique recipe was then passed onto the Henroid Sisters, who then, in turn, passed it over to Major Dubied, his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod. And that, as they say, is history. The Pernod Fils brand of spirit was one of the most popular brands until the drink became banned in France in 1914.
The beverage of the bourgeoisie throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Absinthe was known as the green fairy and was enjoyed as an elegant aperitif. But the phylloxera plague caused the spirit to fall into disrepute. The phylloxera plague caused brandy and wine to become increasingly more expensive and hard to get hold of, absinthe, on the other hand, was readily available and cost far less than a glass of wine. By 1870, France was in ruins and alcohol consumption increased five-fold. Badly made moonshine was everywhere and it wasn’t much more than poison. No longer the green fairy, it became known as bottled madness, and with the threat of Germany on their borders, absinthe was banned in France. Many countries never actually banned it, notably the UK, but it had never gained popularity in those countries.
The reintroduction of Absinthe
In the 1990’s a British imported reintroduced absinthe to the UK and began the revival of the ancient green spirit. As a result, the drink became popular in Europe again. The ban in France was officially lifted in May 2011.
Anyway, that’s enough of a history lesson, for now, I mean let’s be honest you’re not here to read about the history of absinthe. You’re here because you want to know the best way to enjoy and serve the green fairy. And we’re here to help.
How to Serve Absinthe
The French Method
Absinthe is traditionally served by serving a sugar cube on a slotted spoon placed on the rim of a glass filled with a measure of absinthe. Ice water from a specialist water fountain is then dripped over the sugar cube to mix the water and absinthe.
If you follow this method you end up with a drink that contains 1 part Absinthe and 3-5 parts water. This method is thought to be the oldest and purest method of preparation and is often called the French Method. If you want to serve it this way, drinkstuff have handily prepared a stunning Absinthe Fountain Set.
The Bohemian Method
The Bohemian Method wasn’t performed during absinthe’s peak of popularity in the Belle Époque. It is, in fact, a recent invention and it involves fire. Like the French Method, you have a sugar cube on a spoon over a shot of absinthe. Soak the sugar in more alcohol, usually absinthe, and then set alight. The flaming sugar cube is then dropped into the glass, setting the shot alight. You then drop a shot of water into the flame to put it out.
The Bohemian Method is a bit of a gimmick and absintheurs wouldn’t recommend this method as it can kinda ruin the flavour. Plus it’s a fire hazard.
The Cafe Method
Technically the same as the French Method, the only difference to the Cafe Method is that the drink isn’t served ready to enjoy. The French Method would involve a bartender creating the drink for you. When serving the Cafe Method, the patron would be served the drink components needed. This way the drinker could add as much sugar or water as they wanted.
Authentic ways to serve Absinthe
To traditionally serve absinthe in the French Method or the Cafe Method you’ll need certain tableware. Obviously, you’ll need glasses, and ideally vintage inspired glasses. Depending on whether or not you want stemmed glasses or not La Rochère have you covered with their range of glasses.
Next, you’ll be needing a specialised serving spoon. The spoon has to let the water drip though, so you’ll need a slotted spoon. Here at drinkstuff, we like the 47 Ronin Stainless Steel Absinthe Spoon.
To serve the water you’ve got a choice, do you want a carafe or a fountain? Both are great choices, it just depends on what look you’re going for. If you want a more authentic look we’d recommend the fountain.
Now you’d think that that’s all you need but you’d be wrong. The final thing you’ll need for the most authentic way to serve this classic drink is a saucer. The glass was traditionally served on a saucer. Firstly the saucer protected the table from the wet glass. Secondly, it worked out a customer’s bill. Each saucer had a coloured rim that told the waiter the cost of the drink. The waiter, as a result, was then able to work out the total of your bill just by looking at the stack of saucers.
Over the years absinthe has become an increasingly popular ingredient in cocktails. One of the most famous absinthe cocktails is the Ernest Hemingway favourite, the Death in the Afternoon.
Death in the Afternoon
- 45ml of Absinthe
- 130ml of Champagne
- Rose Petals, for garnish
- Pour the absinthe into a champagne flute
- Top up with the Champagne
- Garnish with a single rose petal
- 45ml of Absinthe
- 15ml of Anisette Liqueur
- 45ml of chilled water
- 7.5ml of Simple Syrup
- Mint, for garnish
- Add all of the ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker
- Shake to combine the ingredients
- Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice and gently stir
- Garnish with a sprig of mint