Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium, commonly referred to as “grande wormwood”, together with green anise and sweet fennel. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but can also be colorless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as “la fée verte” (the “green fairy” in French).
It was originally created in Switzerland and was outlawed there and in many other countries in the early 19th Century. Only recently (2005) was the production of Absinthe legalized once again in its homeland.
It achieved great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th- and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers. Owing in part to its association with bohemian culture, consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists. Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley and Alfred Jarry were all known drinkers of absinthe.
Absinthe has been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical thujone, present in small quantities, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in most European countries including France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although absinthe was vilified, it has not been shown that it is any more dangerous than ordinary spirits. Its psychoactive properties, apart from those of alcohol, have been much exaggerated.
A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, when countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. As of February 2008, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries, most notably in France, Switzerland, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
Traditionally, absinthe is prepared by placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon and then placing the spoon on the glass which has been filled with a shot of absinthe. Ice-cold water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube so that the water is slowly and evenly displaced into the absinthe, typically 1 part absinthe and 3 to 5 parts water. During this process, components not soluble in water (mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche (Fr. “opaque” or “shady”). Releasing these components allows herbal aromas and flavours to “blossom” or “bloom” and brings out subtleties originally over-powered by the anise. This is often referred to as “The French Method.”
- 1 pint vodka
- 2 teaspoons wormwood, crumbled; dried
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander; ground
- 2 teaspoons angelica root; chopped
- 1 2/3 Cups sugar syrup
- Place vodka in large jar with tight fitting lid. Add wormwood and shake well; steep 48 hours and strain out.
- Crush seeds and pods in mortar. Add them and all remaining spices to vodka and steep in a warm place 1 week.
- Filter and sweeten. (The sugar syrup mentioned above is your standard simple syrup.)