Absinthe was one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Europe in the 19th century. This drink was drunk by people of all classes including the Bohemians, a class which included artists, poets and intellectuals. Paul Gaugin, Oscar Wild and Edgar Allan Poe for example enjoyed drinking luxury absinthe. Vincent van Gogh was a great fan of absinthe. He suffered from serious mental illness and it is even claimed that absinthe is to blame for him cutting off his ear.
Pierre Ordinaire is regarded as the originator of the classic recipe for production of absinthe. He was a French doctor who used his knowledge of the ancient use of wormwood by the Egyptians. This was used in ancient times as a stimulant, as a disinfectant and for treatment of fever. Val de Travers in the west of Switzerland, where the doctor settled, became the centre of production of absinthe, a drink which was much sought-after at that time.
A study by Doctor Magnan in the 19th century, in which the harmful effects of thujone were uncovered, led to absinthe gradually being banned in the USA and all over Europe. Absinthe was regarded as a drug which was the cause of mental illness and other serious illnesses. However, the drink survived in some countries such as the Czech Republic, Great Britain and Spain. Myths about the powerful effects of thujone as a poison were disproven and absinthe enjoyed a rebirth. Nowadays it is offered as a fashionable and luxurious drink, legends circulating of how it causes spiritual enlightenment and works as an aphrodisiac, this only adding to its exclusivity.
Forget about buying absinthe in regular shops (they have absolutely nothing in common with real absinthe) and choose only quality brands. The Czech manufacturer Žufánek offers high quality St. Antoine absinthe, the Cami liqueur factory from Dobronice u Bechyně boasts the superb Toulouse Lautrec absinthe. One of the most highly-acclaimed clear absinthes is La Clandestine, which has won many awards in comparative competitions. And finally, the icing on the cake in the form of the French Jade Terminus Oxygénée Absinthee Supérieure. This is a luxury absinthe from a series of historically identical absinthes. These above-mentioned absinthes which you can find in the centre of Prague are produced in a traditional manner and the enjoyment you get from drinking them is phenomenal.
Absinthe is an herbal spirit with an alcohol content ranging from 50% to 80%. The basic ingredients are wormwood, fennel and aniseed. The herbs are first macerated in alcohol which is subsequently distilled. The result is the clear alcoholic drink absinthe which is called “blanche” (French for clear). Some manufacturers leave it in its clear form, others create a green colour through subsequent soaking of wormwood and other plants, releasing green chlorophyll. The resulting green absinthe is called verte, i.e. “green”.
Absinthe requires a specific method of serving, during which special absinthe accessories such as a glass, carafe or spoon must be used. It is served diluted with ice-cold water in a ratio of 3:1 to 5:1. You first pour a small amount of absinthe into the glass and slowly pour in water over the absinthe spoon with sugar. The absinthe gradually starts to take on a milky consistency and starts to become murky from the bottom up. This is called the “louche”. Once a thin greenish layer has formed on the surface of the drink, it is ready for consumption.