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How Old Is Absinthe?


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#1 monkeycurious

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 07:05 PM

I have one of those Absinthe books that claims the Romans prescribed Absinthe.

However, I have then heard other things claiming it was untrue or that it was just another kind of wormwood drink and not what we know as Absinthe.

Having tried again to do a forum search finding nothing, I decide to post a new topic in hopes that someone can answer this for me, or try to point me in the direction of correct. There may even have been a post already that I couldn't find.

So, how old is Absinthe?
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#2 AndrewT

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 08:09 PM

The Romans surely had many tonics and medicines made with wormwood, but it doesn't look like any of them had any similiarity with modern absinthe. Oxy's old Latin text (although from 17th century Germany) doesn't mention any recipes like absinthe, although one does contain small ammounts of anise seed. The oldest recipe I've seen claims to be one of the first absinthe recipes ever made, which I believe dates from the late 18th century to early 19th. It's probably safe to say absinthe is about 200 years old, although some of the more scholarly members like Oxy could probably give you a more specific date.
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#3 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 08:25 PM

The confusion stems from the sloppy use of the term "absinthe" to refer to any preparation containing primarily wormwood, not to mention the simple fact that in French, "absinthe" is just the name for the plant. Absinthe as we know it almost certainly came into being somewhere in the mid-to-late 18th century.

Andrew: As I recall, it seemed there was a "recipe" somewhere in that text that contained most of the herbs we associate with absinthe, and mentioned distilling it. But it's been quite a while since I looked at it. Have you made any more progress?

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#4 microfish

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 09:30 PM

Actually since Absinthe is distilled... distillations began (correct me if I'm wrong) around the 12th century. Everything prior to that was just fermented (i.e. beer, wine, mead). Therefore, the Romans may have used some of the same ingredients, but I don't think they distilled anything like Absinthe. Mead was the drink of the gods, thus, between that and their precious wine, they had little use of anything else.





ooo

I stand... somewhat corrected. oof :laf:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquor

Edited by microfish, 17 October 2006 - 09:35 PM.

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#5 Gertz

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 01:17 AM

According to "L'Absinthe au Val-de-Travers: Recherches sur ses Origines", an interesting booklet by Pierre-André Delachaux, there is a recipe for distilling a macerate of wormwood and other herbs that dates from 1755. It isn't really absinthe, though, as it contains neither anise nor fennel.

In 1769, there is an advertisement for "extrait d'absinthe" in a newspaper in Neuchâtel, and there exists a bill for a dinner party, held in 1777, where absinthe is mentioned along with the wine, probably to be used as an aperitif.
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#6 Heure Verte

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 01:58 AM

In 1769, there is an advertisement for "extrait d'absinthe" in a newspaper in Neuchâtel, and there exists a bill for a dinner party, held in 1777, where absinthe is mentioned along with the wine, probably to be used as an aperitif.


Right Gertz ! In fact the drink served before and during the dinners was a beverage made to stimulate the appetit. It was really it's only purpose. I have something at home about that, I have to look.
Mid XVIII°, the word aperitif didn't exist yet in France and it was called "le coup d'avant" ("the strike before" in english ?).
In the middle of the dinner, there was "le coup du milieu" AKA le trou normand to take a break between the several courses and it was sometimes a beverage with wormwood in it.
I believe strongly that our beloved absinthe helped the aperitif concept to take it's very important place in the french society.

Edited by Heure Verte, 18 October 2006 - 01:59 AM.

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#7 Guillaume Lanfray

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 06:34 AM

Since we don't know absinthe's actual birthday, then it could be any one of the 365 (or 366) days of the year. Therefore, as members of the Wormwood Society, it behooves us to toast absinthe's birthday every day, you know, just in case. :cheers:

#8 peridot

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 06:46 AM

I am sympathetic to that aim. A celebration every day it is!

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#9 Absomphe

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:24 AM

What Yoda said!

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#10 Ari (Eric Litton)

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:54 AM

If only they had been smart and not named their product "wormwood" it would be a lot easier. To be safe I would say the birth year as around 1797 when Pernod opened up shop. But considering it seems they just marketed and mass produced a home remedy, the date could easily go back further.

The big question, if we celebrate its birthday everyday, when do we celebrate its unbirthday?
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#11 plunger

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:56 AM

Leapyear
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#12 AndrewT

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:59 AM

As far as the Latin text goes, this is the closest I have found. It's an oxymel, which is spiced honey and vinegar.

Handfull of wormwood, calamint, rorismar (?), and mint
1 oz. cort. arant (?) or lemon
1 dram anise seeds and cinnamon
1 pound honey, half a pound good white wine

Cook slowly in water until the honey skims off. Strain and add 5 (can't read unit) of vinegar. Cook to the consistancy of syrup and let cool. Add 2 drams lightly powdered ginger.
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#13 Doyle

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 08:13 AM

A little off topic, but still on the topic of "old" beverages, has anyone ever tried Midas Touch Goldern Elixer from Dogfish Head Brewery? (link below) I personally am a fan of the stuff, but I would be curious to hear other opinions...

http://www.dogfish.c...xir/1/index.htm
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#14 Le Gimp

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 08:24 AM

I tried it a few years ago. I did not like it.

The web site states that it is a dry ale. The early one I had was overly sweet and I do not like sweet wine or beer as a general rule.

If I see it again, I'll give it another try.

Edited by Le Gimp, 18 October 2006 - 08:27 AM.


#15 Brian Robinson

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 08:54 AM

midas is hit or miss with me. I have to be in the mood for it.
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#16 TheGreenOne

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 08:15 AM

I'm waiting for Dogfish Head to bring out Artemisia Ale.

#17 Doyle

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 09:25 AM

This is also a limited edition brew to be sold only at the brewery...

http://www.dogfish.c...le/41/index.htm

(what I was thinking of in my last post re: Artemisia)

Edited by btdoyle00, 19 October 2006 - 12:56 PM.

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#18 luchog

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 10:29 AM

A little off topic, but still on the topic of "old" beverages, has anyone ever tried Midas Touch Goldern Elixer from Dogfish Head Brewery? (link below) I personally am a fan of the stuff, but I would be curious to hear other opinions...


One of my favorite abstract/specialty ales. Big fan of Dogfish Head in general; and this is definitely one of my favorite of their brews. It combines a lot of what I like about sweet beers, sweet (dessert-type) wines, and mead. Not something I could drink all the time, due to the sweetness, but definitely something I like to keep around. Love it with fruits, particularly strawberries, as a kind of "dessert" thing. I just wish it wasn't so seasonal.

#19 elfnmagik

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 10:57 AM

Anyone tried their spirits?

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#20 Doyle

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 12:57 PM

I tried a couple of their vodkas. They were pretty rough. I was not a fan of them.
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#21 elfnmagik

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 03:53 AM

How about Rogue's rums?
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#22 skol312000

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 10:31 AM

im just happy it never died.

#23 Pan Buh

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 11:43 AM

What you had could well have been a sub-species of the undead.

#24 Wrayalien

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 06:26 PM

:drunk: Hmmmmmmmmmmm ... after a louche or two or three .... I start singing happy birthday to the bottle in which I'm embibing.
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#25 Touch-Money

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 12:54 PM

What you had could well have been a sub-species of the undead.


Probably! Either that or some hippy blood with a dash of vodka.
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#26 Larspeart

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 11:37 PM

The two dates that always stuck out in my mind were 1792 and 1797... but I can't remember why.

I 'think' it was when that lady in Val-de-Travers first started making/selling it.

Before then, I'm not sure we can say, barring a good recipe turning up, that a 'true absinthe' existed.

Lemme do some rare book research.

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#27 Absomphe

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 05:37 AM

1792 is really mythical, since it's the date attributed to the original Dr. O, who is probably more fictitious than the present "real" one.

1797 seems to have more grounding in fact.

Edited by Absomphe, 22 November 2006 - 05:38 AM.

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#28 Larspeart

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 06:55 AM

Well, I'll be darned. I just found a fairly interesting and pretty darn decent piece in a French dictionary-esque work from 1741.

Chomel, Noel. Dictionnaire oeconomique considérablement augm. par divers curieux et sur tout par Pierre Roger. Considérablement augm. par divers curieux et sur tout par P. Roger. Volume 2. Commercy, [1741]. 462pp. 2 vols

pg. 63.

I found it in the Goldsmiths-Kress Library on Economics. I will attach an Adobe image of the page in which it is found. It seems to distinguish absinthe from wine, if nothing else, so it doesn't seem to have been an added ingredient. My French is pretty dreadful though, so perhaps someone wants to take a stab at translating it for us?

I'll see what else I can come up with...

(wait, now I can't upload the image, as it says I have exceeded my global limit??? Anyone want to give me a hand? This isn't the first time it's prevented me from uploading images. The size is only 160kb)


Oh, and I have found nearly a dozen more references in the meantime from pre-1770 in other works.

"Here's to the corkscrew - a useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly." - W.E.P. French

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For a limited time.


#29 Larspeart

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 07:03 AM

I have also found a work from a book on actual distillation (strickly), that mentions absinthe in it roughly 10-12 times. 1775 publication.

Demachy, Jacques-François. L’art du distillateur liquoriste. [s.l.], [1775]. 178pp.

It includes a full, brief chapter on absinthe, and seems to make mention that it 'may' (again, my French is rusty) have contained in addition to the trinity of wormwood, fennel, and anise... aloe.

/boggle.

Still, after seeing that, I am nearly (hell, I am) 100% certain that there was something very similar to absinthe out in 1775, and likely at least a few years earlier.

now, if someone could help me in getting these images attached, you all could read them on here. Otherwise, I can try and track down a few holding libraries where you could dig these up, or I could see about directing you all to the WorldCat... but that's gonna be a PITA.

Edited by Larspeart, 22 November 2006 - 07:07 AM.

"Here's to the corkscrew - a useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly." - W.E.P. French

We're only immortal
For a limited time.


#30 AndrewT

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 07:39 AM

Nice finds. If those turn out to say what you think they say, then it's quite possible that the independence of the US was celebrated somewhere in France with a predecessor of absinthe as we know it. Unless it was used strictly as a medicine then. Oh well.
-Andrew Thompson


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