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History

The History of Absinthe

1552 BC

First Production

The first known example of wormwood being used as a tonic.

1789

First Recipe

Dr. Pierre Ordinaire develops the first recipe that resembles what would be known as authentic absinthe. Because of its greenish tint and the way the oils 'dance' in the glass as water is added, it became known as La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy). He subsequently shared his recipes with the Henriod sisters who began producing absinthe on a small scale.

1797

First Commercial Distillery

he Henriod sisters sell their recipe to Frenchman Major Dubied. Later that same year, the Major's daughter married Henri-Louis Pernod. Pernod, who along with the Major and his son Marcellin, began to build the first commercial distillery to produce absinthe. And in 1798, the factory began producing absinthe under the name Dubied Père et Fils.

1805

The Rise of Pernod Fils

a new, larger factory was formed under the name, Maison Pernod Fils in Pontarlier France as a way to not only expand production, but also capitalize on the lower tax rate in France. By the height of their production, Pernod Fils was cranking out 30,000 liters a day of absinthe. Pernod Fils became the name synonymous with quality absinthe. They set the bar in quality and innovation and every absinthe company inspired to imitate them.

1830 - 1847

Franco Algerian War

soldiers in Northern Africa were provided rations of absinthe to help purify their drinking water and help prevent water borne illnesses as well as malaria. The high alcohol content also served as a very good antiseptic for wound care. Soldiers returning from the war brought back with them their taste for absinthe, helping lead to a surge in popularity.

1856

Phylloxera Aphid First Detected in France

within a decade, the French wine industry was decimated. People who would normally drink wine or brandy could not afford it anymore and turned to another beverage, that, when properly prepared, had an alcohol content similar to wine, and also had a flavor that almost every French and Swiss person enjoyed: Absinthe.

1874

Absinthe Threatens Wine Industry in France

French were consuming 700k liters of absinthe per year. The French wine industry saw the threat that absinthe posed to their recovery, worrying that many wine drinkers would not come back to wine once the industry recovered. They began pairing with the budding prohibitionist movement of the day to vilify absinthe in an attempt to sway public opinion away from absinthe.

1870s

Absinthism

Dr. Valentin Magnan coined the term 'absinthism', attempting to make the case that absinthe was detrimental to human health, moreso than any other alcohol. This assertion was almost immediately refuted by the well respected medical journal 'The Lancet', but the misinformation campaign continued.

1900

Happy Hour

French were consuming 36 MILLION liters of absinthe per year. (60 liters per year, per inhabitant!) The hour between 5 and 6 p.m. became known as L'Heur Verte (The Green Hour). This later became known as Happy Hour.

1903

Absinthism

Dr. Valentin Magnan coined the term 'absinthism', attempting to make the case that absinthe was detrimental to human health, moreso than any other alcohol. This assertion was almost immediately refuted by the well respected medical journal 'The Lancet', but the misinformation campaign continued.

1905

Jean Lanfrey

Jean Lanfrey - the absinthe murders in Switzerland leading to a petition to ban absinthe signed by 80,000 citizens (half of whom were women, who didn't even have voting rights yet - shows how important this measure was)

1905 - 1915

Absinthe Bans Begin

1908 - Referendum in Switzerland to ban absinthe was submitted; 1910 - Swiss absinthe ban begins; 1912 - US absinthe ban begins - widely viewed as a 'dry run' for Prohibition laws; 1915 - French Absinthe Ban begins

1992

Thujone

Dr. Wilfred Arnold hypothesized in a flawed study that absinthe contained 300mg/l of thujone setting the stage for thujone mania.

1990s

Absinth

Eastern European producers began marketing low quality product called 'absinth' that bore little to no resemblance to authentic absinthe from the Belle Epoque. The introduction of the fire ritual during this time also created a false 'tradition' of absinthe preparation.

2000 & 2001

Absinthe in the Movies

The movie Road Trip portrays absinthe as a hallucinogen, relying on the false advertising from the 90s to create some poetic license. This grabs the attention of thrill seekers and partiers alike. 2001 - The movie From Hell further the misinformation of lighting absinthe on fire, and even adding laudanum to the preparation, neither of which are historically accurate. Moulin Rouge which came out the same year, portrays Kylie Minogue as 'the green fairy' - an hallucination brought about by drinking absinthe.

2007

Absinthe Legalized in the United States

Due to tireless efforts debunking the popular image of absinthe being a drug and/or an hallucinogen by representatives of two brands in particular - Kubler and Lucid, absinthe is once again legalized in the United States. Read about those efforts here, in our interview with notable scientist, historian, and absinthe producer, Ted Breaux.

Newspaper, 1860. Warnings of effects of absinthe abuse

Newspaper, 1861. The Absinthe Ogre

Newspaper, 1861. Absinthe and its Poisonous Effects

Newspaper, 1868. Health warnings

Newspaper, 1868. The Absinthe Drinkers of Paris

Newspaper, 1870. Absinthe Origins of Vermouth

Newspaper, 1885. MANUFACTURES OF SAN FRANCISCO

19th Century Distiller’s Manuals

Ever wonder how absinthe was made?  Other rare or obscure European spirits?  These two texts are the most reliable and definitive records available on the state of the distiller’s art in the 1800s and contain literally hundreds of recipes and detailed protocols intended for small distilleries and merchants.  These books contain extensive sections on the […]

1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica Entry – Absinthe

ABSINTHE, a liqueur or aromatized spirit, the characteristic flavouring matter of which is derived from various species of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Among the other substances generally employed in its manufacture are angelica root, sweet flag, dittany leaves, star-anise fruit, fennel and hyssop. A colourless “alcohólate” is first prepared, and to this the well-known green colour […]

FOOD INSPECTION DECISION 147 – The US Ban on Absinthe

This is the complete text of Food Inspection Decision 147, which effectively banned absinthe by declaring wormwood a deleterious food additive, a position which, as modern science has demonstrated, is unfounded in fact.  F. I. D. 147. Issued July 25, 1912. United States Department of Agriculture,OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY. FOOD INSPECTION DECISION 147. ABSINTH. [sic] […]

Poisons of French Liquers

Public Opinion A COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF THE PRESS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD ON ALL IMPORTANT CURRENT TOPICS VOLUME XXXIII JULY, 1902—DECEMBER, 1902 PUBLIC OPINION, WAVERLEY PLACE, NEW YORK Thursday, 16 October, 1902   Page 499 Poisons of French Liqueurs Results Of An Investigation UndertakenBy The Alcohol Commission Of Paris InThe Interest Of Public Health The alcohol commission […]

By The Absinthe Route – From an anthology of travel stories

Here are excerpts from By the Absinthe Route, Chapter 10 of the entertaining and true account of Lewis R. Freeman’s yachting expedition of the South Pacific, entitled In the Track of the Trades. These passages are interesting for their portrayal of absinthe drinking and the style of preparation in the far-flung French outpost of Tahiti in the post-ban […]