What was all the fuss about?Mutter the word "Absinthe" to your mate at the bar and their eyes are sure to widen and a look of intrigue will spread across their face. A hundred years ago, or so, bartenders across the land would shake the tiny green vials of liquid to wake the daredevil inside the bottle, and make you drink it before it fell asleep again. Once the daredevil was inside your stomach all bets were off.
Well that’s not strictly true, but it’s not far from the hysteria and wild myth surrounding the drink. A more accurate account is that people were worried it could cause blindness and hallucinations.
The psychoactive chemical thujone that’s found in Absinthe can have some side effects - in large enough quantities - but the exotic nature of the drink caused outrage across the world just a short century and a bit ago. Things have never been quite the same for Absinthe makers - until now.
Outlawed and out of lovePerhaps it’s the fact that aniseed-tasting Absinthe was outlawed for almost a century that gives it that alluring edge; it’s the forbidden fruit of the spirits world.
Absenthe no moreAfter reading about the Absinthe prohibition, you can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s not gonna be absent any longer. Not unlike the Gin renaissance that’s taken a hold in the UK, and the Bourbon boom in the US, Absinthe is another spirit that has been around for donkey's years and is now enjoying its very own retour.
For the last two decades our spending habits have shifted towards spending on experience and trying new things. Whether you’re a millennial or not, experiences are more important than ever. If you are a millennial then hats off to you - you’re helping Absinthe get back in the ring: as Harris Eventbrite’ study shows “55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before”, and Forbes calls this the experience economy. We’re seeking punchy real flavours with heritage, authenticity and a story behind them.
Families reviving the legendFamily led distilleries are leading the charge, and perhaps that’s because the spirit of Absinthe is part of their heritage.
Artemisia Bugnon DistilleryArtemisia Bugnon lies in the the heart of absinthe country: Val-de-Travers, in Switzerland, Started by Claude-Alain Bugnon was the first underground distiller to start legal commercial production in 2005. They produce six varietis of premium Absinthe, including La Clandestine Absinthe.
My distiller Claude-Alain Bugnon knows how absinthe should be served. Count the drips in the 2nd photo! Part of a series of photos in a new blog article: link in my profile. #absinthe #absinth #absenta #assenzio #laclandestine #???? #absint #absinthesofinstagram #realabsinthe #swissabsinthe #handcrafted #craftspirits #absinthecocktails #claudealainbugnon #valdetravers #couvet
Jade Liqueurs & CombierJade Liqueurs & Combier sits near the banks of the Loire River, Combier in France. The distillery was started by Jean Baptiste Combier in 1834 and is the oldest working distillery in the Loire Valley. You can visit between April and October.
Distillery Pierre GuyDistillery Pierre Guy, Founded by Armand Guy, this Absinthe distillery is the last family-owned business in Pontarlier, a small town next to the French/Swiss border. Four generations of distillers have honed their Absinthe craft here for well over a century. The recipe for their renowned Vert Sapin (green fir tree) is over 113 years old.
The Matter-Luginbühl DistilleryThe Matter-Luginbühl Distillery is not too far from the French/Swiss border, near the Swiss capital Bern. An easy hop from the city you can opt for the tour or the Absinthe distilling course when you visit.
Emile PernotIt sits south of Pontarlier and was family run until 2005. Although it’s no longer in the family, as the great grandson of founder Emile-Ferdinand sold it when he retired, it’s still worth a mention. La Maison Fontaine Blanche and La Maison Fontaine Verte are both award winning Absinthes.
Outside of France and Switzerland, Distillery Zufanek is bringing Absinthe back in Czech Republic and Frey Ranch in Nevada launched a new Absinthe in 2015/16. There’s even an Absinthe made from Pisco, which is pretty awesome.
History over - time for a tippleNow all the facts are behind you - you’re screaming to try it and lose your Absinthe virginity - okay, okay, so here goes. A few places in Paris you can get (re)acquainted with Absinthe.
Lulu WhiteNestled in the artistic streets of Montmartre. Opt for the Mango Melt On Tango Belt for a truly tropical hit that will knock your socks off.
La Fee VerteThe perfect place to go to share the green fairy. The ritual of pouring straight Absinthe over sugar is done the traditional way.
Le FumoirOne of the more famous ways of drinking Absinthe, head to this petit bar and try the Sazerac. This dimly lit interior lies just around the corner from the Louvre, so I’d try one or two as the great artists would, before exploring pictures from their pasts.
Le Perchoir MaraisAbsinthe with a view. With a stunning rooftop bar and views over the city hall, there’s hardly a better spot to try Absinthe.
No EntryOne of our top choices is the head cocktail Revisite du French a sweet mix of Absinthe, citrus notes and lavender infused Gin.
Andy Wahloo BarFrench Absinthe in a French bar - we mentioned Distillery Armand Guy before. So try Absinthe Francois Guy - you won’t regret it.
And if you can’t make it to Paris, here’s a few alternatives that are just as intoxicating: La P'tite in Switzerland, Cafe Americano in Las Vegas for its “gazillionaire” cocktail, or Florería Atlántico in Buenos Aires.
It's all about the experienceThe history and mystique surrounding the drink play right into the green fairy’s lap: Absinthe is all about the experience. Thanks to it being outlawed many people have never tried it, loads of people feel it's shrouded in mystery, and hundreds more feel like an intrepid explorer as they watch the liquid drop silky over a crisp sugar cube.
Absinthe captures our imagination. And there’s now even an Absinthe route to stretch the experience further; with museums and distilleries along the route from Pontarlier to Noiraigue, where you can learn about Absinthe’s rocky road into bars today.
My prediction is that 2019 will be the year of Absinthe. Wine sales are losing out to more innovative spirits - thanks to us spirit lovers - that are helping the boom. Absinthe could be a huge disruptor as people look for authentic brands, new experiences and herbal cocktails - all of which are “on trend” this year.
There’s hardly a spirit out there that will smack you in the face more heartily than this jade Liquer, so I’m off to sip on a few more cocktails made from the once-banned spirit. What better way to spend my time in the home of the "la fée verte"?