5 Fun Facts about Absinthe
Absinthe, that elusive and forbidden drink so beloved by bohemian artists of 19th century Paris is back and with a vengeance. Although it gained popularity as an alcoholic drink in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this anis and fennel flavoured, distilled drink was banned from use for nearly 100 years. However, a revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, following the adoption of updated European Union food and beverage regulations. Now with longstanding barriers removed from production and sale, nearly 200 different brands of absinthe are produced around the world, most notably in France, Switzerland, the United States, Spain and the Czech Republic.
Here at Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva, we currently have absinthe sorbet on the menu throughout the month of November at Le Grill Restaurant. Paired with a square of gingerbread, the marriage between the anise in the sorbet and the molasses in the gingerbread is heavenly – but we digress. Anyway, we thought it might be fun to share five historical facts about the world’s most illicit drink.
1. Absinthe is an original Swiss Concoction
Although this wormwood-infused spirit dates back to antiquity, legend suggests that Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor deserves the credit for creating what we now know as the infamous beverage. Attempting to escape the aftermaths of the French Revolution, Ordinaire emigrated from the Jura region of France to Couvet, a small village located in the Val-de- Travers valley, just west of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Apparently on his deathbed, Ordinaire passed along his absinthe recipe to Henri-Louis Pernod, father of the Pernod brand. Five years later, Pernod opened his first absinthe distillery in Switzerland, and the modern version of the drink became available for mass consumption.
2. Absinthe is not green – at least not in Switzerland
Famously referred to as “La Fée Verte” (the green fairy), the green colour comes from a secondary stage of “dunking” a sachet filled with herbs into a distillate. However, absinthe can also appear cloudy or colourless. In fact, Swiss law dictates that it must remain this way. Both clear and naturally green absinthes are authentic and have been produced since the 1790s.
3. The Swiss never stopped making Absinthe
By the early 1900s, absinthe was banned in most countries because the substance had become associated with illicit behaviour. In fact, the drink was considered an addictive drug and had a reputation for producing dangerous hallucinations after repeated consumption. While technically banned in Switzerland in 1910, local distillerys never stopped making absinthe. Like prohibition in the United States, producers simply took their operations underground. The Val-de-Travers valley, which is approximately 15 kilometres long and five kilometres wide, continued to distil absinthe in secret until 2005 when production was legalised again in Switzerland.
4. Women played a key role in the development of Absinthe
Charlotte Vaucher, the creator of the “La Clandestine” recipe, was one of several women absinthe “moonshiners” in Switzerland after the 1910 ban.
5. Desserts infused with Absinthe taste delicious!
If you fancy the taste of anise or liquorice, you can experience a milder version of this seductive drink in many desserts. Because most of the alcohol burns off during the cooking process, the flavour is strong, but in a good way. The most popular desserts infused with absinthe include: chocolates, sorbets, cakes, petits pots and even lollipops. Feel free to fully indulge without guilt or more importantly, without gettting arrested!