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ABSINTHE HISTORY

Absinthe saw its peak in the early twentieth century and was made infamous by the prominent artists of the time, sparking the myth that Absinthe has the ability to inspire creativity.

And while many of these writers and artists lived in Paris during the Belle Époque, the actual heritage of the spirit is European. Absinthe was originally created in Val de Travers Switzerland in 1792. Many other countries in Europe have a history of producing Absinthe including Austria, Czech Republic, France and Spain, as well as Switzerland.

Fischer Schnaps Vienna Austria

It was banned beginning in 1906 in many European countries as well as the United States as the temperance movement became more widespread. Absinthe was falsely targeted by prohibitionists, who promoted the fallacy that the spirit had a hallucinogenic effect. It was also attacked by the French wine industry in an attempt to eliminate competition

Authentic or “real” Absinthe is commonly distinguished by the use of Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) as an ingredient. Grande Wormwood is the principal source of thujone, the component in Absinthe that was responsible for its being banned in the last century.

Old still at Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum
19th century original Absinthe recipe

In October 2007 the ban on Absinthe was eased, allowing those containing a maximum thujone level of 10 ppm to be sold in the United States.

Early History

Absinthe consumption was spread over Europe by the soldiers of the Napoleonic wars.
It was not very popular in France due to its bitter taste. It was better accepted in the regions of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Austria / Germany / Hungary / Czech-Bohemia and Italy) where bitter spirits are still very.

Major Dubied acquired the formula in 1797, and with his son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, opened the first absinthe distillery, Dubied Père et Fils, in Couvet, Switzerland. In 1805 they built a second distillery in Pontarlier, France, under the new company name Maison Pernod Fils and increased the amount of aniseed in the formula significantly to cover the bitter taste of wormwood.

In 1881, the Fischer Family first started making absinthe in their distillery founded in 1875 in Vienna Austria, which still exists today as the “Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum”. Stop by and say hello to Gerry Fischer, and he‘ll tell you the whole story.

Old still at Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum
Old still at Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum



Belle Époque

During the years 1880 – 1910 absinthe hit its peak of popularity. It fell in price and consequently became accessible to all parts of society: ladies, gentlemen-about-town, businessmen, politicians, artists, musicians, ordinary working-men and prostitutes. Absinthe was significant cheaper than wine and beer.
It was a quintessential part of Fin de siècle (turn of the century) society.
Pressure against Absinthe came from the wine producers who saw its popularity as a threat to their sales, which had been badly hit by the spread of the phylloxera louse that destroyed most of France's vineyards by 1890. Another major factor against it was the lurid 'Absinthe Murder' which took place in Switzerland in 1905. It seems a monsieur Lanfray shot his entire family and used as his defense that he had been drinking absinthe. The fact that he had also consumed several liters of wine and a considerable amount of brandy was overlooked by the prohibitionists and by 1910 absinthe was banned in Switzerland.

Revival

A modern absinthe revival began in the 1990‘s, as countries in the EU began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. Absinth became extremely popular with the release of the movie „Moulin Rouge“ in 2001, where Kylie Minogue starred as the „Green Fairy“.

Products that do not contain Artemesia absinthium also known as Grande Wormwood are not considered authentic Absinthe.

Wormwood extracts were used in ancient times as remedies for stomach problems as they had anti-parasitic effects.
Hildegard of Bingen (herbalist of the 12th century) wrote about wormwood: master against all exhaustion (nowadays known as burnout), represses melancholy and depression, is antispasmodic and increases blood flow.
Around 1792 in Couvet, Switzerland, Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French Doctor, developed a recipe that was sold as a medicinal elixir.

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