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Absinthe, between myth and reality

His fame precedes him. Absinthe,
in French and green fairy in myth, is rightly one of the most celebrated, famous and controversial alcoholic beverages in history.

But what is absinthe? And why has it been banned for a long time, accused of causing disastrous side effects, like a hard drug? Let’s find out together.

The Artemisia absinthum, queen of medicinal herbs

The plant from which this legendary drink is made is called Artemisia absinthium. It is widely used in herbal medicine for its myriad properties, including tonic, antiseptic and vermifuge properties. It is a shrub characterized by a very suggestive silver-green color, widespread in the Alpine zone.

Many Vermouth, are also obtained from the same plant, including the widespread Martini and Cinzano, which, however, curiously, were not affected by the same ban that Absinthe was a victim of. But this is another story that we will tell shortly …

In any case, saying that Absinthe is obtained from Artemisia absinthium is correct but incomplete. This legendary drink is obtained from the distillation of various medicinal herbs, including green anise, fennel, lemon balm, coriander, hyssop. But not only. In our shop, we have many types of Absinthe, the result of the creativity of producers such as Larusée who have always sought aromatic elegance and gustatory excellence, placing no limit on the experimentation of Artemisia absinthium.

Here, you can find their selection of exceptional and certainly unconventional Assenzi, including the Blanche de Léon, enriched by Edelweiss grown organically in the Swiss mountains, or Les Précieuses Speyside 2019, which adds Speyside’s finest single malt whiskey to the base of Blanche de Léon. In short, a fascinating journey into the balanced blend of Flavors that only expert hands like those of Larusée can create, strengthened by the Swiss-French tradition that sees Neuchâtel as one of the undisputed strongholds of Absinthe.

Couvet, patria natale dell’Assenzio

Couvet, homeland of Absinthe Starting from the first half of the nineteenth century, an alcoholic drink with the name of Absinthe begins to depopulate in half of Europe, primarily Switzerland and France, but also England, Germany, Italy, Austria.

But where did it come from? Who was the inventor? Although there is no specific information about its conception, legend has it that it was invented by the French doctor Pierre Ordinaire who, then a resident of Couvet – in French Switzerland-around 1792 presented it to the public as a medicine suitable for curing countless diseases: a kind of tonic with miraculous properties.

The Henriod sisters also live in Couvet, and, sensing the enormous potential of this tonic, they begin to market it by obtaining the recipe from Pierre Ordering and opening, shortly after that, the first official distillery. And it is here that the legend called Absinthe begins, which will become one of the most emblematic symbols of the Belle Epoque.

In short, it seems that the small town of French Switzerland is rightly the true birthplace of Absinthe, and it is no coincidence that, even today, among the population of Couvet, recipes that once belonged to clandestine distillers, which the heirs jealously preserve and sometimes make a real business out of it.

This is the case of our producer Absintissimo, keeper of ancient recipes whose mystical flavor is transmitted to the public thanks to the incomparable Assenzi of his production, including the legendary La Fée Verteand La Covassonne.

The parisian time and the reasons why it was banned

From Couvet, Absinthe soon arrives in bars, lounges, bistros, and cafes throughout Europe, depopulating France. It becomes so famous that it gives its name to the aperitivo time5 pm, now called l’heure verte.

Equipped with that characteristic green / yellowish color, which collaborates to give it mysterious charm, and also characterized by many healing properties, in a short time, he surrounds himself with a group of loyal and famous consumers, who baptize him Fée Verte, Green Fairy. She is credited with part of the credit for the strokes of genius and intuitions of some of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, including Picasso, Degas, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, and Paul Gauguin.

But why was absinthe considered so dangerous that it was banned? In reality, part of the responsibility for the announcement is mainly attributable to the social and human unease experienced at that time, which many artists tried to cope with by finding a landing in the Green Fairy. Unlike what the Belle Epoque denomination intuitively recalls, the first half of the twentieth century was an era of severe crisis, emphasized by the recent industrial revolution, and which not surprisingly resulted in the First World War.

Famous and less famous artists, often accused of being controversial time wasters, poured into the cafes, finding vent and inspiration in Absinthe, which soon became a source of discontent even on the part of the wine lobbies, already brought to their knees by the epidemic of the film era. In addition to this, the widespread diffusion, especially among the poor population groups, of inferior quality products, which only imitated the real Absinthe from afar and used harmful ingredients at low cost, emphasized, even more, the impression Absinthe represented a cursed drink, capable of bewitching consumers.

In reality, apart from alcohol – whose harmfulness, although not questioned, is to be put into perspective and in any case in common with all other alcoholic beverages – Absinthe is no more dangerous than any other alcoholic beverage, and indeed, if done skillfully and consumed in the right quantities, it has many beneficial properties.

How to recognize and enjoy a good Absinthe

As we have seen, the choice of a good Absinthe is essential not only from a gustatory point of view but also for health. Naturally, therefore, always choose between producers who know how to do their job skillfully. But, unfortunately, they’re sent on the market have nothing to do with the original recipes, which are instead a mixture of dyes and aromas -really disreputable lures.

A first helpful tip is to pay attention to the label. If there are dyes, then it is not true Absinthe. Moreover, suppose the green color is excessively bright and bright. In that case, it will be effortless that it is not true Absinthe, characterized by a more tenuous color, ranging from green to brown, but it can also be colorless or tending to yellow.

When you taste it, savor it slowly and carefully. A good Absinthe is complex and deep, rich in aroma. If, on the other hand, you only feel the scent of Star Anise, which prevails over everything else, then yours is a terrible quality Absinthe. Star anise is a widely used ingredient in the production of low-cost industrial absinthe.

Finally, let’s dispel a myth. The custom of burning sugar in it is an invention of some Czech nightclubs in the early 2000s, which has nothing to do with the royal tradition of Absinthe and which contributes nothing in terms of aroma. Therefore, if you have an excellent Absinthe on hand, avoid it!