Absinthe has certainly earned its place as a legend among alcoholic beverages.
From its origin to the present day, it has been adored, challenged, and banned.
He was a symbol of decadence, the muse of many influential painters, poets, and writers who pushed the boundaries of art.
They called it the Green Villa.
What is Absinthe?
Absinthe is an alcoholic drink made from distilled alcohol with aromas of anise, wormwood, and fennel. This alcoholic distillate is most often obtained from grapes.
The drink obtained in this way is light in color. Absinthe gets its recognizable green color after chlorophyll is added to it.
Absinthe is stored in dark, barely transparent bottles to prevent chlorophyll from losing color in sunlight.
Absinthe is an alcoholic drink with between forty-five and seventy-five percent alcohol, although there are reports that some producers have opted for as much as 90% alcohol!
It is most likely that absinthe was made in the late 18th century in the canton of Neuchatel in Switzerland.
At first, it was used as a medicinal elixir, but soon the recipe reached France, where in 1797, the Pernod Fils distillery produced the first absinthe.
At the Pernod Fils distillery, a brand was created that would become one of the most popular absinthes.
Wormwood was used as medicine in Ancient Greece due to its healing properties.
It was customary to put wormwood leaves in wine or other alcoholic beverages. In this way, essential oils would be extracted from the plant.
“The father of medicine,” Hippocrates recommended wormwood for treating numerous diseases – from jaundice to rheumatism.
Even in Ancient Rome, they knew about the special properties of wormwood.
For example, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder testified that the winners of chariot races drank absithion as a reward and a reminder that nothing in life lasts forever, not even victory glory, alluding to the bitter taste that wormwood imparted to alcoholic beverages.
The Latin name for wormwood is Artemisia Absinthium. Artemisia was the ancient Greek goddess of hunting and the wild.
In the glory years of absinthe consumption, admirers of this drink, under its strong influence on them, turned the ancient Greek goddess into the Green Fairy.
Absinthe as a way of life
From the first bottle of absinthe made in Pontarlier, in 1797, until 1830, this alcoholic drink was not particularly popular.
The sudden interest of consumers and the increase in the sale of absinthe began only in the decade between 1830 and 1840.
After the conquest of Algeria, France hired a hundred thousand soldiers to secure the conquered territory in that period.
For the treatment of various diseases they suffered, French soldiers were given dishes of wine with wormwood.
When the soldiers returned to their homeland, they brought with them to France the addiction to the taste of wine with wormwood. A substitute for such wine was found in the taste of absinthe, and sales suddenly increased.
From 1859, when Edouard Manet exhibited his painting The Absinthe Drinker at the annual Paris Art Salon, until 1914 and the painted bronze sculpture The Glass of Absinthe by Pablo Picasso, absinthe was an inseparable companion of artists and their inspiration.
The world of art was covered by the veils of the Green Fairy, which represented the modern form of the Greek goddess Artemisia, the goddess of the hunt and the wild.
As a result, Paris was turned into an urban mythologized and exotic wilderness in those years until the absinthe ban in 1915.
During La Belle Epoque, absinthe was so popular in Paris that even a certain time of day was called the Green Hour.
Every day at five in the afternoon, the coffee shops above were filled with customers, and there were only glasses full of green drinks on all the tables.
Wormwood introduces a psychoactive neurotoxin called thujone into the absinthe.
Because of this neurotoxin, absinthe has been declared a harmful alcoholic drink that causes hallucinations and bad effects on the nervous system.
In the United States, absinthe was banned from production and used in 1915.
At the same time, the ban was passed in some European countries, including Austria-Hungary, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
The absinthe renaissance
Absinthe was legalized in the Czech Republic in 1990. It immediately restored its status as a legendary drink and cultural icon.
Soon after that, the laws in the countries of the European Union allowed production and sale, but it was determined that absinthe could have no more than 10 mg of thujone.
Some absinthe brands produced in the Czech Republic are Hill’s Absinth, Staroplzenecky Absinth, Absinthe King of Spirits, and La Fee Absinth.
Absinthe preparation ritual
Because of its exoticism and the myth of its hallucinogenic effect, absinthe had such a cultural status that preparing this drink was a special ritual.
A slotted spoon and a cup with a reservoir were distinctive props used.
The cup has an extension at the bottom called the absinthe reservoir.
Above the extension is the funnel-shaped part of the glass, which is much larger due to the amount of water with which the absinthe is diluted.
Absinthe is drunk diluted with three or five parts of water.
Absinthe is poured into the glass to fill the lower reservoir, then a slotted spoon is placed on it, on which a sugar cube is placed.
Water drips from a special tap onto a sugar cube.
After 1990, a new way of pouring absinthe was invented in Prague.
The sugar cube on the Absinthe glass catches fire. Water is poured over a slotted spoon when the sugar caramelizes, and the flame is turned off.
Best Substitutes for Absinthe
The tradition of consuming alcoholic beverages with anise in the Mediterranean led to the creation of some of the offered substitutes for absinthe.
The closest to the taste of absinthe is Pernod Ricard, whose recipe differs from the original absinthe recipe only in omitting wormwood.
Still, the pastis created in response to the absinthe ban is also an excellent alternative. Anisette liqueurs have everything expected from an alcoholic drink with the aroma of anise.
Arak, ouzo, mastic, and Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto Fennel Liqueur will open the door to other gastronomic areas as worthy substitutes for absinthe.
Pernod is an anise liqueur made according to a modified original recipe for absinthe from 1805.
The absence of wormwood is the main difference compared to the recipe used in the Pernod Fils distillery.
The aroma of star anise is dominant compared to fennel, mint, coriander, and fourteen other herbs used to obtain the distinctive taste of Pernod Ricard.
The Pernod Ricard company was created in 1975 by the merger of Ricard and Pernod Fils, the two biggest competitors in producing aniseed aperitifs.
Seventeen years after the ban on absinthe, pastis began to be produced in France. Paul Ricard was the first to produce pastis for sale in 1932.
Pastis is an anise-flavored alcoholic drink that contains less than one hundred grams of sugar per liter and a maximum of 46% alcohol.
The higher percentage of licorice separates pastis from similar anise liqueurs.
There are several basic differences between absinthe and pastis. First, absinthe contained wormwood, which is not used in pastis.
Absinthe gets its distinctive aroma from two Mediterranean plants, green anise, and fennel, while pastis has the aroma of star anise, which is of Asian origin.
Finally, licorice root, which is very important in defining the taste of pastis, was not even used for absinthe.
Pastis is drunk diluted with water, usually one part pastis to five parts water. Ice cubes are added to the glass to avoid crystallizing anethole in the pastis, or very cold water can be diluted.
All anise drinks become cloudy after dilution with water because they contain only soluble oils in an aqueous solution containing 30% ethanol.
The oils become insoluble when the pastis is diluted, so much so that the percentage is lower.
The Occitan word “pastis,” which means mixture or mixtures, is most likely used for the name of this type of drink.
The first commercial pastis that Paul Ricard started producing in 1932. Ricard Pastis was created as a substitute for absinthe, which was forbidden then.
The popularity of this alcoholic drink testifies to the success of this intention.
This pastis uses extracts of Chinese star anise, fennel, chopped licorice sprigs, and aromatic herbs that grow in Provence and nuts.
Pastis 51 is a product that the Pernod company offered in 1951.
It contains 45% alcohol and is usually drunk diluted with seven parts water.
The recipe for Casanis pastis originated in Corsica.
This pastis contains 45% alcohol.
The straw-yellow color is characteristic.
It is obtained from green anise and other herbs with a delicate floral aroma.
Anisette is an anise liqueur traditionally produced by distilling anise seeds.
However, there are also types of anisette obtained by simple maceration; the word “distilled” is omitted from the label.
Marie Brizard Anisette
It is characteristic of Marie Brizard Anisette that, in addition to green anise and a dozen other plants, to obtain a specific aroma, an extract of cinchona bark, a plant that grows in the tropical forests of the Andes in the west of South America, is used.
Cinchona bark powder is known as an aphrodisiac in addition to its antimalarial properties.
Marie Brizard was born in Bordeaux in 1714. She grew up surrounded by herbs and spices that arrived in the port of Bordeaux by ships from all over the world.
Over time, she became proficient in distilling the wonderful aromas she was fascinated by.
She began to experiment with various recipes, and finally, in 1755, it was crowned with anise liqueur that immediately became famous.
Sambuca is an anisette that is produced in Italy.
This drink’s main characteristic is the high sugar percentage, which must not be lower than 350 grams per liter. Three types of sambuca differ in color. Colorless called white sambuca.
Dark blue is called black sambuca, and bright red sambuca is called red sambuca.
Sambuca is an alcoholic drink flavored with essential oils of star anise or green anise.
It is produced by adding these oils to pure alcohol and concentrated sugar, which is enriched with the aromas of licorice, elderflower, and other herbs used.
The percentage of alcohol is never less than 38%.
The way of serving sambuca is very specific because coffee beans are added to the drink.
If there is one bean in the glass, it is called sambuca with a fly, sambuca con mosca. If there are seven beans, they represent the seven Roman hills, and if there are three coffee beans in the glass, each represents happiness, health, and prosperity.
When sambuca is used in cooking, usually for desserts and seafood, it is done very carefully because it has a strong flavor.
The name sambuca is derived from the Latin word sambucus, which means elderberry.
Anisette Cristal is a liqueur that began to be made in Algeria in 1884.
Later, production was moved to Marseille. It is known as Cristal Limiana.
The label symbolically represents the connection with Algeria because there is a star on it, and the red and yellow colors are an association with the creators of Anisette Cristal, two brothers who were Spaniards originally from Alicante.
Arak is an anise-flavored alcoholic drink that can be obtained in many ways.
Some raw materials used as an alcohol base include rice, grapes, palm sap, and mare or cow’s milk.
Refined anise oil is added to the alcohol base prepared in this way.
Arak can be consumed as an aperitif or digestif with coffee, depending on whether it is used before or after a meal.
This drink is very popular in the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.
Ouzo is a Greek aperitif called a substitute for absinthe, in which there is no wormwood.
It is assumed that it was created in imitation of the older Greek drink tsipouro, made by the monks of Mount Athos.
The base is made from distilled grapes, flavored with the taste of anise.
It is assumed that the name of this aperitif is derived from the Turkish word ukuz, which means grape.
According to the urban legend about the origin of the name ouzo, the Italian term “uso Massalia” is mentioned, which means: for use in Marseille.
The term was used for high-quality goods exported from Greece to Marseilles.
On one occasion, a foreigner tried a variant of tsipouro, which would later become the recipe for ouzo.
Delighted with the aperitif, this man exclaimed: “This is uso Massalia, my friends.”
Mastic is an alcoholic drink with an alcohol percentage varying from 40 to 55% for different manufacturers.
It is obtained by distilling refined alcohol mixed with anise oil. The characteristic of this drink is that the distillate flows over the mastic resin.
The most famous brand of mastic is Strumica mastika, for which wine distillate, anise, and acacia honey are used.
Mastic is a Mediterranean plant that releases resin when its bark is cut.
On the island of Chios, a species of this plant produces very generous amounts of resin.
Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto Fennel Liqueur
This liqueur of fennel and anise, with the smell of licorice and a hint of dill, will seem the same as absinthe at first impression.
The history of the Don Ciccio & Figli company began in 1883 with the construction of a distillery and the planting of lemons on 12 hectares, in the hills of Furore, in the south of Italy near Capri, in a place with one of the most stunning views of the Amalfi Coast.
Initially, the distillery was used to make craft liqueurs such as Limoncello, but they soon started making anise liqueurs.
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