For most of us, when we think of Absinthe, we picture Kylie Minogue flittering around in front of Ewan McGregor as he experiences Paris at the turn of the century. We wouldn’t be wrong in associating the Green Fairy Drink with this time period.
The spirit transports us back to a time of Bohemianism and creativity, an age when drinking Absinthe on the cobbled Parisian streets at 5 pm was acceptable.
The 21st century green fairy drink
Fast forward to 2017 and the drink is often disregarded as a harsh tasting spirit, drank by over-enthusiastic tourists as a novelty. In creative European hubs, though, this stereotype is changing, and bars are transforming how the spirit is perceived…
“After the first glass of Absinthe, you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world” – Ernest Hemingway
So how did Absinthe get this bad reputation? How did a drink that was once used by the Egyptians as a medicine, end up being banned in several countries? It all comes from France at the end of the 19th century. The drink was used as a malaria preventative by French troops throughout the 1800s, perhaps over-used would be the correct word…
On their return, their love for the Green Fairy Drink came home with them. By 1910, the French were consuming over 36 million liters of the stuff every year! With the high consumption, came low pricing, and the drink became available for every social class in the country, from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat, everyone was sipping on the Green Goddess.
“Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder” – Ethel Mumford
After a series of Absinthe related crimes and a murder for which the drink was blamed, the French government put a ban on the Green Fairy Drink into place. From 1914, the drink was banned in the Hexagon, and it was scarcely found (legally) in the rest of Europe, and so it remained that way for the rest of the century.
The Green Fairy was banished to illegal bars where its drinkers would indulge on its reported hallucinogenic qualities until the next turn of the century…
Back in fashion
Nowadays, Absinthe is being reinvented. Old haunts of Hemingway, Picasso, and Wilde are once again becoming popular evening spots. Whilst in the 20th century the drinking began after lunch, now these spots open later in the evening and stay open until the early hours.
Upon visiting young and creative hubs such as Barcelona, Prague, and Berlin, you will find old-style Absinthe bars hidden in the old quarters of the cities. As if they have been transported through time. The bars remain traditional, yet the drinks are changing.
Traditionally, Absinthe is served with sugar and water. Straight up, the drink can be harsh and too strong for the average taste buds. Bars are reinventing the spirit and incorporating it into cocktails that entice and challenge common taste conceptions.
Hemingway Daiquiris are a popular way of drinking the Green Fairy, as well as with Cognac or Bourbon. For the brave, a Death In The Afternoon is a much-loved cocktail made with Absinthe and mixed with champagne. Hemingway himself was known to drink five of these in one sitting.
“A nectar, bitter-sweet – like the last kiss on the lips of a discarded mistress” – Marie Corelli
The ban on Absinthe has been widely lifted now, yet something about it still seems illicit.
Perhaps the mystery of it is what makes the drink so appealing, the thought of drinking moonshine Absinthe behind closed doors allows its drinkers to transport themselves to another time.
The time is now for the Green Fairy Drink, and we’re sure to see it creep back onto cocktail menus all over the world in time.