Hallucinations, fits, madness… all are ailments once said to be induced by drinking absinthe.
The green, liquorice flavoured liqueur had
been banned in France since 1915, and was shrouded in mystery. But now the
drink also known as the green fairy (la fée vert in French) is illegal no more.
In April, the French senate voted to repeal the ban.
The heady drink exploded in popularity in
France during the late 19th Century, when artists and writers such as Van Gogh,
Rimbaud and Wilde savoured its unusual taste and the effects of drinking it.
Brewed from a concoction of natural herbs, true absinthe includes three crucial
elements: anise, fennel and Artemisia absinthium (grand wormwood, used as a
remedy since the time of the ancient Egyptians).
During the 1990s, proponents of absinthe,
such as Marie-Claude Delahaye of the distiller La Fée Absinthe, obtained century-old
pre-ban bottles, like those from famed producer Maison Pernod-Fils, and used
their contents to reverse-engineer recipes in a bid to recreate the lost
liqueur. An odd loophole in French law inspired some to sell a similar drink –
not labelled “absinthe”, but “aux plants d’absinthe” (from absinthe plants).
Now more drinkers in France will get to try the real thing, best blended with
water and a lump of sugar to create an eminently sippable cocktail.
Alexis Averbuck is co-author of Lonely Planet’s France guide.
This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.