The “La Fée Verte” or The Green Fairy, otherwise known as absinthe, is a beverage mainly made of two ingredients: alcohol and wormwood oil.

The botanical spirit is high in alcohol (between 45% and 75% strength), affordable, and reportedly hallucinogenic. Green anise and sweet fennel are added before distillation.

Depending on the brand, the flavor can range from spicy and floral to sweet, with a hint of aniseed taste.

nvented in Switzerland in the late 1780s, absinthe became a significant threat in European bars until the early 20th century. Later on, it was banned in many countries for almost a century before making a comeback.

An anecdotal account leading to the near-total ban of absinthe from sales in the United States and many European countries was a tragic event in which a Swiss man, allegedly under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, killed his whole family in 1905.

The public was outraged, and the bans came right away. Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands banned the production and sales of absinthe. The United States followed suit in 1912 and France in 1915.

Wikimedia Commons

10 /10 Miracle Remedy

The origin of absinthe can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where wormwood was revered for its medicinal properties. There is also evidence suggesting the consumption of wormwood-flavored wine in Ancient Greece.

However, the absinthe recipe was first patented by a French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire as a cure-all remedy in the 18th century.

He was a retired physician who fled the country and found home in Couvet, Switzerland.

Before death, the doctor left a substantial amount of money and the recipe to the Henriod sisters’ housekeepers.

Wikimedia Commons

9 /10 Major Daniel-Henri Dubied

Following the death of their employer, the sisters started making small batches of absinthe and sold the beverage as “Dr. Ordinaire’s Absinthe.”

The business grew, and the drink became a bit more popular, which attracted another French expatriate and merchant, Major Daniel-Henri Dubied.

After tasting the glass, Dubied was interested in buying another bottle of it and the entire business operation. At around 1794, absinthe became more popularly known as an alcoholic beverage instead of a miracle elixir.

8 /10 The Pernod Absinthe

Regardless of who owned the recipe’s patent, the world’s first large-scale absinthe distillery came to existence in 1797, known as “Dubied Père et Fils in Couvet,” owned by Major Dubied.

His son-in-law Henry Louis-Pernod opened another distillery just a few years later. Pernod remains one of the most recognizable brands of absinthe today.

From the early 1800s, absinthe grew in popularity, especially among the soldiers, who were given a regular dose of the drink as a preventive measure against malaria disease. Upon returning to France, they wanted more of it.

Wikimedia Commons

7 /10 Happy Hour

Back in the 1800s, the most popular time to drink absinthe in France was starting at 5 p.m., later known as the “green hour.”

The trend never really goes away, although today it is now called the “Happy Hour” instead. The most appealing factor of absinthe was neither the flavor nor the medicinal property but how it broke down social boundaries in France.

Bars and restaurants saw the rich and poor drinking absinthe, often from the same fountains without the discriminatory attitudes typically seen in many other areas of the society.

Wikimedia Commons

6 /10 Counterfeit Absinthe

For a time, absinthe replaced wine as the most popular drink in France. As the demand increased, more people opened their distilleries to maintain a steady supply of absinthe in the market.

A drastic drop inevitably followed the influx of production in price. Unfortunately, some distilleries produced lesser quality absinthe, or even outright counterfeits, to take advantage of the flocking customers.

Fake absinthe was often not distilled; some contained poisons such as copper sulfate to imitate the distinctive green color of the original one.


5 /10 Tainted Reputation

Wine lobbyists then began their campaign to give a bad name to absinthe. Combined with many counterfeit products, the strategy to discredit the green fairy worked well.

The lobbyists managed to convince the government of France that absinthe posed severe health risks to society.

In reality, the real absinthe crafted using the original recipe and ingredients carried no more trouble than any other high-strength alcoholic beverage.

As part of the smear campaign, wine lobbyists came up with the term “abstinthism” to refer to a condition marked by drunkenness, hallucinations, and hyper-excitability.


4 /10 Jean Lanfray

Even doctors gave outrageous claims that absinthism was a hereditary disease, meaning it could be passed down from a father – who drank absinthe – to his children. Slowly but surely, absinthe was disappearing from the streets of France.

Then on August 28, 1905, in Commugny, Switzerland, a tragedy struck; a Switzerland man named Jean Lanfray killed his pregnant wife and two kids in a drunken rage reportedly due to absinthe in his system.

After the incident, the green fairy became even further away out of favor.

3 /10 Widespread Ban

Investigation revealed that Lanfray consumed an excessive amount of hard liquor after lunch that day. He drank seven glasses of wine, six cognac glasses, a cup of brandy-laced coffee, and two ounces of absinthe.

Any hard liquor of that amount would have resulted in the same effect to Lanfray, but the revelation was too late.

The moral panic around absinthe forced the government of Switzerland to ban the drink in 1910.

The United States implemented the same prohibition in 1912 and France three years later. In the U.S., absinthe would not be legal again until 2007.

2 /10 Faded From Sight

In other countries where absinthe was never formally banned, absinthe remains in production, but sales plummeted.

Most big distilleries went bankrupt, and some moved their production to Spain on a small scale, including Pernod. The original recipe changed over time, but production continued nonetheless.

Local distilleries also made their versions of absinthe. A large number of absinthe stocks in France went unsold.

The government ended up buying them in bulk and used the drinks for the manufacturing process of explosives. In Switzerland, illegal production continued, anyway.

Wikimedia Commons

1 /10 High Profile Drinkers

There had been massive bootlegging operations until absinthe became legal again nearly a century later in 2005. Absinthe was never really gone, only transformed into obscurity.

After 2005, many bootleggers applied for and acquired a permit to open legal distilleries in Switzerland easily.

Throughout history, absinthe was the drink of choice for many high-profile customers such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Marilyn Manson, Ernest Hemmingway, James Joyce, and more.

Oscar Wilde once said that a glass of absinthe is as poetical as the sunset.

Continue Reading

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *