Aug
03
2011

“It was an intoxicating shade of green and I loved the ritual:” An interview with Absinthia

Whether you dance regularly with the green fairy or admire her peridot glow from across the room, you’ve surely heard her stories. Since the absinthe prohibition was lifted, the historically-controversial spirit has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. We spoke with Absinthia, an absinthe enthusiast on the precipice of launching her own absinthe business about her passion for the storied libation.

The Alcohol Enthusiast: How did you first become interested in absinthe?

Absinthia: Absinthe was served at a party I attended in 1996. It was an intoxicating shade of green and I loved the ritual with the spoon and sugar. I absolutely had to know more. As an art historian in college, the history fascinated me. I had never studied the Belle Epoque and through researching absinthe I learned a great deal about the French Romantic period of art and literature. I loved learning about the French soldiers who drank it to prevent malaria in the Algerian War, bringing absinthe to Europe from Africa, and how it quickly became fashionable to drink—even creating L’Heure Verte and the Green Hour. And I was fascinated by the complicated reasons for its ultimate ban.

TAE: Why was absinthe banned? Why was the ban recently lifted?

Absinthia: The temperance movement in the U.S. and the French wine industry were instrumental in banning absinthe. Many grape vines in France had phylloxera so less fruit was available and thus more expensive. At the same time, mass production of absinthe made it inexpensive. The absinthe ban was fianancially and politically motivated. In 1905 a Swiss man named Jean Lanfray murdered his family and tried to kill himself—reportedly, after drinking absinthe. The murders were the last straw. From 1906 through 1914, bans were enacted across the US and many European countries.

A modern resurgence in absinthe’s popularity began in the 1990s, when an importer realized absinthe was never banned in the United Kingdom—it had been seen by the British as a “French problem.” Around the same time the U.S. government reviewed lab tests that showed vintage absinthe contained a safe amount of thujone [the substance present in small amounts in absinthe, once thought to be dangerously addictive and psychoactive]. In March 2007, absinthe was legalized again in the US.

TAE: When did you start your absinthe business?

Absinthia: After all that research, I had to produce a bottle on my own. Read more »