Absinthe and its Medicinal Past
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has long been used medicinally; ancient Egyptian papyri contain extracts or wines infused with the plant as far back as 3500 BC! Furthermore, Hippocrates recommended drinking wormwood-flavored beverages as an aid against intestinal parasites.
In the late 1800s, absinthe was an essential part of bohemian Parisian life and beyond. Many famous writers and artists indulged in its powerful mind-altering effects; its drinkers included famous writers such as Victor Hugo. Unfortunately, its use also garnered it an unfortunate reputation, including claims of blackouts, hallucinations, psychosis and absinthism (an absinthine disease) among other negative side effects. By 1915 however, absinthe had been banned throughout France Switzerland and most of Europe
Modern absinthe was first invented around 1792 in the Swiss town of Couvet by French physician Pierre Ordinaire who fled during the French Revolution and emigrated to Switzerland. Ordinaire’s recipe combined wormwood with herbs like anise, fennel, hyssop, sweet flag and melissa; with additional amounts of coriander, veronica and chamomile for flavoring purposes. Once distilled to high proof it was further diluted by louching to give absinthe its signature green hue.
Traditional absinthe service involves dipping a spoon in the spirit and placing a glass of water on top, where sugar cubes slowly dissolve in the liquid, creating the “louching effect.” As the water cools off it releases essential oils from herbs that create this desired effect and creates the louche effect.