There's no other spirit that’s inspired the romantic and artistic dreaminess of absinthe. First produced in 1797, it's popularity soared when it burst onto the Parisian bon vivant scene during the La Belle Époque (The Beautiful Epoch, roughly 1880-1914) as “le fée vert” (the green fairy) as a high-proof neutral spirit with a botanical blend of wormwood, anise and fennel - yes, it has a very licorice-y taste.
Hailed as “magic in a glass,” it’s been said to have hallucinogenic properties - and after two glasses, we can't confirm that. But The Absinthe Encyclopedia quotes absinthe enthusiast/writer Oscar Wilde: “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.”
Those “wonderful curious things” may well have been the inspiration behind big-drinker Vincent van Gogh’s iconic and unreplicated style. Absinthe drinkers have been depicted in artworks from Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso; the drink appears in written works from Ernest Hemingway, Guy de Maupassant and was a favorite of lovers Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Oh, to be in one of those absinthe cafés of that era!
But as popularity grew, it was considered too dangerous - said to be linked to psychosis and convulsions - and absinthe was banned from the U.S. and other European countries around 1912.
As of 2007, le fée vert came roaring back, distilled under much safer conditions than in its previous heyday.
We’re fascinated with the beauty of absinthe. The ritual and patience behind preparing the perfect drink adds to the poetic mystery. Ice water is slowly dripped over a slotted spoon holding a sugar cube into the waiting glass of absinthe which turns the beverage from emerald green into a “bloom” of milky iridescence. Behold - and drink. And next time you’re out antiquing (safely, of course!), keep your eyes peeled for those fancy old slotted spoons!
In these times of COVID-19, we have to get a little creative with our home spaces to keep our spirits in check. If you’re inspired to bring a little of that La Belle Époque magic into your boudoir, check out our Elysian Fields Absinthe line of bedding. We’ve taken the iridescence of the green that inspired poets and artists and brought it to a moonlit gardenscape featuring bats and graceful botanicals. Drink in the magic of Elysian Fields Absinthe, relax and set the mood with a candle or two. Self-care is where it’s at these days!
*Absinthe poster by Aly Fell