Pernod Absinthe is a richly flavored anise spirit with an unparalleled sense of history. As the original absinthe, Pernod Absinthe closely follows the recipe of the onceprohibited spirit, capturing the traditionally smooth licorice flavor for which the drink was known. Pernod Absinthe also incorporates the classic infusion of French herbs, including the signature artemisia absinthium and anise.
Rumored to inspire a wealth of creativity and even illicit behavior and hallucinations, absinthe was the subject of controversy in the early 1900s. It was eventually deemed illegal in many countries, including the United States.
The infusion of anise and wormwood was originally created in the late 18th century and marketed in Switzerland by a French doctor. Shortly thereafter, Major Daniel-Henry Dubied purchased the recipe for mass production; he went on to establish the first commercial absinthe distillery in 1805 with Henri-Louis Pernod under the name of Pernod Fils. Affectionately dubbed “The Green Fairy” of the bohemian society, Pernod has since flourished as the drink of choice in Parisian cafés, and even the purported inspiration behind world masterpieces of art.
Pernod Absinthe and the Aperitif
Absinthe was often consumed during the early evening as an aperitif, prompting the expression “L’heure Verte” (The Green Hour) to describe this time of day in French cafés and bistros. An aperitif is a before-dinner drink that awakens the senses and whets the appetite; the word is derived from the Latin aperire, which means “to open.” Usually encompassing a variety of fortified wines, spirits and liqueurs, the refreshment is often served with a light snack.
The aperitif originated in Europe, though there is no consensus as to the origin of the drink. Flavored spirits were commonly mixed with herbs and spices to be used for medicinal purposes – because the resulting drinks tended to be very bitter, the ingredients were diluted in wine to make them more palatable. This became very popular throughout Europe and was introduced to the United States later around the early 20th century – but the practice never became a popular custom as it did in many European countries.
Spirits commonly used as aperitifs tend to be cold, crisp and refreshing; many are herbal in flavor and avoid the sweetness popular in after-dinner drinks. The aperitif also carries with it a tradition of conviviality; it serves as a transition from the daytime hours and encourages the drinker to prepare for an evening meal. With the introduction of Pernod Absinthe to the United States, Pernod hopes to bring the stylish pre-dinner drink back into fashion and promote the spirit of the café culture that is often absent today.
The Absinthe drink tradition
In 19th century France, absinthe was so popular that the evening cocktail hour was labeled “L’heure Verte” (The Green Hour), after absinthe’s signature hue. Absinthe was consumed in various ways, mixed with white wine, anise, or simple syrup, but the most common method involved a specially designed spoon and a cube of sugar. The addition of water caused the spirit to cloud, a reaction referred to as louching. The following illustrates the traditional absinthe custom, which after decades of absence is once again being employed.
Pernod and the ban of Absinthe
Though it seems society has always flirted with provocation, it has also maintained a conservative stance towards forward thinkers. Many great works of art, literature and film with bold, new concepts and imagery have faced bans that were overturned with time. Pernod Absinthe is no exception, though it took nearly 100 years for the spirit to be reauthorized for sale in the United States.
Absinthe began as a fashionable drink in Europe, initially consumed by soldiers, then adopted by the bourgeoisie and artists. As its popularity increased in the late 19th century, cheap imitations flooded the market to cater to rising demands. Absinthe’s reputation was tarnished by unfounded claims linking it to excessive irritability and even hallucinatory behavior. Winemakers’ associations, who were threatened by the rise of absinthe, added fuel to the fight against absinthe, which had been triggered by the poor wartime economy and the consequent temperance movement.
A serious movement towards banning absinthe began in 1880. One of the first countries to ban absinthe was Free State Congo (now known as Democratic Republic of the Congo), in 1898. Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland banned absinthe in 1908, 1909 and 1910 respectively. The United States quickly followed suit in 1912, as did France in 1915.
Many of these bans were repealed in the 21st century, when studies found that negative claims against absinthe were ultimately unfounded. While thujone, a component of wormwood, can be lethal in high doses, the amount found in absinthe is too insignificant to have any mind-altering effect on its drinkers. Following these findings, Pernod went back to its roots in 2001 and launched Pernod Absinthe in Europe, based on the famed 19th century recipe. In 2007, The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States approved the use of the term “absinthe” for a distilled spirit product, with the provision that the product meet FDA regulations for thujone content. Pernod Absinthe was cleared for sale in the U.S. with restrictions on the amount of thujone, and will be introduced to the U.S. market in summer 2008.
Bans are seen by many as a form of censorship, when it appears that some decrees of prohibition are influenced more by overwhelming public opinion rather than reason or scientific proof. Fear of losing the status quo has led to countless bans that were later reevaluated and eventually deemed unjust. Absinthe is a true example of this practice – it took almost one hundred years for the ban to be overturned in the United States.
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