Surely the most notorious spirit ever served in France, absinthe goes back centuries. Wormwood (armoise) was used as a medicinal tonic by the ancient Egyptians. The ancient Greeks recorded a drink called absinthites oinos (’absinthe wine’).
A French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire was the first to distil modern absinthe in Switzerland in 1792, macerating wormwood along with 14 other herbs, including hyssop and mint; it was soon commercially distilled by H.L. Pernod for its anti-parasitical properties and given to French soldiers fighting in Algeria in the 1840s to ward off malaria and dysentery.
Because of its green colour it became known as the Fée Verte, the ‘Green Fairy’. Aficionados would place a sugar cube on a specially slotted spoon, set it alight, pour the asbinthe over it, then mix it with ice cold water.
Images by Edgar Degas , Jeff Nelson from Canada, Kjn91