TasteWines and Spirits of Provence

Absinthe the French Drink with a Poor Reputation

Absinthe the Green Fairy

Two highly-alcoholic beverages with herbal ingredients absinthe and pastis are both significantly linked to the food heritage of Provence. Absinthe is a spirit, not a liqueur as it does not contain sugar. Typically a green liquid, it is often referred to as “la fée verte” or “the green fairy.”

Absinthe Paul Beucler Collection personnelle photo arnold.p ; oct 2007

Poster: Absinthe Paul Beucler Collection

Read: Pastis a Popular Liquor in Provence

Late in the 19th century, absinthe was wildly popular among the artists and writers of Paris and of Provence. Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Ernest Hemingway were some of the famous names who enjoyed drinking absinthe, probably a bit too much.


Absinthe A Literary Muse BBC.Com

Read: Absinthe: How the Green Fairy became literature’s drink from BBC.com

The drink was banned in many countries including the United States in 1912 and France in 1914. The authorities classified the anise-flavoured spirit as a dangerously addictive hallucinogenic. Absinthe is distilled with herbs that include wormwood and its natural chemical thujone. Although, the blame was laid on thujone as the culprit that caused poor behaviour, in reality, was the lack of moderation by some consumers.

Absinthe Drink commons uncyclomedia

A revival of absinthe began in the late 1990s, and today there are several dozen brands manufactured and sold in France. The spirit’s production is similar to a gin, double-distilled with botanicals including green anise, fennel, star anise, and wormwood. In traditional production, the high-proof alcohol is infused a second time and distilled again, and this process increases both flavour and colour. However, many producers simply add green dye to create the colour.

How to Serve Absinthe

Absinthe French Drink Cuillère à absinthe Spoons

As mentioned above absinthe is a strong alcohol at 90–148 proof, almost twice as strong as vodka or whiskey. To serve this spirit a sugar cube is balanced on a slotted spoon, and ice-cold water is dripped (slowly) over the top. The water dissolves the sugar and dilutes the shot of absinthe in the glass. Adding water renders the once transparent liquid into a cloudy beverage (just like pastis). The ration for serving is typically 5-6 parts water to 1 part absinthe.

National Absinthe Day is March 5th if you want an excuse to try this “magical” drink. Here, is the Facebook Page.

Absinthe Ice Cream

Or, try this recipe for Absinthe Ice Cream a Dessert So Good It Should be Outlawed.

Image Credits:

Poster Absinthe
Poster: Absinthe Paul Beucler Collection
Absinthe Drinks – Wiki Commons
Cuillère à Absinthe Spoons – Wiki Commons
David Scott Allen – Cocoa & Lavender


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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).


  1. February 16, 2019 at 11:24 am — Reply

    I used to live in Switzerland, in canton Neuchâtel, very near where absinthe was first developed and still produced. It was still illegal then, the 1990s, but in a funny way. It actually was legal to produce absinthe, as well as to buy it, sell it and consume it. So how was it illegal? Ah, it was illegal to transport it–clever, those Swiss! But somehow, everyone I knew had a bottle in their home and we would raise a glass from time to time. Here’s to the Green Fairy!

    • February 16, 2019 at 2:14 pm — Reply

      Hi Keith: Thanks for sharing that extra detail on the history of Absinthe. It seems like the best plan is to enjoy a glass at home with friends. Santé!

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