Thursday, March 08, 2007

A History Of Absinthe And Its Tools

I found this short history article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Charles Hamel.


The extensive works and studies involving the mysterious drink absinthe does little to contain the rumors and bad press that surrounds the green fairy and the essence of thujone that it contained.

In 1860 Henri Balesta was a rising star in the world of journalism and playwrites. Balesta's book Absinthe et Absintheurs, was published that same year. He was a student of social culture and traced the lives of heavy absinthe users. The book started by focusing on the effects of absinthe abuse in addicts and the community. Later on his writings would be a small factor in the ban of Absinthe.

In 1905 a series of horrible murders ,where a man Jean Lanfray a farm laborer began drinking at dawn having several liters of wine, shots of brandy and 2 glasses of absinthe. Upon returning home he got into an argument with his wife and shot her in the head, he also killed both of his daughters, and then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. News of the murders spread quickly and was the straw that broke the camels back and resulted in absinthe being made illegal. By 1915 the emerald drink was banned in most Western countries and the United States.

Tools of Absinthe

The basic tools that are required to prepare a proper glass of absinthe are a glass, a special slotted spoon, a sugar cube, chilled water and of course absinthe. Of course none of the tools are required to drink absinthe, but it was the ritual of preparation that helped to instigate the type of visual hypnosis and richness to the preparation ceremony.

The special absinthe spoons and glasses of the 1800's are works of art in themselves. The complexity of the detail of a Coquille St. Jacques spoon or the mysterious gaze of a Jean Beraud painting do not represent a binge into a bottle of alcohol. A surge of artistic works that were produced during the Belle Epoque era was often blamed on the inspiration obtained by drinking absinthe.

Absinthe Spoons

Absinthe spoons contained slots or holes in them, by which the water dripped through the sugar cube into the glass of absinthe. Many of the ornate designs consisted of spoons of many different shapes. Many common shapes that were used included pipes, arrows, stars, clovers, clubs, crosses, circles, diamonds and flowers. Absinthe spoons range anywhere from $20 to $3000 dollars, ending on the style and condition and rarity of the antique. The most sought after absinthe spoon is the Toulouse-Lautrec, Le Eiffel, which is modeled after the Eiffel Tower. Absinthe spoons were often silver plated, and the better made spoons were molded instead of stamped.


The popularity of absinthe lasted for half a century and the banning happened the same year as the start of the art deco era of the 1920's and 30's. The absinthe glass styles evolved during the height of the absinthe craze, and consisted of two categories, the first being absinthe glasses that were used for absinthe and other drinks and the second category of the ones that were used extensively for absinthe. The swirl, Egg, Chopes Yvonne, Mazagran, Lyonnaise and East styles fell into the first group. The glasses that were used exclusively for absinthe were about six to seven inches tall. The glasses were voluminous and very sturdy to withstand the frequent abuse experienced in the rowdy bistros.

Cordon, Reservoir and Pontarlier style glasses fell into the second category and were used only for absinthe. These glasses are the rarest of the bunch and of course the most expensive, and were 5-7 inches tall. The cordon glasses were the rare for having a glass ring around their base that marked the absinthe dose. But the rarest of them all were the Pontarlier glasses which had a reservoir totally separate from the rest of the glass.

The special Absinthe fountains were very elegant and a focal point of the absinthe service set. Fountains were ornate made of metal and glass with 2-6 small spigots. The upper glass portion was filled with ice and water, while the preparers placed their glass with the sugar cube under the spigot and slowly dripped water into their glasses. Absinthe fountains can still be found and usually run between $1,500 to $8,000 dollars. The Absinthe Terminus Bienfaisante fountain that has a rooster sitting on top of the lid is the most famous.

For a item to be so controversial and steeped in mystery Absinthe sure has a strong famous presence in World History, and now that the popularity of the drink is growing, much more is left to be said for this subject.

Charles Hamel is an online marketer and entrepreneur who specializes in writing and web design. His new website about Absinthe Alcohol and it's history can be found at

Article Source:


Alan said...

Interesting but not totally up-to-date. Check out my blog and follow some of the other external links there. New absinthe fountains can be bought at a fraction of the price quoted; cheaper spoons are also available.

The Charles Hamel links go through to a commercial website selling drinks that have little in common with real 19th century absinthe and that many of today's real absinthe lovers abhor.

doughnuts said...

Absinthe? Goodness me! I thought this was a history web site.

If I would start drinking bsinthe, I should expect to be history!

For younger more adventurous spirits! :)