Absinthe is making a come-back. The anise flavoured spirit derived from herbs, including wormwood, was banned in France in 1914. It had been portrayed as a dangerously addictive hallucinogen because of the presence of the chemical thujone. A revival of absinthe began in the late 1990s and today there are several dozen brands manufacturing and selling in France.
When in Provence do visit the Liquoristerie de Provence www.liquoristerie-provence.fr in Venelles. Owner Pascal Rolland has been leading the revival of the product re-introducing not only the distilled spirit but a fragrance as well: Absolute Absinthe www.absolument.net
To serve the spirit a sugar cube is balanced on a slotted spoon and ice cold water is poured on top which melts the sugar and dilutes the shot of absinthe already in the glass Elaborate absinthe fountains (like the one featured in the photo supplied by Pascal Rolland above) were designed. The fountain not only speeds up the serving process but creates an atmosphere or a kind of ritual around the cocktail hour known as the “exquisite hour”. Adding water renders the once transparent liquid into a cloudy beverage (just like pastis). Absinthe is commonly referred to as "la fée verte" or “the Green Fairy”.
Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Toulouse-Lautrec and Ernest Hemingway to name but a few, were fans. Today the aura of illicitness prevails and modern day artists like Marilyn Manson are manufacturing their own brands – go to www.mansinthe.com