Probably the most famous Absinthe company in history was Pernod Fils. The firm was established in 1805 in Pontarlier (France) by Henri-Louis Pernod. In the beginning, there were just two stills in the factory, producing not more than 16 litres of Absinthe per day. But this should change dramatically….
Henri-Louis´s son Louis bought 36,000 square meters of land on the outskirts of Pontarlier alongside the Doubs river. An Absinthe factory was built with a daily production exceeding already 400 litres. But this was just the beginning of the Pernod success story. In 1850 the production capacity was already 20,000 litres per day. Absinthe consumption expanded even further when the French Army, which had been fighting in Algeria, returned home: During the war, French soldiers received a daily dose of Absinthe against stomach diseases. As they returned, they brought back their newly acquired taste for Absinthe and the demand for Absinthe sky rocketed. By 1896 the output was already 125,000 litres per day! This success story could only be stopped by Absinthe prohibition in 1914. But Pernod reacted and developed an Absinthe substitute, the drink Pastis. You can say Pastis is basically an Absinthe without wormwood and of course a lower alcohol degree. The ritual, drinking it with water and sugar, is derived from the Absinthe ritual.
Nowadays you can once again find an Absinthe in the Pernod product portfolio. But as Absinthe is a substitute of their main product Pastis, Absinthe is just a tiny little niche product which never got big marketing budgets. In a way you can say this is positive for the market, as it allowed small Absinthe distillers to revive the drink in an authentic way!
(Source: Absinthe Encyclopedia by D. Nathan-Maister)
The first country, which banned Absinthe was Switzerland in the year 1910. The US followed in 1912 (for “protective” measures), France decided to give death to the Green Fairy in 1915 and Germany followed in 1923. The only countries, which never banned Absinthe were Spain and the UK.
It took until the late 1980s for Absinthe to begin to be legally accepted once again. In 1988, the French government passed a decree based on World Health Organization protocols that effectively relegagilzed the Green Fairy, by defining the limit of the chemicals that were thought to be dangerous – naturally found in wormwood (thujon), fennel (fenchone) and hyssop. Nevertheless the new hype around Absinthe started some years later, approx. in 2000 when movies like Moulin Rouge featured the drink of godness which increased the awareness and interest level for the Green Fairy!
The legalization of Absinthe in the US took until 2007. It was the result of many petitions send to the government by Swiss and American interest groups asking for an explanation of the legality of Absinthe prohibition. Nowadays the distribution and manufacture of Absinthe is once again legal, although some limits regarding the thujon level have to be respected.
Historically Absinthe was drank with sugar. Pernod and other traditional Absinthe brands promoted the sugar ritual in their advertisings. The intent of using sugar was not to mask the bitterness of Absinthe, moreover the use of sugar reflects the preference for sweetness during the 19th century.
Sugar was still something special and luxurious. Absinthe was as well drank with other sweeteners such as anisette or Orgeat, a French almond syrup.
The sugar cube was invented by Mr. Christian Rad in 1841. Before that, sugar was sold in blocks. As Mrs. Rads cut her hand badly by trying to slice a block, her husband had the idea to sell sugar „precutted“; In Dacice in the Czech Republic, the hometown of Mr. Rad, the sugar cube monumental is a touristic attraction.
In 1870 the German Eugen Langen patented an efficient method of producing sugar cubes commercially and the success story of the „cube“ began. Drinking Absinthe with sugar is nothing „unprofessional or female“, every Absinthe should be drank with and without sugar in order to fully experience its taste and potential. Often the sweetness helps to taste the different herbal notes.
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