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.
Absinthe Ritual with Sugar
Back in the day 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 „sugar cubes“ 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. How do YOU drink your Absinthe “avec” or “sans sucre”..?
(Information Source: The Absinthe Encyclopedia by D. Nathan-Maister)