WHAT IS ABSINTH
It is an alcoholic beverage traditionally produced with the infusion of a plant called Artemisia absinthium, commonly known as absinthe. It was popular in Europe starting in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Production of absinthe began in Switzerland in 1797, but became particularly popular in France during the late 19th century, especially among the artists and intellectuals of the time , including Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde. It was commonly served with a unique ritual: it was poured into a glass, and then a sugar cube was placed on a slotted spoon, then cold water was added which changed its color and taste.
Its popularity declined after its initial production due to the misrepresentation that it could cause negative side effects on health and behavior. The problem arose from an alleged high content of Thujone present within the distillate of the time. It was banned in many countries in the 1920s and 1930s, but was later reintroduced. However, it was later shown that the amounts of thujone in absinthe were too low to cause these effects and that the high alcohol content of the drink was actually to blame.
It is known for its distinctive bitter, aniseed flavor and bright green colouring, often containing other herbs and spices as well.
The production of absinthe consists in extracting the aromatic compounds from the leaves of artemisia absinthium through maceration and subsequent distillation. Common ingredients besides Artemisia absinthium include aniseed, fennel flowers, and angelica. The liqueur is green or light yellow in color, with an alcohol content that can reach 72% and is characterized by a bitter and spicy taste.
“If you've never drunk absinthe, you don't know what life is” – Oscar Wilde, 19th century Irish writer and poet
Traditionally it is served in a special glass called an “absinthe glass”, which has a specially designed shape to concentrate the aromas and flavors of absinthe. The traditional way to drink it is to pour a moderate dose of absinthe into a glass (about 2.5 cl), then add ice water slowly poured into the glass in a ratio of about one part alcohol to three parts water (about 9 cl ). The water attenuates the strong and bitter taste of absinthe and allows you to feel its aromas and flavors better. Furthermore, this act of diluting alcohol generates the famous “Louche” as in the French tradition. In this way the distillate will have an alcohol content of about 14 degrees.
ABSINTH IN ART
It was depicted in many paintings of the era of its popularity, mainly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In particular, many artists of the modern art era, known for their frequenting of bohemian clubs, have represented the distillate in their works.
Many Symbolist artists, such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Édouard Manet, have depicted absinthe in paintings that explore themes of sensuality and trance. Additionally, many artists of the Art Nouveau movement, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, depicted absinthe in local and nightlife scenes.
Even the artists of the Surrealist movement, such as Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, have used absinthe as a symbol of dream, trance and hallucination.
In general, absinthe has been represented as a symbol of transgression, ecstasy and disinhibition, often associated with nightlife scenes and bohemian environments. However it is important to note that the use of absinthe in paintings does not mean that the artists used or promoted it, often it was merely a decorative or symbolic element.
Absinthe is still considered a controversial drink, but many aficionados appreciate it for its unique aroma and taste.