Absinthe Liqueur - Definition and Usage

Definition: Absinthe is the name of an aromatic plant, also that of a liqueur prepared from this plant, consumed as an appetite-giving beverage in France and Switzerland; sometimes used for flavoring purposes.

Swiss Absinthe is made from plants related to wormwood and southernwood.

Absinthe—A liqueur made principally from wormwood, anise, angelica, coriander seeds and alcohol, sometimes adulterated with aromatic resins and dangerous colorings; its uses are chiefly as a drink diluted with water, and in making many of the American mixed drinks.

An intoxicating liquor, a common tipple in France, made of the extract of the weed wormwood and caraway seed in alcohol. Occasionally used in punches and fancy drinks.

Usage in Recipes


We are told by the French authorities, and we have no reason to doubt the veracity of their statements, that nearly one-half of the brandy imported into Her Imperial Majesty’s British domains is nothing more or less than potato spirit—one of the very worst and fiery of spirits, heretofore supposed only to be used by absinthe-makers of the most unprincipled type.

The modus operandi oi its preparation for the British market is somewhat similar to the treatment employed in the making of sawdust brandy from the saw pit refuse, and the dust of pine and fir trees.

The potato undergoes treatment with sulphuric acid and water to develop or change the dextrin into grape sugar This, after many hours’ boiling, is mixed with a certain proportion of lime, which causes a precipitate, and destroys or changes the sulphuric acid taste and qualities.

It is then fermented with sound malt leaven for about three days, when it is distilled, giving an abundant yield of pure spirit of the strongest and most virulent type.

Absinthe – The Curse of France

Absinthe – The Curse of France

In France absinthe is known as the "scourge," the "plague," the "enemy" and the "queen of poisons." Absinthe Is a liquor of an emerald-green color consisting of from 47 to 80 percent of alcohol highly flavored with the aromatics worm wood, anise, fennel, coriander, calamus, aromaticus, hyssop and marjoram.

The special variety of this drink depends upon the proportions and kinds of these flavors composing it. Its quality will also depend upon the quality of its constituents. Since any unpleasant taste may be easily concealed by the strong aromatic used, the alcohol employed in this liquor is frequently very impure.

Absinthe heads the list of toxic essences. The ordinary absinthe has a far larger percentage of alcohol than does whisky. Consequently its toxic effects are far greater than are those of whisky, for to the increased amount of alcohol there is added the deadly wormwood.

In France, according to the law of March 26, 1872, it was declared that the commerce and sale of the essence of absinthe ought to be carried on by the pharmacists, according to the law on the sale of poisons.

Contains Oil of Wormwood, Absinthe, artemsia absinthium, is the common wormwood, the bitterness of which has passed into a proverb. Absinthe is quoted to have only one third of 1 percent of the oil of wormwood, to which are due the characteristic effects of the beverage.

The bitter principle of absinthe, absinthrn. Is a narcotic poison. The coloring matters used in absinthe are often very deleterious; in fact, not infrequently copper salts have been used in order to produce the green color.

Absinthe is chiefly used in France, and especially in Paris. It was introduced there after the Algerian War of 1844-7 by the soldiers, who on their campaign had been advised to mix absinthe with their wine as a febrifuge.

The use of absinthe rapidly increased in France, with such disastrous results that it has been described by French physicians as constituting a graver danger to the public than alcohol itself.

The habit of absinthe drinking is a most insidious one and when it is once indulged it seems almost impossible to break.

Effects Due to Wormwood

Thirst is more exacting than hunger. It is often a purely imaginary sensation. "Arrived at a morbid degree, the passion for drink is not only a vice which blights equally the reason, mortality and justice but is a veritable mental malady" (Paul Jolly.) "

The poisonous and inebriating effects produced in those who drink the liquor of absinthe or cream of absinthe is undoubtedly due more to the wormwood than to the alcohol" (Trousseau and Pideaux).

The effects of the internal use of absinthe naturally falls into two groups, due respectively to the chief ingredients of the liquor—alcohol and the essential oil of wormwood, which has a special affinity for the brain and nervous system in general. These groups may be subdivided according to their physiological, pathological and mental effects.

The effects of alcoholic beverages in general are too well known to be dwelt upon In much detail. Atwater, one of the American committees of fifty who have recently investigated the drink problem, declares that alcohol, when taken habitually in excess, is ruinous to both health and character.

Amount System Can Stand

In large enough quantities it is a poison. According to Abel, alcohol does not produce "any persistent increase of muscular power, but only enables a brief spurt to be made, which is soon followed by a depression of energy to below the normal."

This writer also says that the "moderate" quality of alcohol is "represented by one, or at most, two, glasses of wine (10 percent alcohol) or one pint of beer, or their equivalents in terms of alcohol, in the twenty-four hours."

Physiological and pathological changes are caused by the use of both alcohol and absinthe and are the keynote to the mental and physical effects of these two drugs.

First Effects of Alcohol

One of the first effects of alcohol is dilatation of the blood vessels and a quickening of the circulation. After the spurt of the stimulation, due to the acceleration of circulation, comes the stage of diminution of mental power. The superficial blood vessels become dilated after a moderate amount of alcohol.

Alcohol in small quantities causes an increase in the secretions and an Increase in peristaltic movement. Large quantities diminish the secretion of gastric juice and cause active congestion of the mucous membrane of the stomach and a great increase of mucus.

After the absorption of alcohol there is less tissue change, hence the tendency to the accumulation of fat.

Lauder Brunton says that two fluid ounces—rather less than the ordinary sherry glassful—Is the extreme limit in twenty-four hours.

No authority questions the fact that an excess of alcohol impairs certain cerebral functions—attention, memory, self-control—as well as causing Insanity In many cases. But what constitutes excess will depend to a certain extent upon the individual, the occupation and other conditions.

Chronic Use of Alcohol

By repeated indulgence in alcohol the blood vessels which supply the nerve centers with blood become altered and the nerve centers themselves are also changed.

The nerve cells and fibers to which the activity of the nerve centers is due are supported and bound together by connective tissue. In chronic alcoholism this tissue is much increased. The result is pressure on the nerve cells and fibers, which causes them to waste away.

The effect of the narcotic action is to decrease the close relationship that exists between the individual and his environment and the delicacy of his power of adjustment to external circumstances.

The ordinary self-restraint which he has previously shown, together with consideration of his surroundings, disappears by degrees. The alcoholic becomes more egotistic and selfish and his surroundings seem less important to him. His mental faculties are unrestrained, and they may be compared to a fly wheel without a brake.

Jean Constant, “Absinthe The Curse of France,” in What to Eat, Book 22, No. 5, May 1907, p. 173.

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