|Absinthe has a long history in both the USA and in South and Central America. Above all it's inextricably linked to New
Orleans and its French Quarter, where the Old Absinthe House has been a tourist attraction for more than a century.
In 2007, after almost a century of prohibition, absinthe once again became legal in the USA.
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The Story of Herbsaint
Herbsaint is the classic New Orleans absinthe-substitute. Manufactured since 1934,
originally by the Legendre family and then later by the Sazerac company, it's drunk
both on it's own over crushed ice (the frappe) and used as an ingredient in various
local cocktails. The charmng brochures, cartons and other advertising material
produced by the Legendre company are of the greatest interest, and shed light not
just on Herbsaint itself, but also the early history of absinthe in New Orleans.
This page is a joint collaboration with Jay Hendrickson, whose researches into the
history of the Legendre company have immeasurably increased our understanding
of the era. The items illustrated are largely from his remarkable collection.
Absinthe in New Orleans and The Old Absinthe House
Absinthe has a long history in both the USA and in South and Central America.
Above all it's inextricably linked to New Orleans and its French Quarter, where the
Old Absinthe House has been a tourist attraction for more than a century.
Alastair Crowley and The Green Goddess
In 1918, Aleister Crowley, the British occultist and so-called "wickedest man in the
world," composed a lyrical essay on absinthe and aesthetics titled "Absinthe - The
Green Goddess". He wrote his essay (according to legend, while waiting for a
female companion) in the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. "Art is the soul of
life," he proclaimed, "and the Old Absinthe House is the heart and soul of the old
quarter of New Orleans."
|Spoon made in the US by Reed & Barton, with
"Cafe Lafayette NY" engraved on the handle
P.Dempsey & Co.
A hand blown pint bottle with a deep punt
and a crudely applied neck seal, probably
dating from around 1880 - 1890.
Although US labellings of French brands
such as Pernod Fils, Edouard Pernod and
Cusenier are found quite frequently, this is
the only documented bottle surviving from a
pre-prohibition US absinthe manufacturer.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Absinthe in Central and South America
Absinthe was drunk in South America from - at least - the1850's. It was
manufactured in Cuba, in Mexico and in Argentina, and probably also in Brazil. In the
early years of the twentieth century it was fashionable amongst the same type of
literary and Bohemian crowd who drank it in Paris.
2007: Legalization in the US after 95 Years of Prohibition
In 2007, after 95 years of prohibition, absinthe with less than 10ppm of thujone was
finally authorised again for sale in the United States. This remarkable development
was largely thanks to the efforts of two companies, working independently of each
other: the small family owned Kubler distillery in Switzerland (the same distillery, that
two years earlier, had been instrumental in the re-legalization of absinthe in
Switzerland itself) and Viridian Spirits, a new startup headed by Jared Gurfein, a New
York attorney. We tell the full inside story here, with exclusive first-hand accounts of
the behind the scenes legal maneuverings from both the Kubler and the Viridian