What is Absinthe?

absinthe spoonAbsinthe is a strongly alcoholic aperitif made from alcohol and distilled herbs or herbal extracts, chief amongst them grand wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and green anise, but also almost always including 3 other herbs: petite wormwood (Artemisia pontica, aka Roman wormwood), fennel, and hyssop. Some regionally authentic recipes also call for additional herbs like star anise (badiane), sweet flag (aka calamus), melissa (aka lemonbalm or citronnelle), angelica (both root and seed), dittany (a type of oregano grown in Crete), coriander, veronica (aka speedwell), marjoram or peppermint.

Grand and petite wormwood were historically cultivated near Pontarlier in the Doubs region of east France and in the adjoining Val de Travers in Switzerland, the two traditional homes of absinthe, while the other herbs were shipped in: fennel from the Gard region of France and even from Italy, the anise from the Tarn region or from Andalusia.

A perforated or slotted absinthe spoon was used to dissolve a sugar cube in a glass of absinthe, usually to sweeten the drink and counteract its mild bitterness. The bowl of the spoon is normally flat, with a notch in the handle where it rests on the rim of the glass. Originating circa the 1860s, absinthe spoons were often stamped with brand names or logos as advertising, much like modern alcohol paraphernalia. Sometimes they were sold as tourist items; for example, some might be shaped like the Eiffel tower.

“Les Cuilleres” spoon”Les Cuilleres” spoons, a less-common variation of the absinthe spoon, are similar to iced tea spoons. By contrast, these have a normal spoon bowl and the sugar holder built into the handle.

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