Today is Absinthe Day, when we celebrate a very unusual spirit, and the unique history behind it. Distilled from several medicinal herbs including green anise, sweet fennel, and grand wormwood, absinthe has a high alcoholic content (though it’s often watered down before drinking) and some believe it has slightly hallucinogenic properties.
Absinthe was considered by many to be a muse, and was often referred to as “la fée verte” or the green fairy because of its enchantingly bright hue. It was a favorite among artists, writers, and composers during the art nouveau movement in late 19th century Paris, including Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and Oscar Wilde. Many of the era’s bottle labels and advertising posters for absinthe are classic examples of the art nouveau movement it helped to inspire. Absinthe even has a certain mystique as to the ritual involved in preparing to drink it, as you slowly pour chilled water over a cube of sugar that’s suspended over a glass holding the alluring liquid, and watching as it clouds to an opalescent pale green.
Prohibitionists and social conservatives vilified absinthe, claiming it caused violent and unpredictable behavior. (The wine industry was also partly behind the movement to ban the spirit, likely fearing they would lose sales to the wildly popular beverage.) In 1905, a Swiss farmer was accused of murdering his family while under the influence of absinthe, giving its critics more fuel for their agenda to outlaw it. What many didn’t realize—or flat out ignored—was that the farmer was a known alcoholic and was already drunk on a whole lot of wine and brandy before consuming two glasses of absinthe and ultimately committing the crime. Thujone—a chemical compound found in trace amounts as a result of the distillation of wormwood—was often cited as the culprit for the drink’s influences, though the psychoactive effects of absinthe have been shown to be greatly exaggerated.
It’s widely accepted today that absinthe is really no more dangerous than standard alcoholic spirits, thus the laws governing its production, sale and import have been greatly relaxed. As a result, the green fairy is experiencing a renaissance throughout the US and Europe.
My collection explores some of the more notable visual influences of absinthe, particularly its unique coloring and associated art nouveau illustration style (as well as a few more abstract art pieces that I imagine would tickle one’s fancy while under its spell). Please remember to visit the shops and favorite the featured items! And you can always see the rest of my Every Day is a Holiday treasuries here!
Click on the image to see the treasury on Etsy, complete with links to the featured shops and items!
“Every Day is a Holiday” is my Etsy Treasury project for 2014. I’m hoping to find unique and beautiful items that exemplify the holiday of the day—the sillier and weirder, the better! What’s better than finding something worth celebrating each and every day?