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.”
Absinthe in Central and South America
Absinthe was drunk in South America from – at least – the 1850’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 perspectives.