Absinthe's Mind-Bending Return: How the Classic Drink Gets Made

Banned for years as a hallucinogenic and blamed for delirium, absinthe is regaining followers worldwide. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

The potent green spirit once taken as a medicine before later inspiring Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde is making a comeback as more and more people experience Absinthe as it was during France's La Belle Epoque. We take a rare look as the world’s second-largest spirits maker - Pernod Ricard - hand crafts its original recipe absinthe at a cathedral-like distillery in southern France. 

  1. The Harvest

    The Harvest

    The wormwood, a key botanical ingredient of absinthe of reputed hallucinogenic qualities, is grown in Potarlier near the Swiss broder. The cool local climate ensures the plant is rich in thujone, a chemical compound that has been blamed for the drink's mind-bending effects.

  2. Vintage Stills

    Vintage Stills

    Traditional alambic stills are used to create the spirit. Originally, absinthe was used as an antiseptic by French soldiers during African colonial campaigns in the 1840s.

  3. Wormwood Leaves

    Wormwood Leaves

    After a few weeks of drying, the Artesima wormwood  leaves can be torn from the sprigs. 

  4. Adding the Botanicals

    Adding the Botanicals

    The distillery in Thuir seeks to create the closest possible match to the original Pernod absinthe from 1805.

  5. Floating Botanicals

    Floating Botanicals

    Wormwood and green anise are macerated in alcohol, the modern way of producing the drink.

  6. Safekeeping  the Recipe

    Safekeeping the Recipe

    Historic absinthe recipes and formulas are kept in a vault at the distillery . The origins of absinthe date to the French revolution, when loyalists sought refuge in exile across nearby borders.

  7. Tidy Up

    Tidy Up

    The wormwood and green anise are steeped in alcohol for 12 hours to preserve their unique flavors.

  8. New Tech

    New Tech

    A touchscreen made by Germany's Siemens shows the revived centuries-old steps to making absinthe.

  9. Looking Good

    Looking Good

    Engineers inspect glasses of absinthe at the Pernod Ricard distillery to ensure it meets quality standards. 

  10. The Green Fairy

    The Green Fairy

    The French name, La Fee Vert, was translated as "the Green Fairy" and a new moniker for the drink was born.

  11. Drinking Ritual

    Drinking Ritual

    Chilled water drips from a fountain into a pontarlier glass of absinthe in the bar area. This is the traditional way of drinking absinthe, the Ritual a la Francaise.

  12. Potent Spirit

    Potent Spirit

    Chilled water dissolves a sugar cube to sweeten the potent spirit, which is 68 percent alcohol, compared with 40 percent for common liquors.