Absinthe may never reach the same level of popularity it enjoyed in the 19th century. By the end of that century, emerald fever spread throughout Europe with France leading the charge--consuming over two million liters of absinthe per year.
What made the jade liquid so exhilarating? The ritual associated with the spirit has always been a sensory experience. Referred to as La Louche, the ritual involves slowing diluting absinthe drip by drip with iced water until the liquid turns milky and opalescent. The visual and aromatic transformation is hypnotic, and conjures the release of the Green Fairy herself.
The absinthe spoon, glass and sugar cubes are familiar tools of the ritual, but they are not the only ones used throughout history. Stunning antique absinthe accessories still survive today, from stoneware water pitchers to intricate metal fountains. They're pricey, but they carry the magic of absinthe's faded history--a mystique that can't be captured in a replica.
During the Belle Epoque, porcelain match strikers were found on nearly every bistro table. They held matches or cigarettes and featured a ribbed base that was used for striking the matches. In France, the strikers were referred to as Pyrogènes after one of the most prevalent manufacturers. Pyrogènes were usually decorated with an advertisement for a brand of liquor, and those featuring absinthe are now one of the more expensive collector’s items. This match striker advertises the absinthe brand La Francaise Javillier & Sarrazin with three fetching females hawking various products.
Meet one of the most collectable absinthe accessories around. Though good-quality replicas
exist, it’s very rare to find a true vintage Cusenier “Auto verseur” in perfect condition. Also known as a seesaw dripper or balancier, this mixer was originally designed for the absinthe producer Cusenier and was popular in the mid-19th century. The dripper is placed on top of a glass of absinthe and slowly dispenses chilled water as its paddles flip back and forth, mixing the water into the absinthe, as demonstrated in this video
You might not think you need vintage postcards by your side to enjoy a glass of absinthe—but this comical set will change your tune. The complete set of cards from the 1900s features a young boy impersonating a presidential candidate while drinking absinthe. On the table, you’ll notice all the tools of a serious absinthe setup: a water carafe, absinthe topette, glass, spoon and sugar saucer. Think of him as the original kid president.
The telltale sign that this Swiss pitcher was designed for the absinthe ritual? Its extra-small spout hole that disperses a controlled flow of water. An alternative to the absinthe fountain or balancier, this type of vintage stoneware pitcher can be found in varying shapes including a bulldog, horse, rooster or fairy
. What’s the significance of the clock? The time is set at ten minutes before the absinthe ban in Switzerland on October 7, 1910. Unlike modern reproductions, this pitcher is labeled with “Geneva,” making it an especially valuable find.
Many consider the fountain to be the only accessory that can guarantee a smooth, precise drip of water for the absinthe ritual. That steady trickle of ice water gently dilutes the absinthe while turning it a cloudy pale green. This process releases the essential oils from the absinthe’s herbs, and is also believed to liberate the Green Fairy herself. Richly visual, the absinthe ritual is enhanced by a beautiful piece like this 1900-era vintage fountain. Complete with four taps, the original filter and a decorative fir cone headpiece, this is the pièce de résistance of any absinthe lover’s collection.