London’s (probably) first absinthe distillery, Devil’s Botany has opened near Lea Bridge in East London.
Absinthe was first produced in 18th century Switzerland and quickly became known as the famed aperitif of the Val-de-Travers, but by 1915 the alluring green elixir was nicknamed the “Green Devil” and banned in numerous countries around the world — the only spirit in the history of alcohol to be singled out in a ban as such.
The ban was due to the drink’s “pernicious effect” on the drinkers, both moral delinquency as well as the medical effects of such strong alcohol and allegations of psychoactive effects. In fact, there’s never been any evidence that it’s anything more than just a very strong alcoholic drink.
Not that didn’t stop Dracula using it to seduce Miss Mina Harker.
“Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the self. The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul. But you are safe with me.”
It was in a way, an early media fuss over the social change that boils up every few years, as older people cry out about louche behaviour of the youth. Despite the media fuss, while banned in many countries, it was never banned in the UK, and remained a popular drink in nightclubs at the turn of the 20th century.
Which is apt as absinthe’s primary ingredient, wormwood once grew wild around the old Roman city walls of London, and there’s even a Wormwood Street in London. Despite that, there doesn’t appear to have ever been a dedicated absinthe distillery in London.
Devil’s Botany’s absinthe is made from British wheat spirit and 14 botanicals, including English and Swiss grand wormwood, green anise, fennel seed, devil’s claw root, lemon balm, meadowsweet, peppermint and elderflower, among other herbs and spices.
As cold water is added to a glass of absinthe, it begins to ‘louche’ – a process that transforms the crystal clear spirit into a milky, opalescent libation.
The London Absinthe is recommended served with three to four parts ice-cold water, or in a Highball or Spritz.
Launching with an inaugural London Absinthe at a hangover inducing 55% ABV, it’s being sold in a limited edition of 750 bottles costing £40 each.
More details here.