Herbsaint first appeared in 1934. It was the creation of J. Marion Legendre and Reginald Parker of New Orleans, who learned how to make absinthe while in France during World War I. It first went on sale following the repeal of Prohibition, and was unique in its category as an absinthe substitute, as opposed to a pastis. Herbsaint was originally produced under the name "Legendre Absinthe", although it never contained Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). The Federal Alcohol Control Administration soon objected to Legendre's use of the word "absinthe", so the name was changed to "Legendre Herbsaint". The Sazerac Company bought J.M. Legendre & Co. in June 1949. Herbsaint was bottled at 120 proof and 100 proof for many years, but the recipe was modified in the mid-1950s, when Herbsaint began being bottled at 100 proof and 90 proof. By the early 1970s the 100 proof variation was discontinued, and the 90 proof version remains the predominant Herbsaint available today. In December 2009, the Sazerac Company reintroduced J.M. Legendre's original 100 proof recipe as Herbsaint Original.
The name Herbsaint originates from "Herbe Sainte" (Sacred Herb), the French/Creole term for Artemisia absinthium. It is also very nearly an anagram of "absinthe".
The Herbsaint Frappé and the Sazerac
|Primary alcohol by volume|
|Standard drinkware||Highball glass|
|Commonly used ingredients|
|Preparation||Stir together with plenty of ice, then strain into a very well chilled glass. Serve very cold.|
Herbsaint was and still is used in several cocktails. The most famous of those is the Herbsaint Frappé:
- Pour two ounces of Herbsaint into a thin six-ounce glass.
- Fill the glass three-quarters full with cracked ice.
- Add a half teaspoon of simple syrup or sugar and two ounces of carbonated or plain water, then fill glass with more cracked ice.
- Stir, using a long-handled spoon with up and down motion until outside of glass is well frosted.
- Strain into another glass that has been chilled.
- Remove the ice from the original glass.
- Now pour the Herbsaint frappé back into the well frosted glass and serve.
Herbsaint is also used in the modern Sazerac cocktail.
- The History of Legendre Herbsaint
- 1944 promotional booklet for Legendre Herbsaint — Cocktail recipes and a brief history of Legendre herbsaint and the old absinthe house in New Orleans (1.76MB PDF format)
- "The Imformant" by Robert Simonson in Imbibe magazine, about Herbsaint expert Jay Hendrickson.
- Jay Hendrickson, Absinthe in America I - The Story of Herbsaint, The Virtual Absinthe Museum at Oxygénée Ltd. (Access date December 7, 2010.)
- Absinthe Banned: Ruling Given by Analyst, reprint from New Orleans Item, May 6, 1934. (Access date December 7, 2010.)
- Todd A. Price, Sazerac Co. reintroduces the original recipe for Herbsaint, The Times-Picayune, December 19, 2009. (Access date December 6, 2010.)