Cultural references to absinthe

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The legacy of absinthe as a mysterious, addictive, and mind-altering drink continues to this day.[1][2][3][4] Though its psychoactive effects and chemical makeup are contested, its cultural impact is not.[citation needed] Absinthe has played a notable role in the fine art movements of Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Surrealism, Modernism, Cubism and in the corresponding literary movements.[citation needed] The legendary drink has more recently appeared in movies, video, television, music, and contemporary literature.[citation needed] The modern absinthe revival has had a notable effect on its portrayal.[citation needed] It is often shown as an unnaturally glowing green liquid demonstrating the influence of contemporary marketing efforts.



Monsieur Boileau au café, by Toulouse-Lautrec.
Still Life with Absinthe, 1887, Van Gogh Museum
Angel Fernández de Soto with absinthe by Picasso.

Absinthe has a widely documented role in 19th century visual art and was frequently the subject of many genre paintings and still lifes of the day.

  • Edgar Degas' painting L'Absinthe (1876) portrayed grim absinthe drinkers in a cafe. Degas himself never called the painting "L'Absinthe"; it was either his art dealer or a later owner who gave it the name. Years later, it set off a flurry in the London art world, and the grim realism of "L'Absinthe" (a theme popular with bohemian artists) was perceived by London art critics as a lesson against alcohol and the French in general.[citation needed]
  • Picasso depicted absinthe in various media, including the paintings Woman Drinking Absinthe (1901), Bottle of Pernod and Glass (1912), and the sculpture Absinthe Glass (1914).[citation needed]
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was notorious for his consumption of the green muse. He often painted impressionistic scenes of the brothels and night spots[7] of 19th century Montmartre. Lautrec was even known to carry a hollow cane filled with absinthe during long nights out in Paris.[8] An example of Lautrec's work featuring absinthe would be the painting Monsieur Boileau au café.[citation needed]
  • Vincent van Gogh was anything but a man of moderation. He drank ferocious quantities of absinthe[9] while creating his signature painting style. His ear removing episode is often attributed to overconsumption of absinthe as is his liberal use of the color yellow.[10]


  • Moulin Rouge! (2001) contains a scene prominently featuring absinthe and the "green fairy", a hallucination supposedly caused by the drink (and, in this film's case, portrayed by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue and voiced by Ozzy Osbourne.)
  • In EuroTrip (2004), characters Scott, Cooper, and Jamie drink absinthe while in a club. The drink is shown glowing an electric green, and its consumption causes hallucinations in some of these characters - one of which is a little green fairy (played by Steve Hytner).[citation needed]
  • In Van Helsing (2004), Gabriel Van Helsing and Anna Valerious share a drink from a bottle of absinthe prior to falling into an underground cavern.
  • In Blood and Chocolate (2007), Gabriel and several other Loup Garou consume absinthe in the bohemian manner at a popular Romanian bar that their pack frequents.[citation needed]
  • In Dorian Gray (2009 film) (2009), a glass of absinthe with an absinthe spoon and a sugar cube atop the spoon lies on the table while Dorian is having his painting done.
  • In the Swiss-German film Sennentuntschi (2010), the three farmers used absinthe to imagine a straw made sex doll come to life, which is based on real Alpine traditions.[citation needed]
  • In The Immigrant (2013), Bruno's "doves" get a reluctant, naive Ewa drunk on absinthe before her first performance, advising the drink will make things easier.



  • In the PC game Phantasmagoria (1995), heroine Adrienne Delaney discovers a bottle of absinthe in the wet bar of the mansion she and her husband came to occupy. As the game progresses, she will periodically see its amount draining while her husband simultaneously becomes more and more odd, implying he has been the one drinking it.
  • In the popular video game Max Payne, the designer drug Valkyr or simply V seems to be modelled on Absinthe. Users experience hallucinations where the predominant colour is green. Note that green is the colour of Absinthe and the liquor is also notorious for reportedly inducing sometimes fatal hallucinations.
  • In the game Fallout: New Vegas, Absinthe is a rare consumable item which boosts Perception instead of Strength.


Classic literature[edit]

As prominent as absinthe's influence on visual art was, it is perhaps even more noteworthy in the context of 19th century literature. Below is a short list of important authors who credited a portion of their literary success to the drink.

  • Baudelaire was an avid absinthe drinker. Though he never wrote specifically about absinthe he did reference it in his famous poem "Get Drunk".[13]
  • Guy de Maupassant was a naturalistic French author. He is generally considered one of the greatest French short story writers.[14] In one famous work of prose, "A Queer Night in Paris", he describes the smells and sensations of absinthe in the streets of Paris and makes an overt reference to "the hour to take absinthe".[15]
  • Ernest Dowson was an important English poet who notably wrote a poem dedicated to absinthe called "Absinthia Taetra".
  • Alfred Jarry is notably the author of the French absurdist play, Ubu Roi. Jarry claimed to use absinthe to "fuse together the dream and reality, art and lifestyle".[17] The drink was purported by the author to be a key part of his creative process.
  • Arthur Rimbaud was a young Parisian poet who was notably involved in a homosexual relationship with Paul Verlaine; they famously drank large quantities of absinthe together. Their relationship ended when Rimbaud was shot in the hand by Verlaine, who was then sentenced to prison. Later in life Rimbaud quit drinking absinthe and writing poetry and instead became involved in military exploits and gun running. He is still regarded as one of France's greatest poets.[17]
  • Paul Marie Verlaine was a famous Parisian poet of the Bohemian style. Though he wrote extensively about the benefits of absinthe in his early years, he later claimed to have consorted with prostitutes and men while drinking it, and blamed the beverage for his downfalls. Even when he was on his deathbed, his friends were said to be hiding bottles for him under his pillow.[17]
  • Oscar Wilde was an avid absinthe consumer[citation needed] and often wrote about the drink in connection with the creative process.[citation needed] Wilde has been quoted as saying, "What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?"[18][19] and "After the first glass [of absinthe] you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world." [20]

Contemporary literature[edit]

  • Dennis Wheatley included an absinthe session in his novel about the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, The Second Seal (1950). Wheatley was a wine merchant for many years, with a wide stock of spirits and liqueurs as well, and always put much information on the subject in his books. His hero the Duke de Richleau has been sent by British Intelligence on a mission to Vienna. He has to foil a plot by the Black Hand to disturb the peace of Europe, and so of course must concentrate his thoughts:

Instinctively he walked back across the Ring to Sachers. There he went up to his room, sat on his bed for a while, then rang for the waiter and ordered a double Absinthe. When it arrived, he added sugar and water and slowly drank the opal fluid. It had no more perceptible kick in it than lime juice, or a diluted paregoric cough mixture which it resembled in flavour, but he knew it had hidden properties which would act like a drug in clearing and accelerating his brain.

  • An absinthe hallucination may or may not have inspired a murder in The Second Glass of Absinthe (2003), a mystery novel by Michelle Black, set in 1880 Leadville, Colorado.[21]
  • Asinthe lends the name to Kyell Gold's novel Green Fairy. The substance is the driving force in Dangerous Spirits, in which multiple protagonists make use of it to commune with spirits.
  • Gemma Doyle, the main character of Libba Bray's 2007 sequel Rebel Angels (set in 1895), drinks absinthe with her friends at a Christmas ball and experiences hallucinatory effects.
  • The characters in Poppy Z. Brite's short story, "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood", discover a crate of absinthe, the consumption of which forms the backdrop against which their transgressive antics occur. The short story can be found in Swamp Foetus.[citation needed] Characters in her book Lost Souls also drink absinthe.[22]
  • The Absinthe Cloud (LePage/Dupuy #1, 2012) is a spy thriller by Timothy Everhart.[23]
  • Absinthe figures heavily into the plot of the novel The Basic Eight (1999), by Daniel Handler, which features Bohemian characters who are drawn to absinthe by its dangerous history.[24]


  • Barbara (1930-1997) the popular French female singer wrote and composed, with Frédéric Botton, and sang l'Absinthe, a song published in her 12th album "La Fleur d'amour" (1972). This song is a love song, a bit sad and nostagic -sadness is Barbara's trademark-, where the singer explains to a lover that drinking absinthe helps at last to feel in love, to render love joyful, just like it helped Rimbaud and Verlaine to write their poetry (a recurrent comparison, all along the song).
  • On Minus The Bear's 2002 debut album, Highly Refined Pirates, there is a track entitled "Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse". It is one of their most popular tracks among fans.
  • Mayer Hawthorne has a song entitled "Green Eyed Love" on his first album "A Strange Arrangement". Although the lyrics of the song seem to reflect on his relationship with a green-eyed girl, the music video[26] puts the lyrics in a different light, where we can see Mayer Hawthorne unconventionally preparing a glass of absinthe and suffering from hallucinations afterwards.
  • Kasabian recorded a song referred to and titled "La Fee Verte" on their fourth studio album Velociraptor!.
  • Music video for Frank Ocean's song "Pyramids" opens with a sequence of four shots of absinthe consumed by Frank Ocean.


  • The Fine Living Channel's flagship The Thirsty Traveler reality TV series dedicated an entire episode to absinthe in 2004. The host traveled to several distilleries in different countries and observed the process and flavors of contemporary absinthe.
  • In the CSI: NY episode "Some Buried Bones", the victim who is leaving a secret society at Hudson University, returns his absinthe spoon as part of the de-initiation rite. The spoon is later found with the victim.[27]
  • Absinthe played a prominent role in HBO's cable television series Carnivàle. The drink is frequently consumed by the mysterious blind seer Professor Lodz (played by Patrick Bauchau) in the television series.[28]
  • Evil immortal Christoph Kuyler from the television series Highlander: The Series episode "For Evil's Sake". is addicted to absinthe.
  • In "The Big Lockout" episode of this UK comedy series Black Books, the character Manny finds himself locked in his shop and proceeds to drink an entire bottle of absinthe as a substitute for water. In the episode he expects to go crazy, but ultimately just ends up with a bad hangover. Bernard also refers to it as "the drink that makes you want to kill yourself instantly."[30]
  • In episode 4 of the second series of The IT Crowd, the goth character Richmond states, at a dinner party, that he only drinks absinthe. However upon hearing that none is available he says that Carlsberg is fine.[citation needed]
  • On an episode of the GSN series Late Night Liars, host Larry Miller was shown introducing Weasel to absinthe, commenting on its illegality and supposedly hallucinogenic nature. After just one sip, Weasel claimed that his bow tie was trying to "strangulate" him.
  • During a speed bump task on episode 11 of Season 15 on The Amazing Race, Brian and Ericka had to make a shot of absinthe and drink it before receiving their next clue.
  • In the episode "Dough" of the British comedy series Bottom, when Eddie is getting the drinks in, he asks Richie what he wants. Unable to make his mind up, Richie asks for a pint of absinthe. The bartender responds that there's a gay pub down the road if he wants to go there. Later on, when they all take the first drink, Richie drinks a large amount, then spits it out declaring, "This is shit!"[citation needed]
  • On the 4th of May 2012 episode of Eastenders, Derek obtains many boxes of Absinthe and then hires Tyler Moon and Billy Mitchell to distribute around Albert Square. Later on during the episode, following an argument with her family, Lauren shows her friends Whitney and Lucy a bottle of Absinthe (which she had earlier purchased) from her bag and opens it, from here the episode ends on another cliffhanger.
  • The January 8, 2013 episode of New Girl, "Cabin", involves characters drinking a bottle of absinthe while staying at a cabin.
  • In Mad Men episode s1.e12 ("Nixon vs. Kennedy"), Paul Kinsey tells his colleagues and the admins who have gathered for an afterwork election night party at Sterling Cooper he has a bottle of absinthe in his office, and drinking it makes him incantato. Ken Cosgrove and a secretary later search Kinsey's office for the absinthe, but don't find it.
  • In Geordie Shore season 5, Charlotte and Scott stop at an absinthe bar.
  • Bob's indulgence of absinthe is the focus of the Bob's Burgers episode "An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal."


Visual novel[edit]

  • In the visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the absinthe is Kinzo's preferred drink. It was implied that it may have drove him to madness due to its alleged hallucinogenic properties.


  • Washington D.C.-based Don and Mike Show has a biannual tradition of doing an entire four-hour show while drinking absinthe, complete with audience participation, interviews, and a news segment.


  1. ^ Asimov, Eric (2009-05-13). "Absinthes to Go Mad Over". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ McGee, Harold (2007-01-03). "Trying to Clear Absinthe's Reputation". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Wells, Pete (2007-12-05). "A Liquor Legend Makes a Comeback". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Rothstein, Edward (2007-11-12). "Absinthe Returns in a Glass Half Full of Mystique and Misery". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ NEJM - Hideous Absinthe: A History of the Devil in a Bottle.
  6. ^ "Édouard Manet". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  7. ^ "Gale Murray and Toulouse-Lautrec". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  8. ^ Toulouse-Lautrec: Bibliographies - Food, Drink, Recipes Archived March 28, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Naralie Amgier, Studying Art With the Eye Of a Physician, New York Times, September 11, 1990
  10. ^ Wayne. P. Armstrong, Medical Glycosides, Terpenes & Alkaloids, Wayne's Word.
  11. ^ "Interview with the Vampire". 
  12. ^ "Alfie". PopMatters. 2005-03-23. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Guy de Maupassant - Biography and Works". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  15. ^ "A Queer Night in Paris by Guy de Maupassant". Read Print. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  16. ^ Conrad III, Barnaby; (1988). Absinthe History in a Bottle. Chronicle books. ISBN 0-8118-1650-8 p. 137.
  17. ^ a b c "Zoomgraphics Absinthe Page". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  18. ^ "Oxygénée's Absinthe FAQ IV". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  19. ^ "Absinthe History in a bottle" Barnaby Conrad III (1988)
  20. ^ "The Second Glass of Absinthe". Michelle Black. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  21. ^ Black, Michelle, The Second Glass of Absinthe. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7653-4756-5.
  22. ^ a b Liisa Ladouceur; Gary Pullin (1 October 2011). Encyclopedia Gothica. ECW Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-77041-024-4. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Timothy Everhard (2012-07-28). The Absinthe Cloud (LePage/Dupuy #1). Smashwords. BNID 2940044758377. 
  24. ^ Handler, Daniel; (1999). The Basic Eight. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-19833-7.
  25. ^ "Go green with Marilyn: Drowned In Sound - Thurs 28 Sep 2006 absinthe news article". Retrieved 01 October 2006.
  26. ^ "Mayer Hawthorne - Green Eyed Love - Music Video". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  27. ^ "The Absinthe Forum at la Fée Verte's Absinthe House: Established 1997". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  28. ^ HBO: Carnivàle.
  29. ^ "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - TWoP Forums". Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  30. ^ "Black Books: Series 1". DVD Times. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  31. ^ Domanick, Andrea (March 28, 2013). "‘Absinthe’ 1,000: Penny Pibbets, Melody Sweets and The Gazillionaire on hitting quadruple digits". The Las Vegas Sun. 

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