The Art of Absinthe

ClarityMy father talked about absinthe and Hemingway in his stories of Old Havana nightlife. In the early 1970s, I visited New Orleans and the Old Absinthe House, hoping to finally taste this wicked elixir. No such luck. It had been prohibited for some time.

In 2003, my interest was sparked again when a friend came back from London with a bottle of absinthe. We tried it, pursuing hallucinations and the like, but to no avail. We were left with nothing but a nice drink.

My continuing curiosity led me to a Köln absinthe web store where my education began in earnest. The German absinthe labels warned “Bitter Spirituosen!” They were made from mixed oils, not distilled, and the burning sugar ritual only helped with the bitterness. I still naively waited for the fabled hallucinations.

Louche 1

Louche 1

When the plastic valve broke on my $29 absinthe fountain, I searched for a brass upgrade, which led to a conversation with a gentleman who bluntly informed me that all the absinthe I had was “swill.” Who was this guy!? We agreed to meet and he showed up with an impressive collection of vintage absinthiana and brands of absinthe I had never heard of. I offered him a taste of my best German brands, which he sniffed and poured in the sink! He explained that good absinthe “smells like a spring day and is so smooth, a baby could drink it. Absinthe causing hallucinations is hooey.” Thus, the dawn of my enlightenment and the end of misconceptions!

From that evening, my thirst for absinthe knowledge and history has taken me to Pontarlier, France and Val de Travers, Switzerland, where absinthe originated, to photograph absinthe being distilled. I’ve also had the incredible good fortune to get to know most of the top absintheteurs in the world.



Several years ago, I spent time creating some of the images of absinthe that had been swirling in my head. Here, in Louche 1, a properly prepared glass of absinthe begins with the louche – the mix of cold water and a dose of absinthe. L’Heure gives a glimpse of the “Green Hour” setting common during the Belle Epoque. For Clarity, the skewed effect of the table scene is produced from inside the fountain bowl. These effects are obtained “through the lens,” in that they were not created in a computer. These images are available as archival art prints at http://www.oxygenee.com/absinthe-buy/hevia.html and are part of an ongoing series.

Damian Hevia has been a professional photographer for 29 years and resides in Houston, Texas. He has shot a wide variety of subjects throughout his career, with extensive experience in product photography.

Damian is branching out into food and beverage photography, and is always seeking new clients and projects to pursue interesting angles on the visual world. Please visit his website www.dhevia.com for a tour.

Photo of Mr. Hevia by: Anna Donisi

Additional quality absinthe information may be sourced at www.feeverte.net.