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The Wormwood Society


A Glossary of Common Absinthe Terms

Special thanks to Luc Santiago, proprietor of the brick-and-mortar store, Vert d’Absinthe—for kindly providing the French pronunciation sound clips.

Click on the speaker icon speaker to hear the proper pronunciation of French terms (mp3 format).

Eastern and Central European spelling of absinthe. In common usage in Czech Republic, Germany, Holland and parts of Switzerland.

absinthe speaker   Extrait d’Absinthe  speaker
1. A (usually) green distilled spirit of high alcohol content, with a main characteristic flavor derived from anise, wormwood, and other botanicals.

2. Artemisia absinthium. A perennial aromatic European herb having pinnatifid, silvery silky leaves and numerous nodding yellow flower heads. The definitive ingredient in absinthe.  see Wormwood

absinthe fountain  speaker
A water-dispensing fountain designed specifically for providing a slow, steady stream or drip of iced water into a glass of absinthe or pastis.

The condition of alcoholism and its attendant symptoms when specifically derived from the abuse of absinthe.  A fictitious syndrome created by the anti-absinthe and temperance movements in the 19th century. See:  Absinthism: fictitious 19th century syndrome

One who indulges in absinthe; and absinthe enthusiast.

A victim of “absinthism” (i.e. alcoholism). An absinthe “addict”. Used by the anti-absinthe and temperance movements in the 19th century.

1. An archaic of absinthe, seldom in modern use.
2. Artificial or synthetic absinthe, made from steeped herbs and forgoing the distillation process.

alembic / alambic
A usually copper apparatus used for the distillation of liquids. A pot still. From the Arabic al ambiq, meaning “the still.” Most 19th century absinthe were made in copper alembics.

A compound present in the volatile oils of anise, dill, fennel and star anise, among others.  Primarily responsible for the “licorice” flavor and the louche effect of absinthe.

A botanical ingredient, Angelica archangelica. Seeds and roots are used in the maceration of absinthe before distillation.

anise,  anis  speaker
A botanical ingredient, Pimpinella anisum. Seeds are used in the maceration of absinthe before distillation. The sweet flavor is often mistaken for licorice, to which it is similar.

aperitif  speaker
An alcoholic drink, taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

Made by an artisan, or craftsperson; used to refer to small-batch absinthes. 

bain-marie speaker
A double boiler. A steam-heated apparatus used in distillation. Literally “Mary’s Bath”, it was named for the ancient alchemist, Mary the Jewess, who is thought to have lived sometime in the 1st to the 3rd century, AD.

belle époque  speaker
An era of artistic and cultural refinement in a society, especially in France at the beginning of the 20th century.

Besançon speaker
A city of eastern France east of Dijon. Also a style of absinthe.

blanche   speaker
French. Literally, White. A clear, uncolored absinthe. See also La Bleue.

A glass or metal bottle, often with a flared lip, used for serving water or wine. Used with absinthe to drizzle water over sugar and into the absinthe.

clandestine speaker
1. Conducted with secrecy; withdrawn from public notice, kept secret; hidden; private. 2. Absinthes made by amateur distillers in areas where private distillation is prohibited and therefore must be done in secret.

In absinthe making, the step following distillation where the clear distillate is further flavored and colored by the maceration of additional herbs, such as hyssop, melissa, and petite wormwood. It is more properly called “finishing”, as these additional herbs are added for flavor, coloring being an incidental side-effect.

compounded absinthe
Refers to any absinthe produced by the mixture of distilled spirits with substances such as flavoring extracts or essences, coloring materials, water, juice, or any kind of liquor or other ingredients in order to approximate the flavor of distilled absinthe. Considered an imitation, inferior to distilled absinthes.

A stimulant; a tonic; a liqueur.

A botanical ingredient, Coriandrum sativum. The seeds are used in the maceration of absinthe before distillation.

Couvet speaker
A town in the Val-de-Travers district of western Switzerland, home of Abram-Louis Perrenoud and Henri-Louis Pernod, the latter being the founder of Maison Pernod Fils.

cuillere  speaker
French for “spoon.”

1. The evaporation and subsequent collection of a liquid by condensation as a means of purification: the distillation of water. 2. The extraction of the volatile components of a mixture by the condensation and collection of the vapors that are produced as the mixture is heated. 3. A distillate.

distilled absinthe
Spirits with a main characteristic flavor derived from anise and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) produced by macerating natural herbs in distilled spirits and subsequently re-distilling the mixture to produce a spirit of at least 45% ABV, (90 proof).

essential oil
A volatile oil, usually having the characteristic odor or flavor of the plant from which it is obtained, used to make perfumes and flavorings. Not necessarily the same as an extract.

A decoction, solution, or infusion made by drawing out from any substance that which gives it its essential and characteristic virtue; also, any substance so extracted, and characteristic of that from which it is obtained; as quinine is the most important extract of Peruvian bark.

fennel – fenouil  speaker
A botanical ingredient. Seeds are used in the maceration of absinthe before distillation. Like anise, fennel also has a licorice-like flavor, although less sweet and somewhat earthy.

feuille morte
French: Dead or fallen leaves, yellowed.  Refers to the color of absinthe as the chlorophyll breaks down over time.  In properly stored absinthe, away from light and temperature extremes, it can be an indicator of age, and hence increased quality.


fin de siecle  speaker
French for “End of the Century.”  Belonging to, or characteristic of, the close of the (19th) century; hence, modern; “up-to-date;” sophisticated; world-weary; decadent.

Fougerolles  speaker
City in France; also a style of absinthe.

From the German hausgemacht, meaning home-made. Refers to home-distilled, non-commercial, or clandestine absinthe. The terms “HGer” and “HG” came into common use in the American clandestine absinthe-distilling subculture in the 1990s, referring to hobbyist distillers and their absinthe.  

A botanical ingredient. Commonly used in the coloration phase of absinthe manufacture.

The process of steeping a substance in water to extract its soluble principles. A medicinal preparation made by such a process.

La Bleue speaker
Generally reserved for clandestine Swiss blanche absinthes. From French, “the blue”. Refers to the bluish opalescent tint after the addition of water. The Swiss equivalent to the term “white lightning.”

La Fée Verte  speaker
French. Green Fairy.

Any of various strongly flavored and sweetened alcoholic beverages typically served in small quantities after dinner.  Absinthe is not a liqueur, but an aperitif.

A high-proof alcoholic beverage made by distillation rather than by simple fermentation.

Louche  speaker
French for troubled, turbulent, disturbed, shady, of dubious character. As applied to absinthe, it refers to the cloudy, turbulent effect achieved by adding water. Less common to the French in modern times, the term often used is “troublant.”

Lyon / Lyons / Lyonaise   speaker
A city in east-central France. Of, or coming from, Lyons. Also style of absinthe.

To soak dried herbs in alcohol for a specified time. The product of such a process.

A botanical ingredient. Also known as Lemon Balm.

Montmartre  speaker
Neigborhood of Paris famous for its dense concentration of cafés and cabarets, most notably the Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir.

Montpellier  speaker
A city of southern France near the Mediterranean. Also a style of absinthe.

Nimes  speaker
A city of southern France northeast of Montpellier. Also a style of absinthe.

Oil Mix
See Compounded Absinthe

Pastis speaker
A French anise and licorice flavored liquor, usually drunk as an apéritif. Although now a respected beverage in its own right, pastis largely filled the void left by the ban of absinthe.

Petite Wormwood
Botanical ingredient. Artemisia pontica, also known as Roman Wormwood. Used in maceration of absinthe before and after distillation.  see Wormwood

Pernod Fils  speaker
The first widely available commercial brand of absinthe produced, considered  by some to be the gold standard of absinthe.  No relation to modern products Pernod Anis or Pernod Extrait aux plantes d’absinthe.

Pontarlier  speaker
A frontier town of eastern France whose chief industry is the distillation of herbal liqueurs and was the center of absinthe production from 1805 through 1915. Also a style of absinthe; considered by many to be the definitive style, containing only six ingredients: grand wormwood, anise, fennel, petite wormwood, hyssop and melissa.

The era prior to the ban on absinthe, which is different in different countries: Belgium in 1905, Switzerland in 1910, the US in 1912 and France in 1915.  Also, an absinthe made during this era.  see also Vintage

A measure of alcoholic content equal to double the percentage, i.e. 68% = 136 proof.

An alcoholic beverage, especially distilled liquor.

Star Anise
Botanical ingredient.  Seed pods used in maceration of absinthe before distillation.   Rich in anethol and makes for a strong, opaque louche.

Suisse  speaker
French for “Swiss.” Also a style of absinthe, produced by the “suisse” method, often un-colored.

One of the active compounds of Artemesia absinthium, among other plants, such as tansy, culinary sage, tarragon, oak moss, yarrow and white cedar, or Thuja occidentalis, from which it derives its name.  Read more about thujone in our Science Section.

The resultant solution of macerating a substance, particularly an herb or herbs, in alcohol.

Val de Travers  speaker
District of western Switzerland bordering France and thought of as the birthplace of absinthe.

An herbal ingredient used in maceration of absinthe before and after distillation.

Verre  speaker
French for “glass,” as in drinking glass.

Verte  speaker
French for “green”. A green absinthe.

Currently existing bottles of pre-ban era absinthe.  see also Pre-Ban

Any of many species of the genus Artemisia, the sagebrush family. Only one species, Artemisia absinthium is the definitive ingredient in absinthe; Artemisia pontica, also known as roman wormwood or petite wormwood, is often used in the coloration.  See our comprehensive list of Wormwood and other Artemisia species .

 Special thanks to Luc, admin and creator of, the first French absinthe forum, and proprietor of the brick-and-mortar store, Vert d’Absinthe, for kindly providing the French pronunciation sound bytes. If you find yourself in Paris, stop in and say bonjour!