Herbsaint and the Legendre Company

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Jan 2001:Herbsaint and the Legendre Company
By Brspiritus on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 03:27 pm: Edit

My granmother lived in Bayonne, NJ and was born in 1913. She remembers going across to NYC during the late 20's early 30's and going to speakeasies. One of the drinks she remembers is Absinthe.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 01:53 pm: Edit

My grandmother (still living) was born in 1910 and has lived south of New Orleans all her life. I asked her if she knew what absinthe was. She replied, "Yeah, my mother and father used to drink that".

By Pataphysician on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 01:13 pm: Edit

I have old cocktail books published in the U.S. that list absinthe cocktails. One has no printing date, but does give the address of the liquor store that put it out; I'm assuming that it's post-ban, and pre-Prohibition. Another was published during Prohibition.

My guess is that absinthe never stopped being available in the U.S. after the European ban and right through Prohibition (when it would have been no more illegal than anything else!) though, mainly as a mixer. Then it probably died out when Prohibition stopped and everything else became easier to come by.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 09:26 am: Edit

The name "Herbsaint" appeared after the ban. It seems as though absinthe was available here for a time after the ban. From what I can find, I don't think the ban actually became effective until prohibition (around 1920). The Legendre Co. initially imported absinthe, than made their own liqueur. The Legendre Co. was just one firm.

By Admin on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 08:34 am: Edit

That is a wonderful label! I love all the patriotic crap, it seems to scream "so what if the french dig it! it's American dammit!"

By Admin on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 08:32 am: Edit

Here's Wormwood's label:


By Don_walsh on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 08:19 am: Edit

Wow, 1837. That's a decade or so before the wine blight.

I'm a little sorry to hear about the NY production, I was hoping NOLA was the only place in USA (basically for reasons of spiritual continuity to our own production.) We could call it 'Two Guys from Nawlins' Absinthe...just kidding...

By Wormwood on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 07:51 am: Edit

Absinthe was most certianly being produced in the
USA before the ban.

A New Orleans newspaper advertisment was selling a
locally produced "absynthe" in 1837 (no brand is
mentioned). I know of three brands from New
Orleans sold before the ban: Green Opal,
Herbsaint, and Milky Way. What I'm not clear on
is if Legendre is who was using the "herbsaint"
brand name at the time or if they "acquired" the
name after the ban. Your information seems to
suggest they only started selling in 1919.

In New York D'etienne Sage started making absinthe
in 1852. In 1897 they were bought out by Alfred
Rigny who I assume produced it untill the ban.

Here is what their label looked like:

By Artemis on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 06:13 am: Edit

The bottles themselves should tell you how old they are. In most cases it's an easy matter to distinguish a bottle made in 1935 from one made in 1900. Any good bottle collecting book can tell you how to do it.

Of course that still leaves us in doubt as to what was *in* the bottles. On a bottle made in the 1930's I would put no stock whatsoever in the word "absinthe" appearing on the label.

Thanks for sharing the document. A lot of fascinating historical information seems to have burst upon the scene all at once lately.

By Oxygenee on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 04:19 am: Edit

The "perceived wisdom" as I have always understood it is that absinthe was manufactured by the Legendre Company in New Orleans at the turn of the century, and then later redeveloped as Herbsaint after around 1915.

Intrigued by Phil's bottle, which is called "Absinthe" although apparently dating from 1934, and by a few other old Herbsaint bottles I've managed to pick up, I contacted the Sazerac Company, who aquired Legendre in the 1940's and own the rights to Herbsaint.

Sadly, they don't have a secret cache of 19th century bottles mouldering in the company cellar, but they were most interested to see photos of the early bottles, and more importantly they forwarded me a detailed corporate history. Suprisingly, this seems to indicate that Legendre made absinthe or pastis for the first time in the early twenties, during prohibition, after one of the original partners had learnt the recipes while lodging with a Marsellaise pastis maker during the war.

The implication is that the Herbsaint brand only officially began after prohibition in 1933, which would make the early minature bottles Ted, myself and others have found quite a bit more recent that was previously thought - perhaps late 1930's or 40's.

The interesting question then is of course: if Legendre didnt make absinthe in NO at the turn of the century, did anyone?

application/mswordLegendre History
legendre_history.doc (23 k)
Legendre History

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