By Andrew Starke
French distillers will fight a Swiss bid to own the term ‘absinthe’ after makers of absinthe in the Val de Travers region, where the drink originated, asked the Swiss agricultural authorities to declare the name exclusive to their area.
Absinthe is also known as the green goddess or the green fairy and, ironically, was banned in both for decades.
Marie Benech, head of the French spirits producers' federation (FFS) told the UK’s The Independent that the grouping would make a formal challenge to the Swiss move ahead of the June 30 deadline set by Bern.
If successful, the Swiss claim would bar any other drink calling itself absinthe, or any familiar nickname, in Switzerland and eventually from distribution in Europe.
Absinthe was first popularized more than 200 years ago in the Val de Travers region near Switzerland’s French border, and has inspired artists and writers from Pablo Picasso to Ernest Hemingway.
The green fairy reached the height of its popularity in France in the late 19th and early 20th century, acquiring a reputation both for its hallucinogenic properties.
These effects led to it being banned in France and Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century.
The bans have since been lifted but in France the term ‘absinthe’ cannot be used and most producers settle for putting ‘spirit based on absinthe plants’ on the label.
Absinthe is also distilled in other countries, notably Spain and the Czech Republic.