Travel

Drink your way down the Franco-Swiss Absinthe Trail

Published On 07/30/2013 Published On 07/30/2013
The Franco-Swiss Absinthe Trail
Leon Schmidt

Quick -- when we say "absinthe", what's the first thing that pops into your head? If it's the LA-based all-girl rock band, just quit reading right now. If it's the supposedly hallucinogenic, formerly-illegal, insanely-high-ABV spirit, however, then by all means, read on to learn about the greatest vacay you will ever take.

Leo Schmid

This is absinthe. Some people think it's creepy, probably because of the fire aspect, or because it was banned for nearly a century, or the fact that Johnny Depp totally trips balls on it in From Hell. Truth is, the actual absinthe never gets set on fire (just the brown sugar cube), many of its "hallucinogenic" properties came from chemicals added to bootleg versions when it was banned, and Johnny Depp's character was all hopped-up on heroin in that flick.

Route de L'absinthe

Although Prague's also got quite an absinthe scene, its historical epicenter is a small section of the Franco-Swiss border which's been revitalized since absinthe's global re-birth.

Route de L'Absinthe

Thanks to some French/Swiss teamwork, RoutedeLAbsinthe.com was born, in order to guide people to the 20-plus waypoints along an actual 25mi-long trans-border trail.

Here're the distilleries you can hit traveling East:

Route de L'Absinthe

The last family-owned biz in Pontarlier, France, the Pierre GUY Distillery was founded in 1890 by Armand Guy and has been run by four generations since. And they're not just a one-trick pony, as these dudes also make traditional liqueurs, aperitifs, preserved fruits, and something called "eaux-de-vie", which means "water of life" (note: too much will make you feel like death).

La Cluse-et-Mijoux, France is home to Les Fils d'Emile Pernot distillery, which has been in the absinthe game since 1890.

Route de L'Absinthe

Cross the border into Switzerland and you'll hit the home distillery of Ren茅 Jeanjaquet in Les Verri猫res. Dude's been brewing since '62 and, though he'll open the doors for ya and even sell you some hooch, he's technically retired now.

Route de L'Absinthe

Another mom-and-pop shop, this time in the country town of Bayards, Pierre-Andr茅 Currit uses a generations-old fam recipe in his absinthe that'll have you saying, "Mmm, mmm, mmm... Just like Pierre's Grandma used to make."

Route de L'Absinthe

Fleurier's home to award-winning distiller Daniel Guilloud, who's famed for his colorless absinthe Celle 脿 Guilloud -- so good, it leaves all other absinthes green with envy.

Route de L'Absinthe

Your eyes do not deceive you; the FATA Distillery is located in an authentic chapel in Feurier.

Route de L'Absinthe

M么tiers is home to Yves K眉bler, whose great-grandfather started the Blackmint, K眉bler & Wyss distillery in 1863. Yves restarted it in 1990, a fact that can be directly attributed to the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series in 1991.

Route de L'Absinthe

Willy Bovet was a long-time underground distiller probably until his tunnel caved in M么tiers who totally capitalized on absinthe's legality with four famous varieties: La Tradition, Le Chat, Nostalgie, and Septante 7.

Route de L'Absinthe

Still in the absinthe hotbed of M么tiers is artisinal distiller Valote Fornoni who tries to "preserve the myth of the Green Fairy and produce a genuine absinthe of outstanding quality"... as evidenced by his 2009/2010 gold medal at the international Distiswiss competition.

Route de L'Absinthe

More M么tiers -- this time at Le Petits Pr茅s, a distillery cooperative. Man, those dudes LOVE their absinthe.

Route de L'Absinthe

The last stop in M么tiers is at La M么tisanne Distillery, which's actually just the barn of a dude named Roger Etienne.

Route de L'Absinthe

Although not an actual distillery, the Boveresse Drying Barn's a pretty good way to find out about how the plants that go into absinthe -- most notably wormwood -- are grown, dried, and prepared for use.

Route de L'Absinthe

According to some, Couvet is where absinthe originates, and what Artemisia-Bugnon Distillery lacks in size it makes up for in craft, as their absinthe lives up to that heritage. It even won the Golden Spoon (a good thing!) at the Absinthiades Festival in Pontarlier for five straight years.

Route de L'Absinthe

That lady in the picture is Gaudentia Persoz, and she actually calls herself the Green Fairy, partly because she thinks it's a radical name, and partly because she's the first female distiller of legal absinthe in Switzerland. She makes four different types at La P'tite in Couvet.

Route de L'Absinthe

When the Absintissimo Micro-distillery says "micro", they mean it, but you don't need to be huge when what you're doing is recreating artisan absinthe made by regional bootleg producers.

Route de L'Absinthe

Saving the best (or at least the nicest looking) for last, rounding out the trail is a historic house in Couvet, where there's a "cellar museum" and a production distillery called 55 Degrees -- not to be confused with 98 Degrees (aka, the band that the dude who thought Absinthe was the all-girl rock group earlier is likely listening to at this very moment).

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