The precise origin of absinthe is unclear; its medical use of wormwood dates back to ancient Egypt and is referred to in the Ebers Papyrus, c. 1550 BC. Wormwood extracts and wine-soaked wormwood leaves were utilized as treatments by the ancient Greeks. Additionally, there is evidence of a wormwood-flavoured wine in ancient Greece called absinthites oinos.
In the sense of a distilled spirit that contains the green anise and fennel, the first evidence of absinthe dates back to the 18th century. According to popular legend, it began as an multipurpose patent remedy created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor residing in Couvet, Switzerland, around 1792 (the exact date varies by account). Ordinaire’s recipe was handed on to the Henriod sisters of Couvet, who sold it as a therapeutic elixir.
By other accounts, the Henriod nuns may have been producing the elixir before Ordinaire’s arrival. In either case, a certain Major Dubied got the formula from the sisters in 1797 and opened the first absinthe distillery named Dubied Père et Fils in Couvet with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod. In 1805, they built a second distillery in Pontarlier, France, under Maison Pernod Fils’s company name. Pernod Fils remained one of the most famous absinthe brands until the drink was banned in France in 1914.