Bar Paraphernalia

As absinthe was a flourishing industry during the Belle Epoque, the advertisements for absinthe brands were quite common. All kind of objects advertising absinthe brands were produced.

A remarkable absinthe “Devil” bell, probably produced in Switzerland to promote the prohibitionist cause. A similar example is in the museum in Motiers.

left and above – Bistrot inkwell in the form of a shoe, with advertising for Absinthe Deleule.

Mon Cousin.

An unusual enamelled decanter label for Absinthe Junod.

The classic spoon-holder design, by Gombault.

Another silver platedspoon-holder.

A bistrot sugar jar, using the same glass reservoir and cover as an absinthe fountain.

A bistrot sugar bowl, engraved “R Rey, Liquoriste.”

3 promotional tapis des cartes, used as a playing surface for bistrot card games.

A circa 1900 Zanzibar with advertising for Absinthe Blanqui

“Absinthe Blanqui La Plus Hygenique Nice.”

Coin operated slot machines (“machines a sous”) were first developed in the 1890’s and many of the most innovative manufacturers were French. There were dozens of varieties, some offered the chance to gamble – roulette, dice, card and ball-in-slot games were all popular – others were designed purely for entertainment with horoscopes, tests of strength, fortune telling, magic lanterns and music-boxes of all types. Particularly popular in bars and cabarets were so-called trade stimulators – machines that encouraged patrons to purchase a particular product, either by automatically dispensing it, or by offering it as a prize in a game of chance.

Dice games like this, with their relatively simple internal mechanism, were amongst the earliest trade stimulators, and were known as “zanzibars” or “zanzi-bars”. Pushing a 5 centime coin into the slot caused the green circular plate inside the glass dome to vibrate vigorously, thus “throwing” the dice. This model, called L’Epatant was manufactured by Charles Barrier in Lyon around 1900, and served as a publicity vehicle for Absinthe Blanqui. There were two ways of playing – either against another patron, or alone against the barman. In the first case, the highest score won, and the loser was required to buy the winner a drink – hopefully, an Absinthe Blanqui! In the second, more usual, scenario a customer played alone against the barman, and depending on the fall of the dice, could win a drink of the value specified on the scorecard. Effectively this was gambling, but since the winnings were paid in the form of a drink, rather than in cash, the anti-gambling statutes of the era were circumvented.

The scoring guide explained the rules of the game, and listed the prices of the drinks that could be won. Although the tariffs look enticingly attractive, in reality, as with all gambling machines, the odds were heavily stacked in favour of the house. It’s statistically most likely that the total score of 5 dice rolled simultaneously will lie in the range 11 to 23 – and it’s generally these numbers, apart from the cunningly included 15, which didn’t pay out, resulting in the patron losing his 5 centimes bet.

The brass coin-slot for this “Zanzibar Automatique”.

Valseuse a Absinthe

The late 19th century was the heyday of the eccentric invention, and few were more so than this clockwork absinthe “spinner”, illustrated in the May 1900 issue of Les Inventions Illustrées, a journal devoted to the latest wonders of science and technology.

It’s not clear whether this “Valseuse” was ever actually manufactured and sold, but to date none have been discovered.
Valseuse a absinthe (voir en tète du journal). Ce curieux dispositif est formé d’une plate-forme munie de pinces qui enserrent très fortement le pied du verre. Le centre de cette plateforme est maintenu sur un point du pourtour d’une petite roue engrenant avec d’autres roues dentées, actionnées par un ressort. Le mouvement de rotation est réglé par de petites ailettes. Lorsque la plateforme se déplace dans sa marcha excentrique, elle entraine le verre et agite l’eau d’un mouvement régulier, donnant le mélange intime de l’eau de fusion de la glace avec la liqueur savoureuse. On obtient par ce moyen ce que les consommateurs délicats nomment une bonne puree.

This curious device consists of a platform provided with clamps which very firmly grip the foot of the glass. The center of this platform is maintained on a point of the circumference of a small wheel geared with other cogged wheels, activated by a spring. The rotational movement is regulated by a small winged winder. When the platform rotates in its eccentric way, it moves the glass and agitates the water in a regular movement, resulting in an homogeneous mixture of water mixed with melted ice and the delicious liquor. One obtains by this means what refined consumers call “une bonne puree” – a good mixture.