Fraternal Attacks

From the 1870’s onwards, the temperance campaign against absinthe intensified. Rival manufacturers of other drinks – quinquinas, fortified wines, herbal tonics – rather than standing by the beleaguered absinthe manufacturers in a spirit of fraternal solidarity, sought to capitalize on the campaign to demonize La Fée Verte, usually by contrasting the alleged health giving virtues of their products with the claimed deleterious effects of absinthe. In some cases, apéritifs were specifically created to attack the absinthe market – an example is shown below: Eucalypsinthe was an absinthe-like drink with the wormwood replaced rather bizarrely with eucalyptus leaves.

A promotional leaflet for the absinthe-substitute Eucalypsinthe, printed for the Universal Exhibition in 1878, where the product was displayed in the Tasting Pavilion. In a classic example of the pseudo-scientific style popular with late 19th century advertisers, the text on the reverse expounds at tremendous length on the alleged marvellous health-giving properties of the drink (not just stimulating the digestion and the appetite, but even helping to cure cholera!), and contrasts them to absinthe, which it finds “Dimunue l’appétit, trouble la digestion, pervertit l’intelligence et le raisonnement, abolit la mémoire et amène la dégradation morale, en surexcitant tout le système nerveux.”


A print advertisement from Le Courier Français for a poster advertising La Kolamarque, a cola based apéritif marketed as a healthy alternative to absinthe.Notice the Grim Reaper with his hand on the bedraggled absinthe drinker’s shoulders, while the dapper Kolamarque drinker is watched by a beautiful half-naked woman.

A lithographed tin advertising sign (44 x 20cm) for La Morarde, an apéritif produced by the Bonal distillerythat appears to have targeted both the absinthe and the Chartreuse markets.

Designed for the very largest billboards or outdoor display areas, oversized large format posters were assembled from multiple sheets (the size of each individual sheet was a function of the size of the lithographic stone used to print it). This type of poster had a particularly low survival rate as they were cumbersome to display and store, and were generally not documented and preserved by contemporary collectors. Shown is a 1.32m x 2.07m two-sheet horizontal format poster for St Raphael Quinquina, contrasting the purported healthy properties of the drink with the dangers of absinthe. Like many liquor manufacturers St Raphael capitalized on the temperance campaign against absinthe by positioning their products as a healthy tonic-like alternative.

The two absinthe drinkers are thin and sickly, and accompanied by a lady of easy virtue.

The bourgeois family ordering St Raphael Quinquina are the picture of health and respectability, with even the youngest daughter clapping her hands with glee at the waiter’s arrival.

Other manufacturers also rushed to exploit the prevailing anti-absinthe hysteria – In the picture below the drinker of Byrrh (a quinine based tonic wine), kicks away a ghostly figure with an absinthe.