I love antique absinthe glasses. To me, each glass from the Belle Époque is a unique piece of art, with which you can feel and see the skills of the glassblower. The bubbles, inclusions, irregularities, colours, thicknesses, cuts and overall designs testify that absinthe glasses from the 19th and early 20th century are not really reproducible. Don’t get me wrong, I too have modern absinthe glasses at home for my tastings evenings, my favorites are the Pontarlier glass and the Bubble glass, they are great value for money, nicely handblown from original period glasses and they do the job perfectly, even though they’re just missing a soul from the past but I’m being a bit nitpicker here…
I’m not writing here to cry over past times anyway, but to make a bit of clarification on absinthe glasses: What is an absinthe glass? Who really used them? Why there were so many different designs?
Don’t worry, I don’t intend to write a book right now, just a few lines about absinthe glasses, and the ways and customs of their use.
First, you have to know that the most popular absinthe glasses used in Belle Époque bistros were the simplest ones. The Yvonne, Swirl, East, Egg and Mazagran glasses are the ones we see on almost all 19th century photos and postcards. The reason is evident: they were sturdy and multi-usage, which was very convenient for the bartender.
However, “simplest” doesn’t mean unattractive or unimportant. For example, when you start looking at the variety of Egg glasses, you realize how beautiful a simple absinthe glass can be:
So what about Cordon, Pontarlier, Bubble and Cup glasses then?
They’re all part of the “reservoir” family which came a bit later, at the end of the 19th century for most of them, and we believe they were primarily used in bourgeois cafés and restaurants where each glass had a unique use, and sophisticated glasses could afford to be broken from time to time.
Don’t forget however, that absinthe was also consumed at home, by the working class and the middle class. This explains why from time to time, we see pairs or full sets of antique absinthe glasses made of crystal for example.
We still don’t know everything about absinthe glasses. We have a lot more to discover from old documents and photographs. We are still learning, which is part of the fun in my opinion
Don’t forget to pair up your absinthe glasses with absinthe spoons 😉
Marc – Antiques collector and nitpicker