Absinthe in Modern Times
While, Absinthe was banned in most countries in the early 20th century, some others continued the production of "The Green Fairy" in a small scale, such as Spain and Portugal, among a few others. But, we can talk about a modern revival starting with the progressive collapse of the Iron Curtain. It was only after the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 when a Czech entrepreneur named Radomil Hill, who having inherited, from his father, a small distillery dating from the 1920's, decided to start producing Absinthe.
Hill's Liqueurs was founded in 1920 and based in the small Czech town of Brusperk. The distillery produced Radigast, Borovicka, rum and, Absinthe, using Albín Hill's own recipe. Very rare labels or documents have survived that prove the existence of Hill's Absinthe during the 1930's, but the spirit still exists in the memories of the old locals as one of the few references in Czech literature of the period.
Today, Radomil Hill claims that he is using the old family recipe, reviving the "Bohemian Absinthe tradition" and integrating to this the so called Bohemian Absinthe ritual, which involves soaking the sugar cube with Absinthe, and then setting it alight, before plunging the caramelized sugar into the glass. This has been a necessity with Hill's Absinthe, since it apparently contains little if any anise and "louche". However Hill claims that this is the historically authentic alternative to the traditional French ritual.
In the decade of 1930's, these were often only crude approximations of the real drinks that were made from purchased essences. That way a distillery might have made a crème de menthe, a kirschwasser, a Curacao, a "Chartreuse", an anisette, or "Grand Marnier" but only replicas. It could theoretically be possible that Hills also had an "Absinthe" imitation liquor. A price list from an Austrian distillery from such time includes "absynth". It is also known that Absinthe substitutes were produced in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Denmark during the 1950's.
In 1947, Radomil Hill started his own distillery in Valasske Mezirici, in North Moravia. The father and son operation prospered producing specialties such as Absinth, Radigast, a herbal liqueur named after the Slavic God of War, Alpsky Rum, and Zubrovka, a Bison Grass Vodka. However, in 1948, all things changed for the Hill's when the new communist regime began their program of nationalizing every business, resulting that all company land and property were confiscated, including Radomil's own car. Albin Hill was forced to work as a night watchman in his senior years because there was no pension given to him as he was considered a capitalist by the state and he died a broken man.
There is no evidence of a pre-1990 Czech Absinthe produced in the region, since there has not been found any type of price lists, labels, bottles, posters, catalogs, invoices, or nothing else to prove its production in this land. With this panorama, one can say that there was not a widespread Czech "Absinthe tradition" prior to the new Hills product of the late 20th century.
In spite of all this, sales of the blue-green Hills "absinth" took off in the early 1990's, especially in the UK where Hills innovative publicity campaign soon made Absinthe a must-have drink in nightclubs and bars. Other manufacturers in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere soon followed suite, and today this style of "absinth" is made by many eastern European and German producers.
The commercial success of Hills and Absinthe lovers had an unexpected positive side-effect with the tentative rebirth of the French and Swiss Absinthe industry. Following relaxation of the restrictive legislation in both France and Switzerland, there are now a number of French and Swiss producers creating Absinthe. However, many of the modern Absinthes are artificially colored oil-mixes, and most of them of dubious quality.