JOURNAL OF PHARMACY AND SCIENCE ACCESSORIES
BULLETIN DE LA SOCIâTâ DE PHARMACIE DE PARIS
Regarding alpine genepi in the making of Swiss essence of absinthe
By J.-J. Virey
The pleasant aromatic flavor that the Swiss give their wormwood liquor is unmatched by that made anywhere else. This result does not depend on a particular method of preparation, but the plant species they are accustomed to employ. Indeed, our large wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and even the small (Artemisia pontica) do not offer a scent as sweet and fine as that of the genipi or genepi, used by the Swiss for this table liquor.
So it is the choice of species of wormwood that gives the quality and finesse that can distinguish the gourmet, independently of the other ingredients of this composition.
We gathered in Switzerland, mainly in the mountains of the Valais near the snow line, the Dent du Midi, a high peak of over 1200 fathoms above the sea level (2400 meters), the true species of genepi, most prized for its flavor and bitterness that has nothing too unpleasant to the taste.
Although born on rocks exposed to the sharp cold, fragrant alpine herbs are smaller and drier than the same species grown in valleys or plains, and their flavor is better developed and more delicate, as we know. So it is not surprising that they give preferable products. In this respect, the choice of medical or food substances requires the help of botany. Botanists have distinguished several mountain species of this kind, offering quite similar reports, so they can be confusing, but some physical characteristics distinguished with the help of taste, are the most sought.
The true white genepi is Artemisia rupestris and Artemisia mutellina. However, there is a species or variety with an even more delicate fragrance, and it is that which we are presenting: Artemisia vallesiana, well-described by Haller. It is indeed smaller, whiter and downy; it grows near the tops of snowy mountains of the Valais, where it is collected mainly to make the best essence of absinthe. It is neither common nor easy to obtain on the steep rocks and precipices of these mountains. As A. glacialis enjoys approximately the same qualities, it is easy to see how much more enjoyable is the aroma and taste in these species than in all other to be had from the herb shops.
As for the composition of this quintessence, is known that the Swiss favor the addition of volatile oil of anise in alcohol, with the result that the liquid becomes milky when mixed with water. The green color of the liquor also could not be preserved if it was not artificially enhanced by using indigo and turmeric. Several recipes have been published and we will give a more sophisticated one in the fourth edition of our pharmaceutical treatise.
Regarding genepi of Savoy, and the esprit diva of the Italians.
Another plant called genepi is a kind kind of yarrow, Achill¤a moschata, remarkable for its excellent smell, which is yet not musky. It is not as bitter as absinthium, and it makes a good tonic. It is found on many mountains of Dauphiny, like those of Savoy.
Especially in a valley in the canton of Grisons, called the Engadine, there is prepared with the flowering tops of the milfoil and alcohol, an aromatic tincture. We can also draw very refined distilled spirit. These are very popular table liqueurs in Italy, under the name "esprit diva". They are stomachic and less bitter than the previous quintessence.