The 10 most famous absinthe drinkersBy Amy Hopkins
Absinthe has long had a reputation for causing hallucinations and stoking creativity, which is probably why its most famous drinkers are all artists, writers and poets, even in this day and age.
Its popularity among artistic luminaries throughout history, and particularly within French bohemian circles of the mid to late 19th Century, means that it is a drink forever associated with creativity and aesthetic enlightenment.
While social conservatives condemned the drink and its purported degenerative aspects and psychoactive properties, many others praised absinthe as an artistic stimulant.
However, its excessive use also lead to the ultimate decline of a number of history’s creative geniuses, not before it was immortalised in many a poem, painting and novel, particularly in the work of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
From a 21st Century goth rocker to one of America’s world’s foremost writers and Europe’s most famous painters, these are the 10 most famous absinthe drinkers.
If you think we’ve missed an essential famous absinthe fan off this list, let us know by leaving a comment below.
Marilyn Manson (1969 –)
Goth rocker Marilyn Manson is a modern fan of absinthe, even launching his own Swiss-made brand, creatively called Mansinthe, in 2007 after two years of experimentation.
Developed by Manson, Oliver Matter and Markus Lion, Mansinthe is a classic absinthe distilled from neutral grain alcohol and herbs. The label on the bottle even features an original artwork by Manson, entitled “When I Get Old”.
Although Manson has claimed that the reason he launched his own brand of absinthe was because he was “drinking so much of it”, he now claims that he doesn’t consume very much Mansinthe as it is “too strong” for him.
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
Famed author Oscar Wilde, who penned such masterpieces as The Picture of Dorian Gray, is speculated to have indulged in the green fairy and depicted the spirit’s purported psychoactive and degenerative properties in his works of fiction.
He is also thought to have said: “After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde depicts his eponymous protagonist as a keen partaker in Victorian hedonism, indulging in opium and absinthe at the seedy London Docklands.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
One of the world’s most revered artists, Vincent Van Gogh, is thought to have enjoyed his fair share of absinthe in his lifetime.
The Dutch impressionist painter suffered with bouts of severe mental illness throughout his life, ailments which are thought to have been aggravated by alcohol consumption, particularly absinthe.
The artist also seemingly believed that alcohol affected his work. In a letter written to a friend in 1890, Van Gogh said: “Besides, it is a certain fact that I have done better work than before since I stopped drinking, and that is so much gained.”
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1953)
One of the world’s greatest writers and Nobel Prize winner Ernst Hemingway, author of A Farewell to Arms, is also one of the world’s most famous absinthe fans.
He continued to enjoy the spirit despite its ban in numerous parts of the western world, most likely in Spain or Cuba, reports claim.
For Hemingway, art often imitated life and absinthe featured prominently in a number of his works, including For Whom The Bell Tolls and Death in the Afternoon. This novel is also the name of a famous cocktail – a mix of absinthe and Champagne said to have been created by Hemingway.
Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896)
Eminent French poet Paul Verlaine was a notorious fan of absinthe, a love which would ultimately lead to his decline.
After starting a stormy love affair with fellow French poet Arthur Rimbaud, whom he eventually shot, Verlaine’s alcoholism escalated. Despite his recognised poetic genius, he died in poverty, damning absinthe on his deathbed.
In one of his last works, Confessions, Verlaine said that absinthe was a “horrible drink” and one which should be “suppressed” by governments.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891)
Verlaine’s intellectual and sexual companion Arthur Rimbaud joined him in regular absinthe and hashish binges – fuelling their torrid affair.
Though absinthe was rarely mentioned in Rimbaud’s work, in “Comédie de la Soif” (“Comedy of Thirst”), he says: “Wise pilgrims, let us reach / The Absinthe with its green pillars.”
Rimbaud was shot by Verlaine during a violent argument, injuring his left wrist. He survived and renounced poetry and absinthe for the military.
Edouard Manet (1832 – 1893)
In 1859, revered French painter Édouard Manet created his first major work, called “The Absinthe Drinker”, depicting alcoholic rag-picker who frequented the area around the Louvre in Paris.
The painting caused something of a scandal as people were offended by the realist, seedy image, particularly since concern was rising about the enjoyment of absinthe among Parisian bohemians.
Though no explicit evidence has been found suggesting Manet indulged in drinking absinthe himself, it is generally thought he would have experienced the green fairy.
Charles Cros (1842 – 1888)
Painter, musician, poet, chemist, and inventor, Charles Cros – who helped develop telegraph and Paleophone technology – was a notorious absinthe drinker.
He was also befriended by Velaire and Rimbaud, a relationship which possibly strengthened his love of absinthe. His poem, “Lendemain”, immortalises his fondness for the drink.
He was said to have, on occasion, consumed up to 20 glasses of absinthe a day and was a regular visitor of legendary absinthe cafes in France.
Alfred Jarry (1873 – 1907)
Renowned for his love of absinthe, as well as his eccentric works, dramatist and satirist Alfred Jarry was another notorious frequenter of Parisian absinthe cafes.
So much did he love the spirit, he allegedly rode through a town on his bicycle with his face painted green in celebration of the joys of absinthe.
He died in 1907 after suffering tuberculosis, aggravated by drug and alcohol use.
Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867)
One of France’s most famous poets and essayists, Charles Baudelaire is known to have enjoyed his fair share of absinthe, producing a poem called “Get Drunk!” which mentions the spirit.
He had an extravagant lifestyle typified by excess despite his financial difficulties. He smoked opium, used laudanum and drank heavily, eventually suffering a massive stroke in 1866 causing him to become semi-paralysed.