Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. It achieved great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th- and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers. Due in part to its association with bohemian culture, absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists. Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Aleister Crowley were all notorious absinthe drinkers. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as "la fée verte" (the Green Fairy).
Absinthe proved a great leveler in class-conscious Europe. Once beloved by the aristocracy, it moved through society with a freedom that was its own. At cafes from Paris to Prague, absinthe was drunk by artists and labourers, butchers and bankers. Astonishingly for the time, even genteel womenfolk freely enjoyed the elaborate absinthe ritual in public.
Glorious New Orleans indeed embraced the Green Fairy with a particular affection. Here, absinthe took off in 1869, when the Aleix brothers opened a bar named the "Old Absinthe House"at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets in the French district.
The Absinthe Room attracted an impressive list of visitors, including presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Aaron Burr, William Thackeray, Jenny Lind and Oscar Wilde. In 1918, Aleister Crowley, the British magician, proclaimed: "Art is the soul of life and the Old Absinthe House is the heart and soul of the old quarter of New Orleans."