In the heart of the
French Quarter, at the corner of Bourbon Street and Bienville,
sits the stuff that legends are made of -- The Old Absinthe
Many celebrities have been welcomed through our doors in the
nearly two centuries since its opening -- including Oscar
Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Enrico Caruso,
General Robert E Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Liza Minelli and
Frank Sinatra. Indeed, the walls throughout this incredible
building are covered in the framed photographs of several
of our famous patrons.
The building endures the name of Jean Lafitte's because of
the rumored meeting of the Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew
Jackson as they planned the victory of the battle of New Orleans
on the second floor (now the newly-renovated Jean Lafitte's
Bistro). In fact, many of those who work here will be
happy to share their Jean Lafitte Ghost Stories with you!
Built in 1806, this building was erected by Pedro Front and
Francisco Juncadelia of Barcelona to house their importing
firm. For the next forty years, trade continued in the
bartering of food, tobacco and Spanish liquor ... a sort of
early "corner grocery."
In 1815, the ground floor was converted into a saloon known
as "Aleix's Coffee House" and was run by the nephews of Senora
Juncadelia. This coffee house was later rechristened "The
Absinthe Room" when mixologist Cayetano Ferrer created the
famous Absinthe House Frappe here in 1874. (more
about this now illegal liquor)
To this day, The Old Absinthe House still has the decorative
marble fountains that were used to drip cool water over sugar
cubes into glasses of Absinthe.
The original Old Absinthe House bar was to be destroyed at
the start of Prohibition - as a powerful message to proprietors
and others that Absinthe was to be abolished from the United
States and would not be tolerated.
bar was removed from the Absinthe House and moved under cover
of darkness to a warehouse on Bourbon street in order to save
it. (This warehouse became known as "The Absinthe House Bar"
until the actual bar was returned to its home in early
2004. It is now known as the Mango, Mango daiquiri shop.)
| The bar is
again part of this historical building after a 3
million dollar renovation returning it to its turn-of-the-century
splendor. It is now operated by Tony Moran, himself
the son of a New Orleans legend -- "Diamond Jim" Moran.
The building now houses Tony Moran's Restaurant and Jean
Lafitte Bistro .. and the front room is still the
tavern known as Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House!
our business is with the heart of things; we must go
beyond the crude phenomena of nature if we are to dwell
in the spirit. Art is the soul of life and the Old Absinthe
House is the heart and soul of the old quarter of
For those not familiar with Absinthe, it is a liquor made from,
among other things, wormwood. It is said to have a bitter,
licorice flavor and is greenish/chartreuse in color. Originally
brought to popularity in Europe, Absinthe found quite a following
here in New Orleans ... the little Paris of the New World.
Of course, when in New Orleans, the Absinthe House was the favorite
spot for those who wished to imbibe the spirit.
Absinthe was a favorite drink of many, many famous people, particularly
artists and writers who found inspiration in their Absinthe-induced
stupor. It is said that Edgar Allen Poe's writings were
essentially under the influence of nearly fatal mixtures of
absinthe and brandy. It was said that Poe transformed
himself into the "enchanted spaces of the unreal."
As it turns out, Absinthe was indeed a dangerous substance,
as the wormwood used for making it had narcotic properties.
The consumption of Absinthe was associated with hallucinations,
delirium, madness and even death. It is further rumored
that Jack the Ripper, an unknown killer of a number of prostitutes
in 1888, went mad through his addiction of Absinthe. Consequently,
it was outlawed in the United States in 1912.
Since Absinthe is no longer legally manufactured in the United
States, there are several legal substitutes for it. Some
of these are Ojen, Pernod Fils, Anisette and Herbsaint.
Herbsaint, which is produced by a company here in New Orleans,
features a picture of the Old Absinthe House building on their
label. Naturally, it is the Absinthe substitute that we use
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OLD ABSINTHE HOUSE
240 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-3181 or (504) 523-0103
Fax (504) 410-0750