The precise origin of absinthe is unclear. According to popular legend, absinthe began as anall-purpose patent remedy created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Couvet, Switzerland, around 1792. Ordinaire's recipe was passed on to the Henriod sisters of Couvet, who sold absinthe as a medicinal elixir.
Absinthe's popularity grew steadily until the 1840s, when absinthe was given to French troops as a fever preventative. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe with them, and it became popular at bars and bistros.
By the 1860s, absinthe had become so popular that in most cafes and cabarets 5 p.m. signaled l'heure verte (“the green hour”). Still, it remained expensive and was favored mainly by the bourgeoisie and eccentric bohemian artists. By the 1880s, however, the price had dropped significantly, the market expanded, and absinthe soon became the drink of France; by 1910 the French were consuming 36 million litres of absinthe per year.