Another GREAT website selling original absinthe wares is Absinthe Originals.
They often get asked about the uses and
origins of topettes in the ol' days. So here is a little bit on the history of topettes!
Origins and uses of topettes "Topette" is the French name for a glass flask. Kind of. Originally, in the 18th century, a topette was a small narrow bottle, made for carrying alcohol discreetly anywhere. In the 19th century, topettes became little carafes with
delimited doses; each dose being indicated either by an etched or
enamelled number, or by a prominent fold. They were then called "carafons diviseurs" in French glassworks
catalogues, which you could translate into "small divider carafes":
circa 1900 catalogue from the Croismare glassworks
Their use was quite simple: an absintheur could stay all afternoon
seated in a bistro with only 3 things on his table: a glass, a carafe
filled with ice-cold water, and a topette (and sugar for people with a
sweet tooth of course). Once he had finished, all the bartender had to
do was to count the number of absinthe doses missing in the topette and
give him the bill.
postcard showing topettes on a French bar (collection of Scott MacDonald)
We believe that topettes were also used at home. Instead of buying a
full bottle, absintheurs could buy 5, 8 or 10 doses of absinthe at the
bistro's just round the corner.
As I was saying earlier, I’ve added more topettes on Absinthe
Originals, but I'd like to bring your attention on one in particular: a
very ingenious topette with a phial-stopper: The principle is quite simple: you turn the topette upside-down, so
that the phial fills itself with absinthe. No worry about losing any
drop of absinthe, the stopper stays in place tightly, no leakage. Then
you turn the topette the right way up and thanks to a spectacular
magical trick - hmm, in fact it's just physics - the phial remains
filled and you can take it off the topette with, again, no risk of
leakage. Here you are with your absinthe dose which you can drink neat (ouch!) from the phial, or pour into your glass!
Hope you enjoyed reading about the use and history of topettes. You can
find them all (etched, enamelled or with folds) - together with the
newly found lion pitcher and dual-mouth carafe - on Absinthe Originals.