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J.Stevens

Making absinthe at home

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so i was just wondering if i could make absinthe at home ... i heard that one of the ingredients is worm wood. well the other day i saw some worm wood in a shop i was in and was wondering what else i needed to make it?

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The long answer is "yes" and the short one is "why?" Do you have a driving interest in understanding absinthe so that taking it apart and rebuilding it to see how it works appeals to you or do you just want some absinthe? It would take a lot of knowledge and maybe even equipment (e.g. a still) if you want to make it palatable. With some good and great absinthes available for purchase, you could just buy one and save the time and money. Have you tried many absinthes to get a baseline of what you're after?

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Absinthe is not made via simple infusion. Like gin and aquavit, it is made by infusing a spirit base and then re-distilling the infused spirit. Without a still of some kind, you cannot make absinthe.

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Absinthe is not made via simple infusion. Like gin and aquavit, it is made by infusing a spirit base and then re-distilling the infused spirit. Without a still of some kind, you cannot make absinthe.

I've heard of people doing simple infusions. I've never had it, but from what I gather it's disgusting.

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Absinthe is not made via simple infusion. Like gin and aquavit, it is made by infusing a spirit base and then re-distilling the infused spirit. Without a still of some kind, you cannot make absinthe.

I've heard of people doing simple infusions. I've never had it, but from what I gather it's disgusting.

I don't think this really qualifies as absinthe. Back in the day (ie, before about 3 years ago) much discussion about making absinthe was bandied about on fora such as this, with the more or less unanimous conclusion that infusions are gross (and not representative of the character of absinthe) and distilling is ill-advised for a variety of reasons. With the widespread availability of a decent selection of them now, what would really be the point?

I've done wormwood infusions for bitters-making projects. Although tasting that is educational to help one know what wormwood tastes like, it does not resemble any absinthe I've ever had.


Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

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Several years ago, before legal absinthe was available in the US, my hubby and I did a bunch of research, blended herbs, redistilled them, did infusions and all kind of machinations to make absinthe. The results from all this work was uniformly disgusting.

Then a few months ago, Hubby brought home a real bottle of imported absinthe.

What a revelation!

The drink created a beautiful green faerie in the glass, had a lovely licorice-like aroma and flavor and was easy on the taste buds.

The result was nothing more than a nice drinkers' buzz-not the lyrical, floaty feeling I expected, but nice anyway.

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I've never made it myself, but I've tasted a few sophisticated home-distilled absinthes, and I was one of those who ordered the stuff from overseas before it was relegalized here, going up the scale over the course of the decade as the best stuff got better... La Fee, Un Emile, the Fougerolles, then finally the Jades... the stuff you can get in a good liquor store in the US now is better than a lot of the stuff I imported at ridiculous expense, and that in turn (at least once we got past La Fee) was far better than most of the homebrews. Unless you're really trying to understand absinthe, or unless you're hoping to produce it commercially, AND you're willing to run the considerable legal risk of having a still, why would you bother?


Edited by John Rosevear (log)

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Off topic here, with regard to making the booze, but perhaps interesting to the readers of this thread. There is, in fact, an infusion of fresh wormwood/absinthe (Artemisia absinthium) which is drunk by the gallon: in the winter months in Morocco, mint is thought to be too wet, and too weak, so very often a bunch of fresh wormwood is added to the tea pot instead of the mint. The drill is to actually bring the tea and the absinthe to a boil, and leave it there for a few minutes (it gets much more bitter than the Chinese gung-fu-cha style I usually drink), then drink it with a lot of sugar. Some people just add a few branchlets directly to the cup they're drinking from, and leave it in there to soak. I spent 7 weeks in Fès in the winter, drank quarts of the stuff, and grew to really love the flavor.

The underlying tea is a coarse, strong Chinese green tea targeted directly to the Arab market. The absinthe is both grown commercially, and gathered wild, and is available at every food market, and from street sellers squatting on cloths on the ground, with a few bunches arrayed in front of them.

I've forgotten the name for fresh absinthe in derija, and can't find it in my language course notes. It's also absent from both of my colloquial Moroccan dictionaries, even though it's a word that gets used every time someone sits down for a cup of tea at a restaurant or café. Driving me a little nuts; does anyone know the word?

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In which some topic necromancy is performed ...

 

Notwithstanding the 'why would you?' comments from the original posts in this topic, if one can legally own a still and has both grand and Roman wormwood growing in the garden, the question becomes decidedly more 'why wouldn't you?'.

 

So I did:

 

Absinthe.png

 

A basic absinthe isn't that hard to make.  The process is:

  1. Soak grand wormwood (artemisia absinthum), fennel seeds and aniseed in high-strength neutral spirit for a day or two
  2. Add water to lower the alcohol level and increase the volume
  3. Distil
  4. Colour with Roman wormwood (artemisia pontica), hyssop and lemon balm (I also used some angelica root).

What you see above is the end result as of a couple of hours ago, having started the initial soak on Saturday.  A promising colour, I think you'll agree.  It now needs to sit for several months before bottling (and tasting).  Reports and (I hope) faerie sightings will follow.

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Why pray does it have to sit?  You're all right till you see the faeries out of each eye.  Or they see you.  Beautiful color, Leslie.  Wouldn't the chlorophyll just degrade with time?

 

You've moved me to have a small glass of Jade 1901...OK, a large Baccarat water goblet of Jade 1901, but I didn't fill it full.

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Hi Jo.  I'm glad you were moved, and in such a good direction.

 

I'm unsure of the chemistry, but a number of the infusions, etc. I've made seem to benefit from some resting time.  Maybe there's a beneficial effect from a small amount of oxidation; maybe it's just that the anticipation has grown to a higher level, but whatever it is I'm reasonably satisfied it works.  The gentleman whose gin recipe I base mine on even recommends five weeks' rest for gin after bottling.  I'm not sure I've seen much development there, but certainly some of my other experiments have got decidedly more rich and rounded over time.  Even my vermouth, which I had concluded was a complete disaster, has developed an interesting ginger smell and I can actually sip it without wincing now.

 

Yes, you'd expect the chlorophyll to go brown, but somehow it seems not to, or at least not quickly, in commercial absinthes.  But then, how many do you see in clear bottles?

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Three months on, I decided it was time to bottle and taste (because you've all been wondering, haven't you?).

As Jo predicted, the green has faded (kindly ignore the reflection of my hands in the glass):

 

2016-07-09 Absinthe.png

 

Oddly enough, it's greener in small quantities, like a glass, than in this bulk supply.

 

We have some louche:

 

2016-07-09 Absinthe glass.png

 

I was in too much of a hurry so my water wasn't as cold as I'd have liked.

 

For a first attempt, I'm pretty happy.  Distinctly aniseed, with an interesting note of dried herbs - almost certainly wormwood.  Not as rich in flavour as some absinthes I've had, notably Mansinthe recently, but I think fairly satisfactory (particularly considering the price!).

 

It may now be years before I need to make more, but we'll see.

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For whatever reason - probably the rather wonderful summer we're having - my Roman wormwood (Artemisia pontica), one of the colouring herbs for absinthe, is growing profusely, taller than it's ever been and I'm sure I'm harvesting it a month or two earlier than usual:

Wormwood.png

 

It's an interesting little plant.  It spends most of the year hidden out of sight, then about October or so (southern hemisphere) it starts popping up over a larger area than it had covered the previous season - obviously a bit of root spreading going on, down there in the dirt.  Grand wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) it a much more in-your-face thing, growing rapidly into a robust metre-high bush which threatens to take over the garden and which refuses to be tamed.  I have no concerns about needing to harvest that one early - it's always going to be there when I need it.

 

I'm also growing hyssop and lemon balm this year, both of which look like they're ready to be harvested.  This year's absinthe should be interesting.  I'll let you know, probably around March/April. 

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