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Absinthe Chemistry

How to Make Absinthe

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Commercially Prepared Absinthe

Commercially Prepared Absinthe

Thad Demonet

Absinthe is prepared by steeping herbs in a neutral spirit and then distilling the product of the mixture. Wine is the traditional alcohol, called the 'proof spirit' for this process, although vodka is used for some recipes. After the steam distillation, additional herbs are allowed to infuse the distilled spirit, which is then filtered before consumption. Therefore, the steps to preparing absinthe are:

  1. Obtain a neutral spirit. A prepared neutral spirit, such as vodka, could be used, or wine may be distilled to obtain a more concentrated spirit.

     

  2. Add macerated herbs to the proof spirit. Allow the aromatic oils from the herbs to infuse the spirit. The dry herbs are mixed with the wine spirits or vodka or another spirit that is at least 85% ethanol. The maceration is allowed to rest for several days in a cool location out of direct light, shaken occasionally. At the end of this time, the mixture is filtered and added to water (half the volume of water as the amount of proof spirit, e.g., half a liter of water if a liter of alcohol was used).

     

  3. Distill the maceration. The distillation process is essentially the same as that used to make moonshine. The heads and tails, or the liquid obtained at the very beginning and end of the distillation, are discarded. The remaining liquid is collected and reserved. For some absinthe recipes, this is the final product.

     

  4. Traditional green absinthe is prepared by adding more herbs to the distilled product. This step is referred to as 'the finish'. These herbs add flavor and impart the green color to the spirit. After the flavor and color of the finish herbs has been imparted to the spirit, it is then filtered and ready for use.

There are several popular recipes for absinthe...

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