Citation: ReturnFormer. "Making It At Home: An Experience with Absinthe (exp38934)". Erowid.org. Dec 13, 2006. erowid.org/exp/38934
A couple years ago I purchased a bottle of Czech absinthe online, but wasnít too impressed with it, and found out that I had bought the low thujone content one by mistake. It tasted good (prepared traditionally first, then by dipping sugar and setting on fire) without much bitterness, but I donít remember really getting any effects other than the alcohol. It may have been a bit different than my normal alcohol buzz, but I don't really remember...
My next experience with absinthe was recently when I tried making my own. I did some research on recipes and experiences, and found one to use as a base recipe, then modified it (being a chef. :)). Unfortunately, probably the best idea that came from the research Iíve done didnít come until after I had already stuck all the wormwood I got into the alcohol, so I havenít had a chance to try this yet, but it seems like it would be very effective for reducing the bitterness. I discovered that the bitterness primarily comes from an alkaloid present in wormwood, which is soluble in either water or alcohol, while the essential oils which contain the thujone are only soluble in alcohol. Thus, if you soak the wormwood in water for a few days before soaking it in the alcohol, it should remove a lot, if not most, of the bitterness, while retaining the thujone. I think that this is an effect somewhat similar (in that it removes certain unwanted things) to what distilling accomplishes, where the temp is kept above the boiling temp of alcohol, but below that of water. I plan to get more wormwood and test this theory... I have also found that red cedar leaf contains more thujone, and a higher percentage of the supposedly more psychoactive alpha thujone. I'm guessing theyíre also much less bitter, so if I can get a hold of some red cedar leaves, Iím going to try to make some Ďabsintheí from them as well.
As mentioned, though, this batch wasnít done like that, and as expected, it was very bitter. The way I prepared it is as follows: I split a bottle of 192 proof grain alcohol into 2 bottles, and added 15 g of wormwood to each and let it sit. I then filtered that and added to it other herbs (anise, coriander, caraway, yarrow, feverfew, angelica, cardamom, hops, etc.) and let that sit more, then filtered it and added an equal amount of arak - 80-100 proof anise flavored liquor. (This one was 80.) To test different lengths of lengths of leaving the wormwood in the alcohol, I removed it in stages.
The first time, I filtered out approx 100 ml from the bottles after 3 days, let that sit with the other herbs for 4 days, then filtered it and added another 100 ml of the arak. It was cloudy (from sediment) and dark green, so I tried filtering it with a tea bag, but that didnít work too well, so I just left it. I tried preparing it traditionally, with sugar cubes and water, but it was still very bitter. Over a 45 min or so, I drank about 100-125 ml of it in 2 glasses, after giving a bit to a couple friends to try. It was definitely different than a normal alcohol buzz, which for me is looseness after a few shots, then drowsiness as I drink more. It probably hit me harder than regular alcohol would have, but I didnít feel tired from it. Just the opposite, I felt energetic a bit, and I think I was feeling a bit violent from it, which I also donít get from alcohol alone.
For the next batch, I filtered the wormwood out of the rest of one of the bottles after it had soaked for a week and added the other spices to it. This time, when I removed the grain alcohol to add the other spices to it, I added 1/2 the bottle of 40% arak to the wormwood, to let it soak in that also. After almost a week, I filtered out about 25 ml of the grain alcohol from the other herbs and added to it 25 ml of 50% arak to fill a small bottle. Again it was cloudy and dark green, so I tried filtering it through a tissue, and this worked pretty good. It was now clear and a lighter green, though still pretty dark. As an interesting side note, I noticed that when just looking at it, it was dark green, but when I held a flashlight right next to it, the direct light from the flashlight seemed to make it appear blood-red for some reason. I'm not sure, but I think the sediment that I filtered out was a combination of chlorophyll, since it became a lighter green, and the bitter alkaloid, since although it was still pretty bitter, it was quite noticeably less bitter than last time, despite soaking in the wormwood longer. This time instead of the traditional way, I drank it mixed with grape juice, approx 1:3 or 1:4 ratio. Like this it had a relatively pleasant taste, followed by a slight bitter aftertaste. Due to the smaller dosage, I couldnít really tell too much about the effects, although it definitely hit me harder than alcohol, and it seemed like if I had had more it would have had better effects.
Two days after that, when the other herbs had soaked in the grain alcohol for a week, I filtered the arak and grain alcohol and combined them as well as adding a bit more 50% arak. I noticed that initially it was clear, then a few minutes after combining them, it was cloudy, so I think this comes from the chlorophyll and alkaloids precipitating out of solution when the alcohol percentage drops. I tried drinking it with hot chocolate first, 50 ml ab mixed in a large cup of it. It was still pretty bitter, worse than with the grape juice. After drinking that, I felt a little 'warm', but that could have just as easily been from the warmth of the hot chocolate. About 30 min later I had another 50 ml, this time mixed with a smaller amount of orange soda. I was doing this while sitting down reading, and while sitting I still didnít feel much, but when I got up and started moving around, I started to feel the effects. It still wasnít like most people describe, but I felt a little drunk without being tired and my mind felt relatively clear for being tipsy, although I usually have a pretty clear mind when I drink, but I think it was a bit clearer than normal.
About 20 min after I finished that I had another 50 ml, mixed with fruit punch and then after a sip I added some cranberry juice to it. I think the cranberry juice covered the bitterness the best of anything I had this time. By now, I was feeling pretty drunk, and also starting to feel a bit sick. I didnít really feel anything else, though. During this last one I started eating dinner, which helped get rid of the bitter taste, but it didnít help feeling sick. I had another 25 ml or so mixed with the punch (for some reason I used that instead of the cranberry) and started to feel even more nauseous. I finished dinner and went back to my room to lay down for a bit before a class, and woke up 3 hours later, only slightly nauseous, and feeling dehydrated from the alcohol.
Iíve still got the other bottle soaking in wormwood. After its been soaking for 2.5 weeks, Iím going to filter it, add the other spices and let it sit for 4 weeks while Iím on vacation, and hopefully that will affect me more. I think Iím going to try making some without the wormwood, and see if that gives the same effects, with a better taste. It doesnít seem like thujone affects me very much, although a friend said that when he had some absinthe (not mine) and whiskey in Germany his friend looked like Alf to him... Like many things, it probably affects some people more than others. It could also be that I take Ritalin, which could inhibit the effects, although I forgot to take it often, and hadnít necessarily taken it when I was experimenting with the absinthe. Iím still probably going to try again and soak the wormwood in water first (which anyone who plans to make their own should do...) but if that doesnít give some better effects, or at least doesnít make me nauseous, then I'll stick to scotch and arak (not together) or wormwood-free Ďabsintheí if it comes out good...
(As another side note, I think the louching comes from the anise, not the wormwood. If I remember right, a few of the others who made their own said it didn't louche, but I think most who said that only put in wormwood. Arak itself louches very nicely, though, going from clear to a milky white when mixed with sprite or seltzer.)
The other bottle which sat for 2.5 then 4 weeks wasnít much better than the first. In fact, I still have most of it left. I gave someone (a Ďtough-guyí who claims to be able to drink a whole bottle of whiskey no problem) a shot or less of it straight without diluting it with water or sugar. He made a face, but kept talking. Two minutes later he was puking all over the sidewalk.
I did try making wormwood-free Ďabsintheí, but it didnít taste quite as good as I had hoped. It has a bit of bitterness, probably from some of the other herbs. Itís not so bad, though, and after adding some vanilla extract and on shot worth of water into the about 700 ml of it I have left, it goes down pretty smooth, aside from the high alcohol content, which is about 65%. As for effect, I think it has a slightly different effect than other alcohol, but not much. Nothing like what absinthe is supposed to do.
I also got more wormwood and tried again, soaking it in water this time. The first time, I soaked the wormwood in water for three days before putting it into grain alcohol. I think it was there for a month or so before I put it into arak and put the other herbs in the grain alcohol. I think they were there for 2 or 3 weeks.
This time I prepared it by first mixing equal parts absinthe and sugar water, then adding a bit of orange, anise (which louched violently) and vanilla extracts. Like this it was relatively decent to drink. Soaking it in water first definitely took away a lot of the bitterness. It didnít seem to take away the thujone, though, as even after having about a shots worth (measured before adding water) I was already starting to feel some effect. Clear(er) thinking, tipsy feeling without feeling drowsy, etc. On another occasion I had about 3 times that amount, but it didnít seem to affect me much stronger. It didnít make me nauseous like the first batch did, though. I think for me at least, this is something to drink lightly to relax or open up, not to get wasted.
I also tried refining the recipe a bit more in a third batch (cause I had more wormwood) but I think this one will be my last. This time I let the wormwood soak in water for a week, changing the water once or twice. Then I put it in the grain alcohol, where it was for about 3 or 4 months. This time I just threw out the wormwood instead of putting it into the arak. I also ground some of the other seeds (like anise, fennel, cardamom, coriander, caraway, etc) a bit before putting them in. As of now, the other herbs have been in the grain alcohol for about a month and a half.
To try it I filtered out a small amount (since its still very concentrated), about 1/4 shot, and mixed it with twice as much of a sweet wine. I was going to put in the extracts, but I forgot. It didnít really need them, though. Even like this it was almost pleasant to drink - only a bit bitter, although it did leave a bit of a bitter aftertaste, which candy corn promptly covered up. All the batches had this aftertaste, though. As for effects, theyíre there, even from this little bit, similar to before. A friend of mine called me shortly after I had had this, and I was much more talkative and upbeat than I usually am. We got into a more Ďdowní topic, though, and I think my mood quickly swung to just as down as I had been high before, and having another similar dose didnít help. I was going to try a bit of an older batch to see how the taste compared but I forgot to. From what I remember this was definitely much less bitter, though...
All in all, if someone wanted to try to make their own, I would recommend the last method I used. It had the best taste and effects. I donít think that Iíll be making it again, though. Iíll just enjoy what I have till itís gone, then go back to regular alcohol. Too much hassle and cost for not enough effect. Probably the best thing that came of all this for me was a great spice mix for soups and stews (the seeds).
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