By Marcel R. Dion and Alison Sheehan-Dion, 2016
Mars is a lover of high quality, traditional Absinthe from Europe. If you have only had the lower quality stuff from U.S. liquor stores, or the stuff from the Czech Republic that is sold as Absinthe, you are in for a treat when you finally try a high end, traditionally made Absinthe!
Before you read any further you should know a couple of important facts:
- Absinthe, REAL absinthe, is made using a still. The process requires that you first distill white wine to make 'eu de vie', then mascerate herbs in the resulting alcohol and re-distill the product after the herbs and alcohol have had time to steep.
- The measurements in the recipe below are based on a specific volume of alcohol, that resulted from distilling a specific amount of wine. If your wine ferments at a higher alcohol, the measurements will be different. If you use store bought wine, the measurement will be different. Basically, I can almost guarantee, the measurement will be different.
- There will be math invovled in this process.
- There will be some cost, to purchase a still, a few home brewers items, a wine kit or wine and some herbs.
The following is the first recipe, resource guide and supplemental instructions we are publishing. We will update if we learn more that we think you'd find useful. Mars used the following to create his first home distilled Absinthe. If you like this, link to it. We will have a You Tube video up soon and linked here, to show results of our labors!
Recipe: (this is what we used)
1 grand cru 'Chamblaise' wine kit
1 (1.5 liter) bottle Zenka 100p Vodka
25 g Grand Wormwood per liter of alcohol (flavor herb)
53 grams green anise seed per liter of alcohol (flavor herb)
53 grams Florence Fennel per liter of alcohol (flavor herb)
10 grams Hyssop - total (used for color)
5 grams of Lemon Balm - total (used for color)
First, you must make the wine kit per directions. This will take around 4 weeks, and give you between 23-30 bottles of wine once completed. See the resource section for places to buy wine kits and other helpful links.
Second, you need a still! See the end for a great online resource for buying a still for home use. I use a pot still.
Now t's time to distill the wine!
Some information about distilling:
- You should use copper mesh packing in the neck of the still. This must be purchased separately, but they sell it at the same place where I got my still. If you don't use this, your end result will be inferior.
- Your first distillation should yeild alcohol at around 40-60%.
- You should read up on using a still BEFORE you try to make Absinthe. You may want to try and distill something basic first.
- For a 5 gallon batch, you will have to discard the first 6oz or so of alcohol. This is wood alcohol and that is the stuff that made people blind in prohibition! So really, throw it out!
- For a how to on using your still, see the resources at the bottom. I used a couple of great books on distilling that walked me thorugh quite well and list them below.
After you distill the wine, you will add the 1.5 liter bottle of Vodka to the alcohol, then re-distill the whole thing. This is necessary to get you up to sufficient volume and bring you to the level of alcohol required to make Absinthe (somewhere in the 79-80% area).
Now you have finished your second distillation and you are the proud owner of some extremely strong alcohol. This is not useful in its present form, but it will be.
Next you will need to grind the flavor herbs mentioned above, in the correct proportions for the volume of alcohol you have produced. Use an inexpensive coffee grinder to grind the herbs into fine powder. Make sure there's no coffee in the griner first!
Once the herbs are powdered, add them to your alcohol, and allow them to sit from 1-3 days, depending on you flavor preference. We did this for 2 days our first time out and were extremely pleased with the end result.
Decant the Plant Material and Distill again!
After the above is done, strain the herbs out of your alcohol. We used old sheets that we tore up to make filters and poured the alcohol through them, and a kitchen strainer.
Cut the alcohol to 65% using water for your third and final distillation. You will be using an alcohol meter for alcohol readings as discussed in the books on distilling. NOTE: This is NOT the same thing as a hydrometer used in home brewing. This is a separate piece of equipment.
Now you are ready to do your last distillation run. Pour the 65% alcohol (which is now tinted kind of brownish green) into the still and over LOW heat, distill it again. You will set aside the first 400 ml of this last distillate for your coloring. Then collect the rest.
NOTE: There will likely be some remaining sludge in the bottom, so be careful not to burn the still. You will likely loose a little on the bottom to avoid burning the bottom of the still.
The output from the last distillation will once again be clear. Now is when you use color herbs to make the signature green color in your Absinthe.
Grind up the remaining herbs - hyssop and lemon balm in the coffee grinder, and add them to the first 400 ml of alcohol that you set aside in the step above. The coloring herbs will steep in this 400 ml of alcohol for 1 day, and decanted the alcohol from the plant material. Then, we let it settle for 3 more days to clarify. At the end of the 3 days, we filtered out the remainder to ensure a clear result.
Finally, combine the colored alcohol with the rest of the clear distillate from the last run of the still. We're almost there!
Get a reading from an alcohol meter, it will show you the total alcohol of your combined results. USe water to cut it to between 65-75% final alcohol by volume. We shot for 68% and it turned out perfect.
REMEMBER: You do not drink this stuff straight out of the bottle! This is intended to be cut from somewhere between 4-5 to 1 with ice water and if desired, have a sugar cube melted into it in the process. Then it tastes lovely. This is in our You Tube video.
Books on Distilling:
Links are to Amazon. These are all available on Kindle too.
The Home Distiller's Workbook, by Jeff King
The Joy of Home Distilling, by Rick Morris
How to Make Absinthe at Home, by Israel Moore
Distilling Your Own Absinthe, by Randy Horton
Distillation & Home Brew Suppliers
Kettle to Keg - Home Bew & Wine Making Supplies
Herbs for Absinthe Making
Mountain Rose Herbs - This is where we get most of our herbs, including grand Wormwood.
NESeed.com - This is where we get Florence Fennel.
Buy High Quality Absinthe All Made
Absinthes.com - This is a German site that will sell high quality Absinthes and ship them to the U.S. Right to your door! ; )
For Absinthe WAres, including glasses, spoons and fountains please see our Absinthe Page!