Fast growing in popularity, Absinthe is most certainly and acquired taste for many. Some love it (The Pocket Hip Flask Co included), and other despise it. After being banned in so many countries, Absinthe peaked curiosity in many when the ban was lifted. Banned because it became associated with violence and anti-social behaviour many countries were reluctant to allow production again.
It has been said that he actual reason the prohibition started was not due to the effect of the Absinthe, those same effects that we get from most alcohol (minis the marginal hallucinogenic), but due to the fact that it was so popular that other drinks were no longer being bought. Drinks that the governments had shares in..
Who can know for certain with so much hearsay over this delicious drink! All I know is that it is a drink that I enjoy very much when poured from my hip flask.
Drinks such as whiskey, gin and brandy all have rules and regulations to follow when it comes to the production methods. These rules are usually globally defined which all have to follow if they wish to name their drink correctly. When it comes to absinthe however, there are no production or distillation rules that are to this day regulated. Absinthe can be labelled as such without regards to quality standards or any legal definition of how it should be made.
There is actuality one country that does posses a legal definition of Absinthe. Switzerland is that county and, distillation is the way that they choose to produce their Absinthe.
We are lucky in that the Absinthe that we see in our supermarkets etc are all legitimate. The producers of proper, legitimate Absinthe use only one of two historically defined processes. These processes are distillation or, cold mixing.
Distilling Absinthe is similar to the distillation of high quality gin. Chosen botanicals are steeped in a distilled base alcohol. Once incorporated into the base, re-distillation occurs. The re-distillation removes the bitterness from the botanical. It also adds the required complexity and texture to the spirit. The producers can re-distil as many times as they see fit to get the required tastes.
The first distillation produces a clear liquid with an ABV of around 72%. This distillate is what is used for the clear Absinthe that you can find. You may find that on occasion the clear liquid has some artificial colour added before bottling.
The luscious green colour that we all associate with Absinthe comes from the chlorophyll in the plants. There are many botanicals in Absinthe. The three main botanicals are; Grande Wormwood, Green anise and sweet fennel. All which are beautiful on their own, added together with some additional plants like lemon balm and hyssop makes for wonderful flavouring.
The colouring comes out during the second maceration. Additional maceration also adds the complexity of flavours that we know to be high quality Absinthe. The natural green colour shows that the drink is ageing well and the ageing is critical. So critical in fact that before the prohibition, settling tanks were part of the ageing process before bottling. In addition to the green colouring, the chlorophyll serves a similar role in Absinthe that the tannins serve in wine as it remains active throughout the life of the drink.
Cold Mixed Absinthe
This is an inexpensive method of production that does not require distillation. The lack of distillation and costs is the reason that the cold mixed method is the production method of choice for many modern Absinthe’s.
Similar in fashion to most flavoured vodkas, cold mixing involves the simple method of blending flavour essences and colouring to commercial alcohol. Simple as that. You can see why it is cheaper. The costs are much lower when stills are not part of the process. The cold mixing process is the inferior method for producing Absinthe.
Personally, I always tend to find that after I know how my favourite drinks are made, I enjoy them that little bit more. It also helps and gives a little heads up on what to look out for in terms of the best available. I always look for distilled Absinthe. Although a little more expensive, it is worth it!
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