How Absinthe Is Made
Interestingly, the manufacturing process for producing absinthe is very similar to gin. Indeed, it is produced by using botanicals that are steeped or macerated in a distilled alcohol base and then redistilled.
Although some cheaper brands will use grain or potato-based alcohol, traditional absinthe is redistilled from white grape spirit or eau de vie. After the distillation, the resulting distillate is colourless. Occasionally, it is immediately bottled, which produces clear or white “blanche” absinthe.
That said, it is often steeped with botanicals during a secondary maceration. This additional process will use the herbs’ chlorophyll to impart the distillate with a green tint. However, it also provides a rich and harmonious herbaceous complexity, which is a characteristic of premium absinthe.
Furthermore, the chlorophyll is still chemically active. Therefore, the added chemical compound may perform like oak tannins to age the spirit. After this ageing process is completed, the absinthe is then diluted with distilled water to the desired concentration and bottled.
Interestingly, a hallmark of naturally-coloured absinthe is its sensitivity to light. If exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods, the chlorophyll’s green hue will slowly turn brown.
Referred to as “feuille morte”, this process used to regarded favourably. However, long-term storage and ageing should take place in a dark environment. Similarly, absinthe should never be stored in a refrigerator as this may cause the anethole to polymers, which creates sediment that affects the flavour.
What Is Absinthe Made Of?
Almost all premium absinthe will use what is referred to as the Holy Trinity of botanicals:
- Grand Wormwood/Artemisia Absinthium
- Green Anise
- Florence Fennel
As discussed in our introductory guide, artemisia absinthium is the infamous herb that experienced a long period of vilification. Interestingly, absinthe is also one of the main ingredients for producing vermouth.
Other common ingredients include coriander, veronica, peppermint, angelica, lemon balm, and hyssop. Occasionally, star anise may also be used to produce absinthe. However, this ingredient is best associated with pastis and ouzo.
Absinthe Alcohol Volume
Given that there are no global standards for the production of absinthe, its alcohol volume can significantly vary between producers and different countries. Typically, absinthe will be somewhere in the 45 to 75% ABV range.
Meanwhile, Bohemian absinth brands, which we cover below, pride themselves in strong spirits of between 85% to 30% ABV. However, there’s aren’t traditionally regarded as genuine absinthe.
Different Types Of Absinthe & How They Taste
Arguably, there are only two types of absinthe as well as a potential third variety:
- Absinthe Verte: Green Absinthe
- Absinthe Blanche: White or Clear Absinthe
- Rosinette: Red Absinthe
Overall, the most popular types of absinthe by far are either green or clear absinthe. These are initially produced by following the same method as described above where clear absinthe is simply bottled earlier in the process.
Interestingly, clear absinthe became popular among clandestine “Hausgemacht” distillers in Switzerland during its prohibition. Referred to simply as “la bleue”, it was easier to hide from the authorities and has even survived green asbinthe’s reintroduction.
Nevertheless, absinthe can be produced in a variety of colours. For instance, red absinthe or “rosinette” was introduced during the early 20th century and is slowly making a comeback. Similarly, amber absinthe is another variety that is produced using herbs and spices such as saffron.
As long as the resulting colour is naturally achieved through a secondary maceration, the spirit can be considered genuine absinthe no matter the resulting colour. However, it’s essential to be wary that the colours weren’t artificially produced.
Finally, another modern variety of absinthe is “Bohemian-style absinth.” This Czech-style absinthe omits the final letter to differentiate itself from the original product. It bears little resemblance with absinthe as it does not use anise, fennel or other herbs aside from wormwood.
Having now learned about how absinthe is made and the different varieties, why do you read more about the mysterious spirit?