The History Of Absinthe.
Absinthe was invented in the 1790s by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French Pharmacist living in Switzerland at the time, as a way to kill intestinal tapeworms. The Pharmacist figured that wormwood oil would be even more effective at killing worms if mixed with super high-proof alcohol. Absinthe would be bottled anywhere from 50 to 75% alcohol. To make it taste better if it was primarily flavored with star anise and fennel. In 1912 absinthe was banned for public safety because wormwood oil is dangerous in high doses, and people would begin to hallucinate at toxic levels. LSD had pink elephants, and Absinthe had the green fairy. It was replaced with other anise-flavored alcohols that lacked wormwood oil, and in 2007 the ban was lifted, and Absinthe is legally able to be sold again. This time minus the wormwood.
Absinthe Drip Without A Sugar Cube.
You don’t need a sugar cube if you don’t want to add it, but without some kind of sweetener, an Absinthe Drip is a bit too intense. I wouldn’t recommend not having some sugar added. Simple syrup and plain water will work fine too. The sugar cube does not affect the color of the cocktail and is there to make the high level of oils more palatable. Again this all goes back to when Absinthe was used as an essential medicine, and a common way to make medicine taste better was to add sugar. Also, the drip speed doesn’t matter; add the water fast or drip it slow. I’ve tried not adding sugar before, and it isn’t very good. It tastes like drinking the essential oils you would add to a diffuser. Also, the fountain and spoon are all part of the presentation and more theatrics than necessary to make the drink.
Why Does Absinthe Turn A Milky White Color In Water?
So there is quite a bit of star anise, fennel, coriander, and other wood oils in the absinthe. It’s these oils that give it its intense flavor and also provide its medicinal qualities. Lipids, like oil, are soluble in alcohol because they are very similar molecularly. Likes dissolve likes. Therefore the high percentage of alcohol and low percentage of water can act as a solution to the herb oil and keep them in a clear, evenly suspended solution. Once the alcohol to water ratio drops low enough, as in the case of this cocktail, the strongly hydrophobic oil is repelled by the water and separates from the ethanol molecule. The oil then bonds to other free-floating repelled oils. We perceive these large groups of suspended oil molecules as cloudiness.
Typically the oil molecules will keep bonding together until they form a fat blob of oil (pun intended) that floats to the top, just like a balsamic vinaigrette. This effect is called the Ostwald Ripening effect. But unlike balsamic vinaigrette, Absinthe with water will stay cloudy almost indefinitely. Why? The truth is, scientists, don’t fully know why. This effect is called the Ouzo Effect or Louching. The scientist discovered that at a certain point, the oil molecules stopped bonding together, and these small groups of oil floated evenly away from the surrounding alcohol, water, and other oil groups. And they don’t know why. Some of their guesses are that after the oil molecule broke free of the alcohol molecule, it picked up a slight negative charge. Once enough oil bonds together, the charge is strong enough to push away from the other negatively charged oil groups. Another guess is that maybe the Osmotic pressure kept them from further bonding together. This effect can be observed in any liqueur made from infused oil. The orange liqueur will do the same thing when adding water, Limoncello, essential oils, etc. It’s nothing specific to Absinthe but any oil-infused high-proof solution.
A noncocktail example is dissolving natural lipid-based, saponified soap in water to drive the point home further. Most “soap” these days are detergents and not true soap. Actual chemically correct soap is a combination of oils and glycerol. An easy-to-find natural soap is Dr. Bonner’s liquid Castile soap. Add it to water and see it turn cloudy like absinthe. The oils are bonded to glycerol and alcohol, and when the soap dissolves in the water, it turns a cloudy white color.
Absinthe And The Green Fairy.
Absinthe earned the title of the Green Fairy in the 1800s because of the madness it was said to give those who drank it. This madness was most likely the result of just drinking too many of them and getting blackout drunk, and at 50 – 75% ABV, that’s very easy to do. It is also possible that wormwood is toxic to humans at high enough doses and can bring about psychosis and eventually death. There is a saying that the only difference between a remedy and a poison is quality. It didn’t help absinthe’s image that many artists and social outcasts were fans of this cocktail, and some of their more eccentric behaviors were believed to be the results of drinking too much absinthe. So for better or worse, in 1912, Absinthe was banned in most of Europe and the United States and replaced in many cocktails by the much lower proof anise Liqueur. But if you would like to experience the cocktail that enchanted Oscar Wilde, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and many others, give this simple drink a taste.
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