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Jul 13, 2010 09:59 AM

Homemade Pernod / Absinthe

I don't drink Pernod very often so didn't feel like springing $35 for a bottle, but I like to have it around for a Sazerac. For some reason I had some anisette around and had been using that, but it was not quite right.

Also just got back from the Abruzzo region Italy where it seems every makes their own cherry liquor, Gentian digestivo, Licorice digestivo, etc.

I had lots of ingredients leftover from my homemade bitters experiments earlier this year so I decided to give it a whirl. I have some steeping at present; early tasting indicates that I have whipped up something pretty decent.

Nice bitter bite from the wormwood, good anis flavor starting to come through, nice hint of flavor from the other spices also there. It certainly has the right ghostly green color, and does get all milky white with addition of water.

I did a mini batch to start, so we will see how it goes... Please post if you have tried to make anything along these lines.

My recipe for Pernod / Absinthe:

400 ml grain alchohol (purchased in CT where it is legal).

1 Tablespoon wormwood
1 Tablespoon anise seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 1 stick cassia cinnamon
5 clove buds
3 whole star anise
1 tsp cardamon pods
1 tsp coriander seeds

The tricky ingredient to find is the wormwood which I purchased at a store called Artemisia Botanicals and Witches' Weeds in Salem, MA.

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  1. I made something along these lines recently, but with licorice sticks to give some deep earthy flavour.

    1L Vodka
    About 20 inches of licorice sticks,
    20 star anise
    1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    1 tablespoon fennel seeds
    1 teaspoon cardamom tincture (didn;t have any cardamom to hand)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Steve_K

      Interesting, when you say licorice sticks, do you mean the root:

      or the candy?

      If it's the root, it sounds a lot like the Italian Liquirizia liquor.

      How'd it turn out?

      1. re: StriperGuy

        Yes - it's the dried root.

        It doesn't lend much flavour beyond the earthy tones, and with the star anise and fennel it's still what I would consider an anisette rather than a licorice liquour.
        Great louche with water - I like it 1-1 with a little ice.

    2. Keep in mind that absinthes are generally distilled (again) after the infusion, so that the product is less bitter. Some infuse after that distillation step as well.

      I've gotten wormwood off of the Frendzco store on eBay (along with some harder to find ingredients like Tonka Bean). I know that there are other sources online as well.

      5 Replies
      1. re: yarm

        Hey Striper and Yarm, I know you guys both live in the Boston area- I've purchased Wormwood at Modern Brewer, a homebrew shop in Porter Square, Cambridge. They actually have a lot of spices that are useful in bitters and cordial making. Also, don't forget Christina's in Inman Square, I'm sure they carry wormwood there.

          1. re: craigasaurus

            I'll add to the list Harvest Co-op in Central Square, Cambridge. Has gentian, burdock root, angelica root, and lots of other herbs in their bulk aisle.

            1. re: yarm

              That place I have been hitting for herbs, etc. for MANY years. I agree they have a very good selection.

          2. re: yarm

            I will say that the wormwood definitely delivers on the bitter flavor. I originally started with a LOT more and that batch was just way too bitter. I can certainly understand the distillation step if you have the gear...

            A lot of work if you are just making a small batch though.

          3. Unfortunately for your purposes, an inherent bitterness problem reflects alcohol's ability to extract more things than you want from the _Artemisia absinthium_ (common wormwood) leaf. (I know something of absinthe science, posted informational material on this forum over the years.) Incidentally, A. absinthium is easy to find, cheaply: it's one of the more common decorative shrubs, planted all around the US, and also a traditional medicinal herb. Herb sources, such as the bulk sections of "natural foods" markets, sometimes carry the dried leaf.

            Yarm captured the basic issue. Wormwood leaf contains a distinctive bitter component, absinthin (a complex molecule whose full chemical name takes up multiple lines). Absinthin comes out in alcoholic extracts, but not distillates. That's how professionals can tell instantly if an "absinthe" liquor is a true distillate (they're not bitter at all, by comparison) rather than a pure infusion. A decade ago, I happened to taste a complete wormwood extract -- lingeringly, unnervingly, unforgettably bitter from the absinthin.

            A standard biochemical reference book gives absinthin's bitterness strength as 70,000 (i.e. 70,000 times detectable bitterness threshhold -- just like the Scoville measure for hot-pepper heat as a multiple of discernible heat threshhold.) It will easily overwhelm the pleasant herbal flavor components you're seeking from the leaf.

            To put 70,000 in perspective, a pepper with a heat strength of 70,000 is viciously hot -- within the range of Scotch Bonnets and other "hottest" pepper species (they don't get much hotter). All I can suggest offhand is to look for one of the many related "mugwort" or "wormwood" herbs that are much less bitter. Failing that, I might try fresh cooking sage (Salvia officinalis) leaf -- it's a relative whose chemistry considerably overlaps wormwood's, though it has more camphor, which is part of its familiar aroma.

            1. If you do want to go the store bought route, Herbsaint runs about $20/750 and is a perfect substitute for absinthe in the Sazerac.

              2 Replies
              1. re: yarm

                I think I paid about twice that much in New Orleans last month. Perhaps it was not such a good idea to go liquor shopping in the French Quarter?

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  You might have gotten the Legendre which is the original recipe that they just (re)released in December. That one runs $35 and has a higher proof and different label.