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