the secondary or "coloring" maceration. The distillation of wormwood, anise, and Florence fennel first produces acolorless distillate that leaves the alembic at around 82% alcohol. It can be left clear, called a
(used for bootleg Swiss absinthe), or the well-known green color of the beverage can be imparted either artificiallyor with chlorophyll by steeping petite wormwood, hyssop, and melissa in the liquid. After this process, the resultingproduct is reduced with water to the desired percentage of alcohol. Over time and exposure to light, the chlorophyllbreaks down, changing the colour from emerald green to yellow green to brown. Pre-ban and vintage absinthes areoften of a distinct amber color as a result of this process.Nontraditional varieties are made by cold-mixing herbs, essences or oils in alcohol, with the distillation processomitted. Often called "oil mixes", these types of absinthe are not necessarily bad, though they are generallyconsidered to be of lower quality than properly distilled absinthe and often carry a distinct bitter aftertaste.Alcohol makes up the majority of the drink and its concentration is extremely high, between 45% and 89.9%,
though there is no historical evidence that any commercial vintage absinthe was higher than 74%. Given the highstrength and low alcohol solubility of many of the herbal components, absinthe is usually not imbibed "straight" butconsumed after a fairly elaborate preparation ritual.Historically, there were five grades of absinthe:
(which does notdenote origin), in order of increasing alcoholic strength. Most absinthes contain between 60% and 75% alcohol. It issaid to improve materially with storage. In the late 19th century, cheap brands of absinthe were occasionallyadulterated by profiteers with copper, zinc, indigo plant, or other dyes to impart the green color, and with antimonytrichloride to produce or enhance the
effect. It is also thought that the use of cheaper industrial alcohol andpoor distillation technique by the manufacturers of cheaper brands resulted in contamination with methanol, fuselalcohol, and similar unwanted distillates. This addition of toxic chemicals is quite likely to have contributed toabsinthe's reputation as a hallucination-inducing or otherwise harmful beverage.
German for homemade (often abbreviated HG), also called clandestine, hausgemacht absinthe is home-distilled byhobbyists and thus illegal in most countries. Mainly for personal use and not for sale, clandestine absinthe isproduced in small quantities allowing experienced distillers to select the best herbs and fine-tune each batch.Clandestine production got a major boost after the ban of absinthe when small producers went underground,especially in Switzerland. Although the Swiss produced both vertes and blanches before the ban, clear absinthe(known as La Bleue) became popular as it was easier to hide. Though the Swiss ban was recently lifted, manyclandestine distillers have yet to become legal; the authorities believe high taxes on alcohol and the mystique of being underground has kept many from seeking a license.
Those that have become legal often still use the"clandestine" moniker on their products. HG absinthe should not be confused with absinthe kits.
There are numerous recipes for homemade absinthe floating around on the Internet, many of which revolve aroundsoaking or mixing a kit or store-bought herbs and wormwood extract with high-proof liquor such as vodka orEverclear. Even though these do-it-yourself kits have gained in popularity, it is simply not possible to produceabsinthe without distillation. Absinthe distillation, like the production of any fine liquor, is a science and an art andrequires expertise and care to properly manage.Besides being unpleasant to drink and a pale impression of authentic distilled absinthe, these homemade concoctionscan sometimes be poisonous. Many of these recipes call for the usage of liberal amounts of wormwood extract oressence of wormwood in the hopes of increasing the believed psychoactive effects. Consuming essential oils will notonly fail to produce a high, but can be very dangerous. Wormwood extract can cause renal failure and death due toexcessive amounts of thujone, which in large quantities acts as a convulsive neurotoxin. Essential oil of wormwoodshould never be consumed straight.