The Science Of Why Absinthe Gets Cloudy When Mixed With Water Explained

Posted on2023-04-14 by

Why Does Absinthe Get Cloudy When Mixed With Water?

Absinthe is among the most enigmatic alcoholic beverages available. It is a fabled elixir that is said to induce hallucinations that would inspire romantic authors and painters of the industrial period as well as drive those who overindulged mad. But like many famous herbaceous drinks, absinthe was first created as a tonic for therapeutic purposes before the sensationalized fear of the green fairy swept through Europe and ignited the temperance movement in America.

Greeks utilized the mixture of wormwood-infused wine or spirits to heal digestive disorders and facilitate childbirth throughout the history of absinthe. Up until the late 1800s, when absinthe began to be associated with the moral deterioration and decline of French and Swiss culture, elixirs with wormwood as the main ingredient were actually used medicinally. Absinthe was vilified for its appeal to freethinkers and individuals who adhered to a bohemian lifestyle during a time when nationalism was sweeping through Europe and reviving the industrialization of society.

Absinthe exhibits "idea-changing liquid alchemy" qualities as well as a visible chemical transformation that only adds to the elixir's mystique. Certain absinthes react when combined with water in a process known as the louche or ouzo effect, turning the once-clear emerald solution milky and opaque.

What Makes Some Absinthe Turn Cloudy When Water is Added?

Wormwood, anise, and fennel, the holy trinity of herbs, are dissolved in the absinthe during the distillation process to create absinthe. Here is where science enters the picture. The holy trinity of herbs' essential oils are separated by the addition of water, which results in the milky tint. Drinking absinthe is more enjoyable when water is added because it unlocks the flavors and aromas of the plants utilized.

The spirit contains ingredients that are not soluble in water (mostly fennel and star anise), and the hydration causes them to drop out of solution with the alcohol, turning the drink hazy with a milky opaqueness known as the louche. This is the most straightforward explanation for the louche.

Thus pronounced cloudiness is an indication of a strong presence of star anise in the absinthe. A louche, however should never be considered a sign of quality.

The interaction of ethanol, water, and hydrophobic oils (especially anethole, which is present in fennel and anise seed) that give absinthe its flavor is what causes it to louche. As a molecular social butterfly, ethanol can bind to almost anything, including water and oil simultaneously. A liquor looks clear and crystalline when it is in homeostasis (the water, oils, and ethanol are in equilibrium). The equilibrium is upset as more water is infused into the mixture, though. A haze, like the result of shaking an oil and water bottle, is produced when the oils that were previously bonded in the ethanol separate from the water.

Yet, the opaque spirit doesn't split when it settles, unlike shaken oil and water. Instead, a procedure known as spontaneous emulsification keeps the separated oil particle fragments floating in the solution.

Although it happens in various fennel and anise-flavored alcoholic beverages, including ouzo and sambuca, this effect is more potent in absinthe due to the stark color contrast of the bright green absinthe changing to a milky solution with an unsettling green tint. The molecular restructuring of the bonds between the molecules of ethanol, fusel oils, and water that we see occurring during this process is known as nanoemulsion. Anise oils that have been dissolved create small droplets as a result of this nanoemulsification, scattering light and turning the beverage opaque.

Because of this, absinthe will remain cloudy for months after being blended. It's about as strange as if you dropped a few handfuls of sand into a pool and it remained foggy all summer.

Absinthe Original's Handcrafted Small-Batch Absinthe

Our absinthe is authentic, made according to a traditional Swiss recipe. Grand wormwood, anise, and fennel are required ingredients for an absinthe to be deemed authentic. Before bottling, an absinthe must be completely strained, unsweetened, and free of any artificial coloring. Stick only to the distilled beverage, just like with gin.

Because Bohemian-style absinthe recipes use significantly less anise and fennel than traditional absinthe recipes, the majority of our products do not "louche" when water is added. The entire Absinthe Original line becomes slightly cloudy, but there is no louche, or strong milky opalescence. It has no effect on quality whatsoever. Because French or Spanish absinthes are generally sweeter and full of anise, when mixed with water, they become more opaque. Even low-quality, thujone-free absinthe that has been macerated can louche.

Your own preference will determine how much water to add to your absinthe. Because you can choose how much water is added, absinthe fountains make pouring water simple and very entertaining. Another quick technique to add water to your absinthe for the louche effect is from a carafe or jug.

Does Absinthe Taste Like Licorice?

If the licorice flavor of green anise in absinthe isn't your cup of tea, that's okay too. Yet, a truly excellent absinthe will also have other herbal notes that are blended with the anise, creating a bittersweet spirit that tastes like licorice and herbs. In addition to green anise, sweet fennel, great wormwood, and other herbs including hyssop, angelica, and peppermint are also found in absinthe.

Absinthe can either be colorless or green. A green absinthe may be synthetically green or have that hue as a result of the natural plants used in its manufacture. An authentic absinthe will have a light olive-green color.

Absinthe is commonly referred to as a liqueur, but as it doesn't include any additional sugar, it's actually more appropriately labeled a spirit.

What Makes Absinthe Green Color?

So how does absinthe acquire its emerald hue? Are green fairies imprisoned in the bottles till the liquid turns a seductive shade of green due to their dust? Wormwood, anise, and fennel are a few of the botanicals that go into making absinthe. The liquid is packed with the traits and oils of the herbs when these lively herbs are distilled with the alcohol basis. The following step is to continue adding herbs to the spirit while waiting for the chlorophyll in the leaves to intensify the color. In this step, the herbs are allowed to color and taste the liquid, much like when steeping tea. The action is known as maceration. This is how absinthe traditionally achieves its lovely green hue.

If you are looking for absinthe and come across a clear bottle with a vibrant, almost nuclear-green liquid, such as Midori, you can sure it was colored artificially.

So, the next time you're sipping absinthe make sure to tell all your friends why does absinthe become cloudy when mixed with water and about all the crazy science contained in each bottle.

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