How to Make Absinthe

Absinthe is made with Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) and other herbs. Originally used as a bitter digestif (similar to amaro), true absinthe can be difficult to procure. High quality absinthe is made by using wormwood and other herbs during the distillation process, although it is not uncommon for commercial examples of absinthe to be made by merely soaking an herbal mixture in alcohol (referred to as a maceration). Very early absinthe was also apparently made without distilling an herbal maceration. Active botanical constituents (such as thujone from wormwood) are extracted into the alcohol while the herbs are soaked in the alcohol. Wormwood varieties are available that contain negligible amounts of thujone, although wormwood should always contribute greatly to the perceived bitterness of absinthe.


  • 750ml bottle of Bacardi® 151 rum, Everclear® (grain alcohol) or vodka (alcohol used MUST be 100 proof or better, otherwise the ingredients will not extract properly)
  • 1oz Wormwood (stems leaves) (Artemisia absinthium)
  • 1/3oz Hyssop (whole plant)
  • 10g Chinese Star Anise (fruit/flower) (Japanese variety is poisonous)
  • 30g Anise seed (seed)
  • 20g Fennel seed (seed)
  • 6g Lemon balm (whole plant)(Melissa Officinalis)
  • 3.2g Coriander (seed)
  • 1.8g Calamus (Root)
  • Veronica
  • Cardamom
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Angelica root
  • Roman or petite wormwood (Artemisia pontica [optional])


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    Decide what kind of absinthe you want to make. Absinthe is always made with what is referred to as "The Holy Trinity" which consists of wormwood, anise, and fennel, but authentic wormwood can be chosen that does not contain thujone. Absinthe that does not contain thujone should be much safer than absinthe that contains thujone. Choose a final absinthe color. Color is imbued to the absinthe during the herbal maceration. Green absinthe is made using green herbs such as mint and petite wormwood. The chlorophyll from these herbs is extracted into the absinthe. Red absinthe can be made by excluding the green herbs and using red herbs such as paprika which gives it a more spiced flavor as well. The oils from the anise and fennel seeds will contribute to the louche effect (the cloudiness produced when water is added to absinthe).
  2. Image titled Make Absinthe Step 2
    Prepare your ingredients and the place where you'll be preparing the absinthe. Use about 1/3 cup or less of herbal ingredients per 750ml alcohol base. Wash your hands, the surface you'll be working on and your herbs. Chop, crumble, or grind the herbal ingredients. The wormwood can be chopped or crumbled (if not ground). A mortar and pestle can be used for grinding herbs such as anise seeds. The herbal constituents will be more efficiently extracted from herbs that have been ground up or finely chopped.
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    Add the ingredients and the alcohol to mason jars or similar glass vessels that can be sealed.
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    Store the bottle in a dark warm room for 2 weeks to 2 months to let the Artemisia absinthium and other herbs infuse adequately into the alcohol. This process is called maceration, and the duration will directly influence the flavor. Too long, and the flavors will be muddy and bitter; too short, and there won't be enough flavor.
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    Take your mixture and strain all of the herbs from it with a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or similar material. The resulting liquid will most likely be brown and bitter. In order to make 'real' absinthe, a distillation process is necessary to boil away the bitterness. The distillate will be clear and have much less flavor. Once you have this "absinthe blanche", you can make it your own with a second maceration process. This second maceration will give the absinthe its true flavor and color.
  6. Image titled Make Absinthe Step 6
    Use much less wormwood, preferable petite (to minimize bitterness). Since this will not be distilled, it will add strong flavors and natural color. Be creative, add flavors you enjoy. Macerate to taste, not two months. Too much maceration will bitter your batch.
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    It's easier to make a separate batch of "flavor absinthe" instead of putting the herbs directly into the distilled absinthe. This way, you can even make an "anise" alcohol, "fennel" alcohol, and "mint" alcohol, and mix them independently to personal preference. This way, you can alter the recipe in 'real time' as you taste it. Otherwise, you have to wait another week or so for the maceration.
  8. 8
    The mixing process is of utmost importance. You will mix your distillate with your flavoring, at the same time diluting the mixture with either vodka or water. Mix it up, taste a little, and then mix whatever is necessary. Too much alcohol (distillate) and the concoction will burn like a strong liquor. Too much flavor (macerate) and the drink will be too bitter as the flavor sticks to the tongue. You can also sweeten the absinthe at this time, with anything from sugar to sweet-n-low to corn syrup.
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    Bottle, and, since you probably don't know how to age it, enjoy.
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    Enjoy using your preferable absinthe ritual.


  • Make sure you get the right kind of wormwood.
  • Always use fresh, clean ingredients and prepare all kinds of food and drink in a clean place. However, herbs will usually be dried before use.
  • High quality absinthe is always made by distilling an initial herbal and alcohol maceration. The distilled maceration is then used to make an herbal maceration that is not distilled. The initial distilled maceration is made using different methods than the final maceration, so do not use these instructions to make distilled absinthe. It is also usually illegal as well as dangerous to distill spirits.
  • Don't try to hurry the process. Patience is part of a good drink.
  • Create an appealing recipe using the listed ingredients, and add additional herbal ingredients if desired. However, don't use more than about 1/3 cup (16 teaspoons) of herbs per 750ml of alcohol base. A large amount of herbs will result in a high concentration of herbal constituents in the final product, and the absinthe may taste very bitter or extremely harsh if a large amount of herbs are used.


  • Absinthe that contains high levels of thujone may be harmful. Thujone is toxic, especially when high concentrations are consumed. Thujone is a convulsant and binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptors in the central nervous system. The level of thujone in European absinthe is regulated, and such set levels are not thought to be harmful. Absinthe is not an illegal drug, although thujone is regulated due to its potential toxicity. It is not recommended that one drink more than three or four servings of absinthe in one sitting. The acute intake of absinthe is not thought to be harmful, but chronic, long-term consumption may cause harm.
  • Never drink absinthe just because it contains thujone. The GABA-type brain receptors that thujone acts upon are also acted upon or influenced by antioxidant polyphenol flavonoids. These flavonoids are not toxic like thujone, and are found in non-toxic herbs such as chamomile and valerian.
  • Avoid using large amounts of nutmeg, as it contains toxic constituents.
  • Avoid using large amounts of star anise as it contains potentially toxic constituents.
  • Avoid using sage, as it contains thujone.

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Categories: Herbal Health | Spirits and Liqueurs