Absinthe and “interestingly dangerous”

Craft & Design
Absinthe and “interestingly dangerous”

Bill Gurstelle is a Contributing Editor for MAKE magazine. His most recent book is entitled Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously. You can follow Bill on his danger-quest at twitter.com/wmgurst. He is a guest Make: Online author for the month of August.

Thanks to Gareth and all my Maker Media associates for giving me this opportunity to author some articles online. My new book, Absinthe & Flamethrowers, contains a number of projects that I think most makers will find interesting. It’s probably worth noting that there are sections on making and doing stuff that, well, may seem a little dangerous to some.
Note the adjective “little.” There’s a difference between interestingly dangerous and crazy dangerous. I believe the content of my book falls within bounds of the former. Part of the reason I wrote it was to explore the spirit of courageous discovery that filled the lives of people like Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart, Francis Crick, and Gordon Moore.

Read their biographies and you’ll find out that these people worked on the edge, and prospered by doing so. Sometimes making things involves a bit of risk and I think many of the best makers embrace that and know the boundaries between cool and crazy. So, I’ve included projects there such as making your own gunpowder, chemical rockets, and yes, even a flamethrower.

One of the sections is on the art and science of enjoying absinthe, the wormwood-based alcoholic beverage that was deemed too dangerous for regular people to consume and made illegal in most of the world for nearly a century. But now, it’s back, and becoming very popular once again.
One way of enjoying absinthe is to drip water onto a sugar cube carefully positioned on a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe. Hardcore absinthe devotees typically use a fountain that looks like this.

absinthenyc sized.jpg

Being a frugal maker, I built the water dripper in the photo (it’s called a “fountain” by absinthe connoisseurs.) It issues two precisely controlled drips of very cold water. The drops fall on a sugar cube which slowly dissolves into the absinthe. This is the approved method of tempering one’s absinthe (most people won’t want to drink the stuff straight – it’s usually 120 proof or more.) As the sugar water falls into the absinthe, it undergoes the famous color change called the “louche,” prized by absinthe imbibers, turning from clear green to a milky opalescence.

absintheft resized.jpg

I made the fountain in a couple of hours from clear PVC, type L copper tube, and two small gate valves. I found the gate valves at the local hardware store for a couple of dollars each. The copper tube is sealed with epoxy into the PVC water chamber and the gate valves attach via compression fittings.
A votre sante!

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William Gurstelle

William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

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