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!

14 thoughts on “Absinthe and “interestingly dangerous”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Those are actually needle valves, but that’s more appropriate to the task anyway; gate valves are sloppy. :-)

  2. sean says:

    Frankly, banning absinthe should have never been necessary. The stuff is vile. It’s also no more dangerous than rum.

  3. thomas says:

    PVC is toxic and shall never be in contact with food or drinkable water.
    Same goes for epoxy…

    1. Silverman says:

      I was thinking this about the epoxy which, unless it’s special food epoxy, has BPA as a main ingredient.

      But most PVC pipe is NSF/FDA approved for drinking water, particularly the clear kind. It’s the nasty fumes when it’s burnt or melted that should be avoided.

  4. Vincent Van G says:

    Stop, its making me thirsty.

  5. JD says:

    Absinthe is an excellent drink, but I do see why its considered different than regular alcohol. It definitely makes you “high” as well as drunk, which is either a really nice experience (moderation) or a REALLY bad experience (over do it). It took me many trial and error episodes to find the right amount to have a pleasant experience.

    The high is more of a “clarity of mind” thing. I find it highly amusing to have indepth conversations with friends and family while drinking absinthe. You’ll come up with things you never even considered before and unlike other “mind altering drugs”, you’ll actually remember it afterwards and it will make sense.

    1. sean says:

      There is nothing in absinthe that would account for any “high” or “clarity of mind” feeling. Pure placebo effect.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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

View more articles by William Gurstelle