Absinthe Coloring

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Absinthe Coloring
By Don_Walsh on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 11:25 pm: Edit

I think trying to divine the intent of the patriarchs of absinthe is fraught with hubris. Artemis, you are probably right about the patent medicine coloring. My guess, and it is just a guess, based on just logic, is that once the nuances of aroma and bouquet and flavor became paramount concerns, as they certainly did (since something as delicately balanced and subtle as old premium absinthes are, didn't get that way by accident), that the shade of green was just whatever happy accident dropped out.

That makes more sense than going for a color and hoping that the resulting flavors happen to harmonize (it doesn't work that way.)

Anyway yes, we are mostly just dancing round the same campfire.

By Chrysippvs on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 09:13 am: Edit

My vintage pernod fils has that very "feuille morte" color, the louche is also fantastic.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:39 am: Edit

"I know at least 20 people on this forum, who will have almost full bottles of Hill in their liquor cabinets when they die."

not while there are barbecues to be lit

By Artemis on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:20 am: Edit


... I dunno how to critique them without revealing trade secrets.

I'm not complaining. I understand. In my opinion you've stated the case much more accurately in the phrase quoted above, however.


I'll say again: to your comment that almost any shade of chlorophyllic green can be produced, yes that's true, however, it is once again putting the color cart before the favor/aroma horse.

Now we're just echoing each other. When I said you could make it as green as you want, I only wanted to illustrate to Tavarua that coloring with plants is not only real, but offers the potential of an artist's palette, at least within variations of green.

But I question whether the original concept of coloring with plants was for scent and flavor. When absinthe was being hawked as patent medicine, it occurs to me that green would have gone over a lot better than clear: green looks like it could do something for you; clear looks like water. In short, the product was dyed green, albeit with "natural" dye. IMO, (I see no way to prove it), the boost in scent and color were secondary. Further evidence in this regard is that the vessels used by big distillers for the purpose were called "colorators", as you mentioned. They were not called "scentorators" ...

As a footnote the the discussion of yellowing with age. It doesn't take a hundred years for this to happen. It was not only well-known in the Fin de Siecle, but appreciated.

A quote from a text of the period:

La couleur verte de l'absinthe jaunit en viellissant et prend alors une teinte feuille morte.
... ; mais generalement la nuance jaunatre est preferee par les consommateurs.


The green color of absinthe yellows with age and takes on a dead leaf tint.
... ; but generally the yellowish nuance is preferred by consumers.

"Dead leaf" (feuille morte) could probably be more accurately (if not more literally) translated as "autumn leaf". The most telling illustration of this I've ever seen is Peter's photos of his old Berger. Spectacular color, spectacular louche.

By Wormwood on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:06 am: Edit

The shelf life argument is BS in the end it all comes down to taste. Vintage wines loose thier color with age too, and good ones increase in value also.

In one hundred years will people be paying thousands of dollars for a bottle of vintage Hills at auction? No way. I sure the color will still be pretty. I know at least 20 people on this forum, who will have almost full bottles of Hill in their liquor cabinets when they die.

By Don_Walsh on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 06:27 am: Edit

The problem, Artemis, is that I can't go into specifics as to how and why any/all or a particular published recipe for coloring step is in error, becasue I'd have to reveal trade secrets, e.g., I dunno how to critique them without revealing trade secrets. It's the same unsatisfactory box that Ted is in, and often leads to scoffing by the unacquainted a la Ordinaire.

I'll say again: to your comment that almost any shade of chlorophyllic green can be produced, yes that's true, however, it is once again putting the color cart before the favor/aroma horse. One seeks for the flavor/fragrance matrix first and foremeost, and the color that pops out of that is the color. One does not seek the color for its own sake, it just doesn't work that way. The process in any case is full of pitfalls, and that is why the schlomeisters of 19th century resorted to other means to produce peridot green a la Pernod's signature color -- they hadn't the talent or patience to di it right.

Their modern counterparts talk of shelf life as justification for using dyes instead of chlorophyll but that's a dodge. They haven't the courage to do it right. The stones, the balls, the cojones. They remain, like their forebears, schlockmeisters, merchants of mediocrity.

By Artemis on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 08:48 pm: Edit

I didn't mean to imply that Andy couldn't do it himself. Certainly his English is better than my German. But I've read his English here and in his private communications to me: it's also a fact that my English, and that of any native English speaker, is better than his English.

Heiko is right, the best translation will be done by someone who is completely fluent, a "native", in the language *to which* the text is being translated. If he's just as good in the originating language, so much the better, but I don't think it's critical - I know, having a little experience with French to English and a lot with Chinese to English.

It's only because Andy's site is of such high quality and value that I even dare to suggest that anyone undertake the obvious load of work entailed.

By Heiko on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 07:14 pm: Edit

same thought at the same time!
But maybe there's someone out there who would really like to translate the site (preferably a native English speaker - that would make the whole thing perfect).
If it will be available in English some day, then sepulchritude.com will have it's first real competitor!

By Heiko on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 07:08 pm: Edit

IMO Andy's English is really good enough that he could translate it himself - only it would take a lot of time. I can tell from my own experience that keeping a website up to date in two languages more than doubles the work. And Andy's site is a very good site, so it might be a lot of work to translate it and keep it up to date in two languages.

By Zack on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 07:06 pm: Edit

I think Andy knows English well enough to do it himself, if he wanted to.

He knows more than a lot of people here in San Antonio do...

By Artemis on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 07:01 pm: Edit

I don't think that's any different from the software used by Babelfish. The raw translation stinks, regardless of the language.

Is any English speaker here strong in German? Perhaps he/she could help Andy put up an English version? If Andy thinks that would be a good idea, of course. I would offer to do it but I don't know nearly enough German.

By Spm on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 06:57 pm: Edit

You can translate the text on Andy's site here:

This software works pretty good.


By Artemis on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 06:45 pm: Edit

I know for a fact there is naturally colored green absinthe today, because I've watched such coloration take place; in fact, I grew the coloration herbs myself.

I also know that fresh Pernod must have looked exactly the same way as the absinthe to which I refer, because it was colored in the same manner; I won't say exactly the same only because Pernod did it on a larger scale.

Absinthe colored with chlorophyll is green for obvious reasons.

Don gave an excellent explanation: this is by chance rather than intent. The idea is to get the scent and flavor of the herbs into the product. If God had made chlorophyll red, this would be La Fee Rouge forum.

And yes, you can make the green almost any shade of green you want. But much darker than Peridot, and you probably won't like the taste.

The only thing Don said with which I would disagree is that published works do not come close to describing the process. I guess that depends on the definitions of "close" and "published".

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 05:57 pm: Edit

Let me emphasize Justin's points:

1. Premium B.E. absinthes were colored naturally, i.e., by treating absinthe distillate with selected herbs under specific conditions.

2. The primary purpose of the 'coloring step' is to enhance flavor and aroma. The color itself is a side effect. That side effect has now become a significant part of the absinthe aesthetic, however. Even a hundred years ago, the imitators went to great and sometimes toxic lengths to try to make their 'absinthes' APPEAR like Pernod etc. But they were aping the side effect (color) and not the primary purpose (enhanced flavor and aroma). Just as today, artificially colored absinthes fall into the same error.

And I will add my own observation:

It is possible to obtain a very vivid green, as vivid as anything of La Fee and Mari Mayans, by the natural color step. It just depends on the selection of herbs used in the step. But that selection is made for a specific flavor and aroma, to finish and enhance a particular base protocol, and the lovely color is still a side effect. If one were to use this herb with an incompatible base protocol, just to get the color, the result would be a dissonance of taste and smell that would not be very appealling.

Again, great absinthes were always colored naturally as a consequence of the final and quintessential step of imparting finishing flavors/aromas. It is a mistake to think therefore of the 'coloration step' by that term, as the color is almost an accident. Therefore, the sad fact that the natural color(s) (there are more than one depending on which absinthe) will fade in time as they are sensitive to light, air, and heat (chlorophyll) is almost irrelevant since the flavors are the whole point, and as long as a bottle is well preserved, those do NOT fade with time, in fact they may well be enhanced.

Justin is also right that the published details of various coloration steps are mostly nonsense. I can assure you that attempting to use those procedures will prove disastrous (to both flavor and color) for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, that's as far as I can go, because the correct procedure is of course -- a trade secret. And that is probably why none of the published ones are even close to being correct.

By Tavarua on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 05:21 pm: Edit

That site is very nice, it's a shame I can't read the reviews. I quess you know, but in case you don't, one review of La Bleue is written in English.

By Heiko on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 03:52 pm: Edit

I have seen some non-commercial products that were colored naturally and were green (including Ted's, which I have only seen on pictures though).
Of course, these absinthes were not as green as La Fée or MM 55, but definitely a very nice green.

Look at Andy's site:

it's in German only, but you can see a lot of pictures of bootlegs that are natural green - some more, some less. If you don't click on the "bootlegs" picture, but on the two brown bottles in the upper right, you'll see how good natural coloring can be...

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 02:42 pm: Edit

There are no commercially produced products which are naturally colored. There have been naturally colored absinthe however, I have had some. Oxidation however does take a toll, and it firstly takes that toll on natural coloring. This changes absinthe from a peridot green to more amber color. Just take a look at any old absinthe recipe, it always features a coloration step. Many of these however are flawed.

Natural coloration si difficult and costly, but when done correctly enhances both color (obviously), flavor and, aroma. But it takes time and money hence no one doing it.

By Tavarua on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 02:36 pm: Edit

I was just a little curious, I know that Ted indicated in an October thread that he has never seen a naturally colored commercial absinthe, but does anyone else have a differing view. And if not, who is to say that there is actually now or ever been a genuine, naturally green colored absinthe. Isn't vintage Pernod a bourbany amber color.

Of course, I am no expert, and am certainly less knowledgable than many others in the forum. Obviously there were some variants that had a green coloring, as that is how it is often portrayed in artists renditions. But who is to say that is because of a "natural" process. So if there is actual proof of this somewhere, please let me know. I am very curious about this issue.

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