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Ether Maiden

Pimpinella anisum or Illicium verum, or both?

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After reading various reveiws and discussions of different Absinthes, and coming across interesting descriptors (old gym socks anyone?), I'm curious.

 

In general, is it Aniseseed Pimpinella anisum or Star Anise Illicium verum which is used in Absinthe? They have very different flavors, and in fact very different origins. I could definately see how products make with Star Anise can seem old gym sock-y, and not a pleasing taste for all.

 

So which is it? Do some brands use one, some the other, and some both? If so I'm curious which brands use which. I'm personally much more attracted to Aniseseed (true anise) than Star Anise.

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Both are used. Anise is a must, it's the primary ingredient in absinthe. Star anise can be used, but it's not a must, it's in no way a substitute for anise, and if it is used, it's not used in great quantity.

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I agree that anise is a must for Absinthe. I never quite understood why it seems people want anise-free absinthe. Strange.

 

Do you happen to know which Absinthes have Star Anise? I'm probably leaning towards the avoiding Star Anise. It's an O.K. flavour in such things as mastersauce chicken but beside that, I'm not a huge fan. Now Aniseseed... I could eat that all day long!

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Well it's not really a matter of opinion; absinthe is historically speaking an anise drink - that's why I said it's a must. Personally, I'd be all for an anise-free absinthe if such were feasible.

 

There are so many absinthes, most of which I haven't tried, I'm not clear on which use star anise and which don't. Mari Mayans is supposedly a star anise bomb. If star anise is used in small quantities, as an adjunct to other herbs, you're probably not going to be able to tell it's in there, I know that much.

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I was under the impression that star anise was a louche-enhancer, so that the more star anise an absinthe contained, the more robust the louche. There were other elements that still caused a proper louche in a well-balanced absinthe, but a cheaper absinthe could get a strong louche by adding more star anise. Such was my world-view.

 

Is this some lingering piece of Winston-like info that stuck in my head? Or is there something to it?

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Inferior green anise gives a weak louche, so the addition of star does boost the louche. The flavor of star is a bit sharp and dry, while green anise is more soft and powdery, in my experience.

 

Then too, these could be the result of differing distillation practices. There are so many variables possible with absinthe, that sometimes it's difficult to definitively say what comes from where and which flavors are which. I remember when I found out that a note I had always associated with hyssop turned up in an absinthe with none.

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Yeah, it works as a louche booster, but that's only necessary if the manufacturer isn't managing their tails properly or using crap herbs with low essential oil content.

 

Good fennel also contributes to the louche (they key chemical component is Anethole, which exists in Anise and Fennel), and you could make an absinthe that louched using only fennel and no anise at all, although it wouldn't technically be absinthe since it lacked anise.

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Inferior green anise gives a weak louche, so the addition of star does boost the louche.  The flavour of star is a bit sharp and dry, while green anise is more soft and powdery, in my experience.

 

sounds about right, as far as the flavour difference. I cook with star anise on a semi-regular basis, and I have aniseseed (candied and plain) in little dishes all about my house for snacking and breath-freshening purposes. I've been eating aniseseed for all my life. I find it to be much rounder, more floral, and more powdery soft a flavour than the sharp astringent flavour of star anise.

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A well made Arak is a testament to the louching power of good green anise. A fully louched glass of Arak is absolutely opaque, i.e., holding it in front of a light blub completely blocks the light.

 

Speaking of which, I don't see any reason not to louche up a glass right now :cheers:

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There are so many absinthes, most of which I haven't tried, I'm not clear on which use star anise and which don't.  Mari Mayans is supposedly a star anise bomb.

Yes, it is. You really can't taste anything else. It's pretty much just star anise and sugar. Good if you like heavily sweetened anise liqueurs; but I'll stick with Sambuca or anisette, since they're cheaper and easier to get. It's also artificially coloured. Deva is essentially the same; though if you pay close attention, you might get just a hint of mint and wormwood as well.

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