Taboo can be ordered from the Okanagan Spirits site if your local liquor store doesn’t carry it. That brings the number of distilled absinthes we can enjoy in Canada up to two by my count.
The French absinthe La Fee can be ordered from Premier Wine and Spirits in Nova Scotia. Of the two I prefer Taboo. It has a slightly stronger anise flavour, and doesn’t use artificial coloring. You can find a review of it at artofdrink.com.
While distilling involves a considerable investment in gear, the science of zymurgy may be indulged in for very little money.
You might be wondering about the bottle of bleach. Saul, the proprietor of Barley Legal, has developed an almost personal relationship with bacteria, and reading the material on his site, home brewing seems to be in large part a battle with these teeny tiny critters.
Bleach is one of the weapons in the battle.
Here, per the instructions on Barley Legal, I add a quarter cup of bleach to about 12 liters of water. The bleach solution is quite dilute. I added another quarter cup since it didn’t feel at all “soapy.”
Here are the bits and pieces that need to be really clean. Obviously they need to be rinsed off very well prior to using.
I’m taking the short cut Saul suggests of using bottled water. This way not only do I get the bottles I need for bottling, but I don’t need to give them the bleach treatment. I dump the bottled water into my pot, and discover sadly that the pot does not hold the 12 liters called for in the instructions, but can only manage eight. No problem, I’ll just scale things down a bit. Or not.
Saul’s recipe calls for one large ginger root, but I will use two because I want it to be extra gingery.
Here is the peeled ginger . . .
… and here it is sliced into pieces roughly the width of a couple of “stacked coins”.
One of the two steps which takes the longest is getting the pot with all that water in it to boil. One can occupy oneself for only so long peeling and cutting ginger. It was only when the water reached a decent boil that I added a cup of brown sugar.
Ten minutes after adding the sugar, I added the ginger.
After the ginger had boiled for 10 minutes, I removed the pot to the sink where I surrounded it with cold water in order to bring its temperature down to room level. This is the other step which takes a long time. When the water in the sink heated up, I replaced it with cold.
I added a packet of yeast to a cup of room temperature water . . .
. . . and covered with a clean, dry cloth. As Saul notes, we aren’t creating a starter, just rehydrating the stuff.
Once the temperature of the pot was approaching room temperature, I had a look at the yeast sludge.
In goes the yeast to be thoroughly mixed into the brew.
Finally, we pour it into our bottles. Saul recommends doing this with a friend and pouring directly from the big pot, but solo that would be asking for a big mess. Yes, I did soak in bleach the thing I’m using to transfer the liquid.
In the end, I got 7 and a half bottles of ginger/sugar/yeast liquid. The half I enjoy as a rum and ginger, garnished with one of the ginger slices.
The ginger slices I will return to some water, add a load of sugar to, cook off the water, and then add more sugar to — basically attempting to preserve it in sugar as a kind of candy, since it still has loads of flavour, and it would be a shame to just throw it away. As I write this, this preservation strategy is underway, and it turns out that it might not really be an issue. As the ginger becomes sweeter and sweeter, it is more and more edible. This stuff isn’t going to be around for very long.
The bottles must now be tucked away someplace about 20 degrees Celsius, and dark, for seven days, before being transferred to the refrigerator for another one day. Stay tuned.
Once I’m done with the bottles, if I don’t want to do another batch, perhaps I will try launching them into space. Ken Schellenberg, world record holder for highest altitude achieved by a bottle rocket, is considering attempting exactly that. This BC resident also has a bottle rocket business and web site where you can buy cool bottle rocket gear.