Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

This bad pun is the title of my next webinar scheduled for February 18th.  This title has also been used in a short book of poems by Mark Begley (of which I have copy 33/35…).

I guess you couldn’t ask for a better mix of art, science, myth, intrigue and a murder or three – ideal Valentines viewing.  Indeed “it would be difficult to find a liquor with a more sordid past than absinthe.”

old absinthe house new orleans

A full 2 years before the forerunner of the FDA in the USA banned cocaine and heroin (in July 1912) then the import of absinthe was banned on the grounds that it contained too much of a bad chemical called thujole derived from wormwood.   Subsequent analysis showed that this certainly wasn’t the case and the green drink favored by the artistic set in London (Oscar Wilde) and Paris (van Gogh) was not the arch villain implicated in a tragic family murder in Switzerland (7 liters of wine plus other alcoholic beverages rather than 2 small glasses of absinthe, was undoubtedly the real reason).   The drink was favored by Ernest Hemingway who had the probably annoying habit (for his wife) of throwing knives under the family piano and claiming that the resultant holes were caused by wood worm – an ingenious play on the wormwood word (try saying that after a pint of absinthe).

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder!

Why are we interested in absinthe given that we’re already crazy artist types?  Well on dilution with water there’s a bunch of pastis flavored drinks (Pernod, Raki, Absinthe, Ouzo) that spontaneously form a submicron anethole emulsion as the alcohol (keeping the anis flavor in solution) is washed out and diluted – the so-called Ouzo (or louche) effect.  This emulsion is in the size range that a variety of our techniques (NanoSight NTA, Zetasizer DLS, and Mastersizer laser diffraction) can be used to measure the size distribution and its growth via Ostwald ripening.  We had an interesting time with these 3 techniques and a bottle of Ouzo (kindly furnished by Randy Byrne), and in the webinar will share present particle size distribution results of such dilutions made in the Westborough laboratory.  Note that no samples remain from this testing! This should be of interest to anyone working on the formation and chemistry of small emulsions. Interestingly, the spontaneous emulsification is now being examined as a drug delivery route.

What is also very interesting is the associated literature and paraphernalia associated with the absinthe drink that is a big part of the webinar.  And, on a trip to New Orleans (a recent blog post) I stopped by the Old Absinthe House (as favored by Aleister Crowley) in order to snap a picture…  I’ll probably stop by again at Pittcon which is in NOLA for 2015.  Speaking of Pittcon, you’ve only got a couple of days to get a discount rate when you sign up for our five short courses  –you can find the details in this blog post.

Sign up for the webinar here:  The spontaneous emulsion formation (louching) effect – Absinthe (and Ouzo) makes the heart grow fonder!

Related Resources:

Studying nanoparticle-based drug delivery and targeting with Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis

Studying Emulsion Stability Using Light Scattering Techniques

Evaluating viscosity and viscous synergy of alcohol-water mixtures using a microfluidic rheometer

Related Blog Posts:

Visiting Pittcon? Turbocharge your lab skills

Pittcon 2015: Back to the future – how many spheres in the pot?

Measuring beer viscosity at our award-winning local pub