Back when it was considered sophisticated to drink Stella (yep there really was a time), other drinks from that mystical place known only as, “abroad”, seemed to be the height of sophistication. Being a distinguished fellow, (from the edge of an estate with hardly any schooling), I’d neck my fancy French drink – a Pernod and Black – alongside my pint of Stella and make out I was a fine gentleman stepping out into Northampton’s society. On the odd occasion when I couldn’t even afford the extra splash of blackcurrant, I’d instead add water and always marvel at the way it turned cloudy, some might say milky. “What alchemy is this?” I’d declare to my gentleman’s club (the pub) and they would politely clap with delight (ignore me). Little did I know that I was conducting a worthwhile experiment; I was producing the louche effect.
The Louche effect shows what happens when a drink containing anethole has water added to it. It goes from a stable liquid to one that is going through a state of precipitation – the scientific way of describing a cloudy liquid, a liquid that is trying to come out of solution. What is happening is that the two liquids are trying to separate; eventually, they will. Kevin Liu, the author, and cocktail-science genius, suggests the best way of describing this is to think about what happens when you shake up oil and water. It will go cloudy at first then both liquids will start to separate. The cloudiness in the Louche effect shows this in action. Both liquids will, eventually, separate, however, don’t wait around for it as it will take months! It would seem that being in a state of flux, of precipitation, is water-plus-anethole-laden-spirit’s preferred state of being.