Liquor infusions have been gaining in popularity over the last few years as restaurants and bars are looking for new ways to set themselves apart from the competition. Offering something “artisanal” instantly adds a little bit of personality and style to the cocktail menu.
Infusions are an easy way to turn a standard liquor into something a little more exciting. Chop up some fruits or vegetables, a handful of spices and herbs, and maybe even some nuts, and combine everything into a wide mouth jar. Let it all sit in a dark cupboard for a week or two. Give it a gentle shake every other day. Start taking test sips after a week to find out what the flavors are doing in the jar. Once you feel like you’ve reached a good flavor profile, simply pour everything through a strainer and discard the solid materials. Keep the newly infused liquor in a clean bottle (don’t forget to label it!) and start mixing up some killer cocktails that will blow your friends’ minds.
It really is that simple. A few key tips to remember:
Use a large mouth jar – This should be obvious, but I was trying to be resourceful and recycle liquor bottles when I realized that ALL the ingredients I had just chopped were still too large to fit into the bottle easily.
Make sure the jar is large enough to handle your ingredients AND the booze – The recycled liquor bottles I used magically lost all of their volume when I filled them with ingredients. Luckily, I realized this before I stuffed all of the ingredients into one bottle.
Consider the intensity of the ingredients you are using. – You may want to add them at different times in the infusion process – Vanilla beans are subtle, so the longer they stay in the mix, the better. Tea will get to be too strong so I steep my tea bags in the liquor while I chop the other ingredients, and then discard them before I add other ingredients. Ginger, or hot peppers, or intense herbs could easily overwhelm an infusion if left too long. Think about your ingredients and add those powerful flavors into the mix after a few days have passed. That way you can strain out the ingredients when you have reached a safe point in the flavor profile.
Write down your recipes – Write down what you think you are going to create. Write down whatever changes you end up making. You may make changes on the fly, realizing that you forgot to grab something from the store. Maybe you decided that you needed more of an ingredient, or substituted dry herbs because fresh ones were not in stock. Write it all down. If the infusion ends up being awesome, or the exact opposite of awesome, you will want to know why.