Updated: Apr 25, 2020
One of the coolest things happening in the mixology world right now is infusing liquor.
Basically, people add flavors to a bottle of alcohol typically a light spirit like, vodka gin, or tequila, and let it infuse for a period of time. These flavors include spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Light spirits are easier to infuse, but people have also experimented with infusing bourbons and brandy to create fun flavors like coffee-infused whiskey or cherry brandy.
Some infusions that I want to try include jalapeno-infused tequila, mango and chili pepper vodka, and watermelon or strawberry vodka. People also use herbs and spices to add a unique flavor to their spirit. There are endless possibilities and combinations! We cannot wait to try this out at the restaurant. It will add a whole new dynamic to our cocktails (and it is a lot cheaper)!
For those that want to try this out at home, I found a really detailed article on how to infuse and I summarized it below:
Step 1: Gather your Supplies.
Spices, herbs, fruits or vegetables depending on your flavor of choice
The distilled spirit of choice (vodka is easiest to start with)
Jars (Mason jars or any airtight jar with a wide mouth will work)
Coffee filter or cheesecloth for straining
Step 2: Choose your Liquor
The end product will only taste as good as the liquor you select. For experimenting purposes, I would not get anything too expensive when starting out, but if you really want it to taste good I would select a middle shelf spirit such as Tito's if you use vodka and Bombay for gin.
Step 3: Select your Flavor
The cool thing about infusing is there are no limits to what combinations you try. It is most common to use fruit, but that is just an easy base to start with. Another pro tip is to always use fresh ingredients. No frozen fruit, but dried herbs and spices are the only exception.
Step 4: Prepare your Ingredients
Just like any recipe, there is some prep involved. Whatever flavor you decide on you will need to cut up the fruit, herbs, or vegetables. You want them at a size that fits into the jar. You also want to remove any undesirable parts such as the skin on a cucumber or the stem of a raspberry. With citrus fruits, you do not need to remove the peel, but you should wash everything before infusing it.
Specific ingredient prep tips from the article:
Berries: Wash and leave whole. Remove the green stems from strawberries and cut in half or slice. Score the skins on harder berries such as cherries.
Citrus Fruit: Wash and slice or use wedges. The zest of lemons and oranges are perfect for adding an accent flavor to complex infusions.
Pineapple, Mango, and Similar Fruit: Wash and cut into chunks. Remove pits from stone fruits like apricots. You can remove the skin if you like, particularly if it's typically inedible.
Vanilla Beans: Wash and cut lengthwise. The beans are expensive and you can generally use just a single bean but may need to increase the infusion time.
Herbs: Rinse and use whole (stems and all) because it makes straining them out much easier. Dried herbs, such as lavender and rosemary, can be used as well. Typically, green leafy herbs (e.g., mint, basil, sage) should be fresh.
Spices: Use whole pieces rather than ground versions of spices to make straining easy and ensure there's no sediment left behind in the liquor.
Peppers: Wash and leave whole or cut in half. Remove the white membrane of hot peppers to reduce the spice as this is where most of the capsaicin lies. To make it easier to strain, remove the seeds as well.
Garlic: Use whole cloves, removing the layers of skin.
Step 5: Begin Infusion Process
Choose jar- In the beginning, you can divide liquor into smaller jars to experiment with new flavors
Wash prepped ingredients and place them in the jar
Fill the jar with liquor
Seal tightly and shake a few times
Step 6: Infusion Times
Depending on the ingredients, your liquor can infuse anywhere from 3 to 5 days to a few weeks. It is all about experimentation and your palette
A general guide to follow is:
1 to 2 hours: Hot peppers. Test it often as different peppers infuse faster than others (especially when cut) and the spirit can easily be burned and unpalatable.
3 to 4 days: Intense flavors such as basil, cinnamon, cucumber, dill, garlic, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mild and sweet peppers, mint, orange, oregano, tarragon, thyme, and vanilla bean.
1 week: Moderate flavors such as apple, blackberry, blueberry, cantaloupe, and other melons, cherry, lavender, mango, peach, raspberry, rosemary, and strawberry.
2 weeks: Mild flavors such as pineapple, ginger, and lemongrass.
Step 7: Finish the Process
Once you are happy with your flavor you need to remove the ingredients to stop it from developing further
Use cheesecloth or coffee filter to strain the liquor into a clean jar or bowl- you can use the same jar you took it out of just make sure to clean it first.
Step 8: Try Liquor in Cocktails
Once you have you new liquor, try out some new recipes and experiment with what flavors work and what don't.
A few recommendations are:
Strawberry-Kiwi Vodka Martini
Garlic-Habanero Vodka in a Bloody Mary
Lemongrass and grapefruit vodka tonic