If you read yesterday’s post, you know that a few weeks ago Rachael and I visited the home of my friends Chris and Adele to learn how to infuse booze. Booze infusion is a pretty simple concept – you take alcohol, add ingredients to flavor it, and let it sit until you like the taste.
Since Rachael and I were new to infusions, the first recipes Chris taught us are simple. In fact, you are going to be shocked how simple these are and may be inspired to start today!
Here are some basic steps for doing most infusions:
Step 1: Buy the supplies. You will need mason jars, the alcohol of your choice, and the ingredients that will flavor your drink.
TIP: If you are using fruit, buy organic. The alcohol is going to absorb all of the flavors, good and bad. Be sure you are using good quality produce grown without pesticides (the perfect excuse to hit up your local farmer’s market) and don’t forget to wash it when you get home.
Step 2: Sterilize the jars. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully place your jars and lids into the boiling water for a couple of minutes. Using tongs, remove the jars and lids, and carefully dry off with a clean towel.
Step 3: Place the ingredients that will flavor your drink into the jar.
Step 4: Pour the alcohol of choice into the jar until the jar is full. When buying your alcohol, buy what you like to drink, not necessarily what’s on sale. Although the ingredients will give the liquor some flavor, a bad vodka will still taste like a bad vodka, no matter what you put in it.
TIP: For our tutorial, Chris recommended Svedka Vodka (as it is both good quality and not crazy expensive) and Makers Mark Whiskey or better. That will give you a sense of the price/quality level you should look for when making your purchase.
Step 5: Secure the lid on your mason jar, shake the jar, and play the waiting game. There is no set amount of time that works for all infusions. This is where it becomes more of an experiment. Each week, take a small taste and see if you like the flavor. Infusions that are too “young” will often have a bite to them, so giving them more time will help to mellow out the flavors.
TIP: Use a sharpie or a label maker to put the date you created your drink on the jar. This will help you to determine how many weeks it has been infusing.
Step 6. Tweak where needed, and be patient. Don’t be afraid to add something if you need to after your first taste. Even with the harsh edge, you will be able to tell if the end result is going to have a good flavor. Also, good things come to those who wait. Some of the infusions at Chris and Adele’s home had been sitting for a year or more, so don’t give up – what your drink may need is simply more time.
The great thing about infusions, as you can tell, is that the possibilities are endless. Like art, you must start by selecting your medium (alcohol) and what you will add. I found a great site that lays out some tips on choosing both elements here.
If you are like me though, you just clicked on that site, got intimidated, and almost closed this post. Wait! Don’t leave! I’ve got you covered. Check out three very quick and simple starter recipes below:
Raspberry Infused Vodka
Ingredients: 1 pint organic raspberries, vodka, everclear and simple syrup (when serving)
Time it will need to sit: 3-6 weeks, depending on how often you change out the berries
Instructions: Add raspberries to a sterilized jar and fill with ½ vodka and ½ everclear. Seal and date your jar and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Shake the jar every once in a while when you think about it. Strain out the raspberries (they will have turned white, or as I called them “zombie raspberries”), and reserve the liquid. Add a fresh pint, pour the liquid over the raspberries, seal and let sit in your fridge for another 1-2 weeks. You will repeat the raspberry replacement step once more. Once they are fully infused, use a coffee filter or unbleached paper towel to strain the final alcohol into a bowl. You will want to strain the liquid three times. You can store this in a bottle or mason jar, and when you serve it, just add simple syrup to taste.
Ginger Infused Vodka
Ingredients: Candied ginger (handful) and vodka
Time it will need to sit: 1 week
Instructions: Add ginger to a sterilized jar and fill with vodka. Seal and date your jar. You can store the ginger vodka on a shelf, and shake it occasionally. This drink should be ready in about a week, but taste it and let it sit longer if you need it to. This one does a cool magic trick in that a day after you put the candied ginger into the liquid, it expands and looks like slices of fresh ginger. If your ginger stays intact, you won’t need to strain this one. If you notice that it disintegrates, strain through a coffee filter or unbleached paper towel until the liquid is clear (2-3 times).
Cin-Van-Sky (Cinnamon/Vanilla/Star Anise Infused Whiskey)
Ingredients: Cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise pods, whiskey/bourbon and brandy
Time it will need to sit: 4-6 weeks
Instructions: Split the vanilla bean and add it, the cinnamon stick and the star anise pods to a sterilized jar and fill with whiskey/bourbon and top with a shot of brandy. Seal and date your jar. Store the jar on a shelf, shake occasionally, and test 4-6 weeks after you infused it.
Last year for Christmas, I gave away homemade vanilla extract as gifts to my friends. From my friend Adele (who hosted our infusion lessons), I received a bottle of her limoncello. Homemade gifts are fantastic to give and receive, no matter what time of year it is. So, pin this post, and come back to it the next time you need to make a bulk gift, but want to do something unique.
The possibilities with this are endless, so be bold, be creative, and run to your local liquor store right now to get started.