A few weeks ago, Rachael and I were fortunate to be invited to the home of my friends Adele and Chris for a lesson on creating booze infusions. My plan was to write a single post, with recipes and tips on the process. Once we arrived, and started taste testing, I realized there was so much more to share, as the experience itself was a great reminder that sometimes it’s good to slow down. So, today I will tell you about our experience, and in a follow-up post, I will provide you with the recipes we made and some basic tips on infusion so you can create an experience like this for yourself and your friends.
Adele, Chris and their daughter are the kind of people you cannot believe you have the privilege to know. They are all incredibly creative, thoughtful and gracious people. They share my passion for food, and we have had a lot of fun over the years trying out new restaurants in Phoenix, or experimenting with cooking (like the time a group of us went to Adele’s house to make ricotta and goat cheese).
Over the past few years Chris has experimented with infusing different flavors into alcohol to create flavored liqueurs. Booze infusion is simple in nature – you soak a variety of ingredients in the liquor of your choice, and then let it sit until you like the taste. One of the most basic infusions that a lot of people are familiar with is limoncello — lemon zest soaked in vodka for a few weeks and then mixed equal parts with simple syrup.
Before we got started our lesson, we viewed Chris’ entire collection of infusions – contained in dozens of bottles and mason jars covering an entire wall in their pantry. Chris jokes that he is sort of a “mad scientist” when it comes to trying out new combinations but he’s an artist, too. He takes risks, imagines outcomes and tries new things just to see what happens.
We grabbed a dozen bottles of varying flavors and sat down at their kitchen table to sample Chris’ creations. Some of our favorites were limoncello, vin-de-orange (red wine, rum, bitter & sweet oranges, grapefruit and spices – a combo Rachel described as tasting like “a library, tobacco and Christmas.”), chai liquor, and tequila that was infused with lime and salt (a margarita in a shot).
As we sipped, Chris explained that many medicines actually started out as infusions. Some of the first forms of aspirin were actually the bark of a willow tree infused in alcohol. Another early infusion purpose was preserving fruit. People would combine fruit, sugar and alcohol in order to keep fruit fresh throughout the year.
We asked Chris how they normally drank the infusions – did they have them as after dinner drinks? Did they enjoy them with friends as we were doing that very day? Or did they use them in recipes?
Chris explained that his favorite thing to do was what we got to experience – having a group of friends around a table, and sampling a variety of his creations. “These infusions take such time to make,” Chris explained “But they arrest the moment. What I mean by that is that it helps to stop time. By taking time to enjoy these, you will remember this moment. You will remember the laughter and conversation that you had because we all sat down at a table together and enjoyed the experience, and each other.”
We went there to learn how to make delicious infusions, and as often happens when I get together with Adele and Chris, I came away with a life lesson. We live in a society where speed is king – we have fast food, overnight shipping, movies on demand – and because of this, we often forget to slow down and enjoy life.
I challenge all of you to have an “arresting moment” experience. Get together with friends for dinner at home, make something beautiful for the people you care about, turn off the technology, and enjoy time with the people you love.
Don’t forget to check out my follow-up post on basic tips for booze infusion, as well as the recipes for our three creations – Ginger Vodka, Raspberry Vodka and Cin-Van-Sky (a cinnamon/vanilla/star anise infused whiskey).