Infusing your liquor with your favourite flavours may seem daunting to begin with but really it's a simple and easy process that takes less than 20 minutes of hands-on time.
It also elevates your mixology skills and brings that extra edge when impressing friends over dinner or family in the secret Santa exchange at Christmas time.
Rule of thumb generally is the lighter the liquor the easier it is to infuse. Vodka being the most common, gin, sake and tequila also being quite popular. That's not to say one can’t infuse darker liquors, it’s just a little trickier and you really have to choose the right flavour to compliment the spirit. Coffee infused Whisky is a great example of a dark liquor infusion that's amazing.
First you're going to need some supplies. A couple of mason jars to infuse your liquor in, make sure these are air tight. You’re also going to need a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to drain your liquor. Next is herbs, spices, fruit and/or vegetables based on the flavours you are wanting to profile and finally the liquor you are going to be infusing.
When it comes to prepping your infusions it varies somewhat per ingredient. Citrus fruits you're going to want to cut into wedges and can even just squeeze in juice if you're just wanting to accent other ingredients with the citrus. Berries you’re going to leave whole and remove all stems.
Herbs you'll want to use fresh for the most part and leave whole in the jar to make straining easier. I have found lavender, rose petals and rosemary are the only exceptions to the fresh rule and actually work better when dehydrated previously. Spices leave whole to ensure no sediment remains in the liquor once strained.
The actual infusion process is actually quite easy. You’re simply going to concoct your infusions in your jars. You can do a collection of small jars to experiment with different combinations or an entire bottle in one jar if you know exactly what you want. First add your ingredients followed by your spirit of choice. Fill to the top of the jar to ensure as little air is present as possible. Seal tightly with a lid and shake vigorously. Store in a cool dark environment and shake your mix daily throughout its binding process.
After its infusion you can remove the ingredients and strain the liquor using a fine mesh strainer or a paper coffee filter will also work. Try to remove as much sentiment as possible when straining your spirits, then I like returning the liquor to its original bottle, but whatever you have available will work just fine.
Store in a cool dark place as you would with any liquor and enjoy as your heart desires.
Infusion times vary depending on what you add to your liquor general rule of thumb is as follows;
Hot peppers you're going to want to leave for a maximum of two hours otherwise you're going to burn your liquor and it’ll become undrinkable. Most of your herbs and spices as well as your citrus fruits you're going to want to leave for 3 to 4 days, testing on the 3rd day and going off how flavourful you want them to be. Your more moderate flavoured fruits like your berries and stone fruits you're going to want to leave for a week to ensure you get enough flavour from them. Then your even more moderately flavoured fruits like your pineapple and melons you're going to want to infuse for two weeks to ensure an amazing flavour is achieved.
Need some help with combinations to get your mind going, try apple and pear with Gin. Tequila you can’t go wrong with ginger and jalapeno. Whiskey is great with coffee beans or cinnamon. Vodka I love pomegranate and lavender or lemon & lime... The list really could go on forever though so let your imagination run wild and remember to have fun!
My advice would be to choose your favourite flavours and your favourite spirit and go from there. Some may not turn out exactly how you imagine but the ones that do will become a staple in your at home bar and you’ll soon have friends turning down the local watering hole for your chilli Tequila shots in no time.