Infusing spirits with flavor is a great way to experiment with your own personal tastes. The basic concept is to marry a variety of choice flavors into a base liquor to create a custom-flavored spirit. Vodka is the most common base spirit used and the other light spirits (gin, sake, light rum) can also be used for almost any flavor. Infusing darker spirits is a little touchier but it will work if you choose the right complimentary flavor to the liquor like an apricot or cherry brandy.
Time Required: up to 2 weeks
What You Need:
- Herbs, spices or fruits for flavor
- Vodka or other spirit
- Mason jars, infusion jars or any air-tight jar
- Coffee filter
Choose your spirit:
Your base spirit will set the foundation for a good infusion. Choosing a decent spirit that is smooth and clean will allow the added flavors to shine. If you're experimenting with a new infusion you may want to use a less expensive bottle so as not to waste money or good liquor. Another option is to use a home filtering device like the Vodkastick, which will allow you to filter out the impurities of a cheap brand.
Choose your flavors:
Herbs, spices and fruits are most commonly used for infusions. The most popular infusions are fruit based, however you can use your imagination to create some wonderful combinations. I experimented with garlic, habenero and basil in vodka for some great Bloody Mary bases. Use your creativity to personalize your creations. For best results, use fresh ingredients only.
The process itself is very easy. Choose a clean, air-tight jar: quart sized mason jars work well. Using smaller jars will allow you to divide a liter of vodka into a few jars, giving you the ability to create small batches of a variety of flavors at once. Wash the ingredients, place them inside the jar and fill it with vodka. Shake a few times and cover tightly with a lid.
You will want to store your infusion in a cool, dark place and shake it 3-5 times a day for the duration of the infusion. On average the ingredients should stay in the liquor for 3-5 days. Some of your more intense flavors will only need 3 days, less intense flavors should stay in the jar for a full week or more (see the infusion times list below). You will want to do a taste test every few days to see if the flavors are sufficient.
Once your infusion has reached it's peak in flavor you'll need to take the flavoring ingredients out of the jar. Use a fine strainer or paper coffee filter to strain the vodka into another clean jar or bowl. You can return it to it's original jar if you would like, cleaning the jar thoroughly first. Store the finished infusion as you would any other liquor of it's type.
- Berries: wash and leave whole, but score the skins on harder berries
- Pineapple, Mango and similar fruit: wash and cut into chunks
- Strawberries and Citrus fruit: wash and slice thinly or use zests of lemons and oranges
- Vanilla Beans: wash and cut lengthwise
- Herbs: wash and use whole (stems and all)
- Peppers: wash and leave whole or cut in half
- Garlic: use whole cloves, removing the layers of skin
General Infusion Times:
- Use these times as a guideline to gauge how long you should leave the ingredients in a jar of liquor.
- 1-2 hours: Hot peppers, though test it more often as different peppers will add their spicy flavor faster and the spirit can easily be burned and unpalatable.
- 3-4 days: Intense flavors such as basil, cucumber (3 days, skinless), dill, garlic, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mint, oranges, oregano, peppers, tarragon, thyme, and vanilla beans.
- 1 week: Moderate flavors such as blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, lavender, mangoes, peaches, pitted cherries, raspberries, rosemary, and strawberries.
- 2 weeks: Mild flavors such as pineapple, ginger and lemongrass.
What to do with your infusions:
Allow your creative juices will keep flowing as you decide what to do with your new flavored liquor. Try a strawberry-kiwi Vodka Martini or a lemongrass-grapefruit Vodka Tonic or a mint-vanilla bean Moscow Mule. The spicier concoctions like garlic-habenero make an unbelievable Bloody Mary.
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