House-infused liquors are all the rage now and can be seen in restaurants and bars everywhere. Even Red Rooster Harlem and Ginny’s Supper Club have their own house-infused spirits that are widely used in our house favorite cocktails. From dill-infused vodka to fig-infused bourbon, liquor infusion is becoming a tradition in its own right at Red Rooster. Although it’s becoming more popular now, alcohol infusion dates back centuries and is ingrained in some cultures, like the process of making Aquavit in Sweden.
While house-infused liquors can sound like a mystical and highly technical practice, it’s quite the opposite and in fact is as simple a process as it can get. First select which spirit you would like to jazz up with a new flavor and be sure to use a less expensive brand since there’s no need to spend a lot of money on alcohol you’ll be changing the flavor of.
Next, select your infusion ingredients. You can simply infuse with just one, or try a combination of flavors to make a more complex drink. Herbs, spices, and fruits are the most widely used ingredients, but vegetables, chilies, and even bacon can be used to infuse your liquor of choice.
Your next step is to find a container where you’ll being your infusion. A large glass container with a lid or mason jars work well. They also make great centerpieces or accents to a room. Wash the container well as well as your fresh ingredients. Slicing, peeling, or cubing you fruit can also add to the aesthetic presentation of your alcohol infusion. Here are a few tips for other ingredient preparation (from cocktails.about.com):
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
Place your infusion ingredients in the container and then simply add the liquor to the container or jar and seal. Store at room temperature (preferably in a cool place) and allow the flavors to infuse into the alcohol for 1-2 weeks. Do not refrigerate, since refrigeration may actually slow the infusion process. (Keep the empty bottles of liquor, since you can later strain the infused alcohol back into the bottles to store.)
Darker liquors like whiskey, brandy, or dark rums require a longer infusion process to fully steep the flavors, about 1½ – 3 weeks. Lighter spirits like light rum, vodka, or sake can be infused anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. It’s important to taste the infused liquor every few days to check the flavors and adjust them to your liking by adding more of the ingredients or balancing them out.
Once the infusion is complete, strain your liquor through a fine strainer or a coffee filter and place back into your saved bottles or into another container to store until use. Finally, simply serve the infused liquor as cooled single shots to guests or as the base to mix into an innovative cocktail.
Add a savory infusion to a Bloody Mary or a tomato juice-based drink while with sweeter infusions, the sky’s the limit by combining it with different syrups, juices, bitters, or other liquors. Be adventurous and change up the ingredients to make it suit your tastes. But no matter how you make it, infused liquor definitely adds a twist to your normal cocktail.