How often have you had an idea for a cocktail profile, or even just a liquor flavor, only to have your dream end in disappointment when you can't find that option in a liquor store? Thankfully, with so many ingredients available at your fingertips, both in-store and online, there's no flavor infusion that's out of reach.
Thanks to the global market, what was once an infusion only in theory can become a reality tomorrow. And with a wide selection of ingredients, you can infuse an entire range of spirits. Whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, tequila, or brandy, any of these spirits can take on fruity, savory, spicy, or even sweet flavors. To begin, start by selecting a spirit but know that a cinnamon whiskey will have a different flavor profile than a cinnamon rum or vodka, and a cinnamon gin may not have as much of a range in cocktails as a strawberry gin. The more complex the flavor you're infusing, the more neutral palette you'll want to start with.
It's always best to use clean, fresh ingredients free of any blemishes or soft spots when following any infused liquor recipes. Start by washing all fresh ingredients and either patting them dry or allowing them to air dry.
Fruits, Veggies, and Chili Peppers
When using fruit with rough skin, such as pineapple, remove the skin before cubing or slicing and adding to the spirit. If you're using a citrus fruit or fruits similar to an apple, cut the fruit with the skin intact, taking care to remove seeds before adding to the spirit. Vegetables will follow the same rule of thumb. For any fruit or vegetable, remove any greenery, leaves, or twigs before adding. You can leave berries whole, slice them in half, or muddle them lightly. When using peppers, especially those that are spicy, remove any and all seeds and ribs you come across.
Herbs, Spices, and Nuts
When using fresh herbs or spices, always use clean, whole herbs. You can bundle them together in cheesecloth, a tea infuser, or allow them to float freely in the infusion. There is no need for any additional cleaning for dried herbs, such as cinnamon sticks. If you're using fresh ginger, peel the skin before slicing or cubing. Anytime you use vanilla, split the bean in half lengthwise for maximum flavor. For any nuts, be sure to shell or remove the skin first, then coarsely chop before adding to the infusion.
Most infusions will take approximately three to four days to steep, but you can steep longer or shorter, based on how bold of a flavor you're hoping to achieve. Just before leaving the infusion on a shelf in a cool, dry place, give the container a firm shake and continue to do this for each day you steep, be it three days or ten.
Fruit is an easy and popular ingredient to infuse. The infusions will do the heavy lifting for you in any fruit-forward cocktail with any berry, citrus, or tropical flavors. Popular flavors include strawberry, lemon, pineapple, and blueberry. Any spirit works well with a fruit infusion, but some won't pair well with all fruits. All six spirits are a great place to start learning with fruit infusions.
Adding vegetables to a spirit can add a smooth, savory flavor that's both crisp and refreshing. You'll find that cucumbers, green beans, and garlic make for unique and delicious infused liquor flavors. Vodka and gin make excellent spirits for infusing vegetables while learning the ropes.
Using heat in any spirit will create a fiery, memorable cocktail. You can do this with jalapeños, habaneros, or ancho chiles, taking extra care to remove any seeds or stems. Tequila and vodka make for excellent spirits to start experimenting with spicy infused liquors.
Herb and Spice Infusions
Use fresh herbs and spices wherever possible, as dried herbs or spices won't infuse as well or with as bright of a flavor as you will get with fresh herbs and spices. Always use clean ingredients to avoid contaminating your infusion with dirt or pesticides. Vodka, gin, and whiskey are great places to start on your herb and spice journey.
You can add quite an array of floral flavors to your spirit infusion. Never add a floral ingredient without first checking that it is indeed edible and will not cause any sickness. Floral elements you can consider include lilacs, rose, butterfly pea, elderflower, or hibiscus. Like with herbs and spices, be sure any blossoms are clean thoroughly. Gin and silver rum make for excellent spirits for botanical flavors as well as vodka or tequila.
Don't be limited by what you see on the shelves. You can infuse spirits with coffee, chocolate, marshmallows, or even jelly beans. Evaluate your spirit palette before adding ingredients; however, a coffee bourbon or brandy will be extra tasty, but a chocolate gin may not be the wisest choice.
Infused Liquor for Any Taste
Don't be limited by the flavors you find on any liquor store shelf. Dream big with your own liquor infusions without any added or unknown ingredients. There's a world of infused liquor recipes for any modern or classical cocktail riff to get the job done.