10 Secrets to Perfect Liquor Infusions Slideshow
February 8, 2011
List your favorite flavors first
Mark recommends to start by listing your favorite flavors — some of his include orange, vanilla, cinnamon, mint, basil, lemon, lime, cucumber, and huckleberry. He notes that mixing and matching can produce amazing flavors. "For example you could produce a spicy apple flavor by infusing very ripe apples, vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon. (But go easy on the cloves, too many will kill your batch and numb your mouth)."
Tweak classic cocktails
Classic cocktails are another good place to look for inspiration. You can think of ways to tweak and make them your own by creating an original base liquor infusion. Mark shares that he has always wanted to try making a Vanilla Chai White Russian. "I haven't tried it yet, but I want to infuse vodka or rum (to make it a White Cuban, or Cubano Blanco) with chai bags, orange rind, and a little vanilla."
Consider secondary flavors
According to Mark, many infusions have sharp qualities to them. By adding a secondary flavor (vanilla, orange rind, lavender, cinnamon), you can make your infusion more complex and user-friendly. He notes that cucumber, basil, and mint are great examples of secondary flavors that can smooth out a gin infusion, or add subtlety to a lime or lemon infusion.
"One of my favorite infusions was one my roommate concocted. She infused gin with lots of lime rind, a little lemon rind, as well as some basil and a cucumber to smooth out and enhance the flavor. It made the single best gin and tonic I've ever had," he shares.
3 to 5 days is all it takes
Don't necessarily believe what some books will tell you — that you need to infuse for several weeks at least. In Mark's experience, "the osmosis between the booze and the ingredients only takes a few days."
"Trust me, an orange rind rind has exhausted its flavor after that time. If you take a bite of a cherry that has steeped for a few days, it's like taking a shot of vodka (not that that's a bad thing...)."
Keep it air-tight
Make sure that whatever container you store your infusion in has an air-tight seal. This is important to help prevent fermentation and pickling. Mark also recommends keeping it away from heat and sunlight — you don't want it to cook.
You want to taste your batch once or twice a day ("when infusing it's better to overdo than under do"), just make sure it's resealed well.
Vodka, rum, tequila, or brandy
Says Mark, "vodka, rum, tequila, and brandy are easiest to infuse. Whiskeys and cognacs are a little more of a challenge. You would want the infusion to enhance their natural flavors. I love hickory-smoked bacon bourbon, and so do many of my bar guests."
Don't go for top-shelf liquors
Save your money — top-shelf liquor isn't always the right answer. When it comes to infusions, Mark advises that higher quality alcohols don't carry the flavors of the infusion any better than mid-shelf products. Of course, that doesn't mean you should go for bottom-shelf products either. "Cheap vodkas and gins taste like they could clean jet engines, and infusions won't remedy this."
Use overripe fruit
According to Mark, "there's far more flavor" when you use overripe fruit in your infusion.
With citrus, rind is best
"When infusing lemon, lime, or orange, I recommend simply using the rind. Also, try to keep the pieces as big as possible — the white part under the rind, when torn, produces a bitter flavor."
Strain it out!
Last but not least, when you're ready to serve, make sure you strain the infusion well so that there are no particles in the final drink.