Flavored liquors can be phenomenal, and if you don't believe it, you just haven't had the right stuff yet. They can add entire new dimensions to your cocktail game and can even be used in cooking - if you make the right infusion.
The fact is that the liquor infusion market is one that is filled to the brim with different flavors to try. The problem with most of them is that they tend to taste awful, fake, or flavorless. If you want to get the best quality stuff, you'll need to infuse your own.
Here's how to do it, and how you can avoid the infusion mistakes most others make...
First things first, you're going to need to pick up supplies that reflect the kind of infusion you're making.
Infusions shouldn't be done by just dropping herbs and spices into a liquor bottle; that's just bad form. No, this is going to take some planning. First, choose the kind of alcohol infusion you want to make - and then plan around that.
In order to make any infusion, you will need the following items:
- An airtight container for the liquor to sit in as it gains flavor. Mason jars work well for this purpose.
- Cheesecloth or a coffee filter to filter out spices.
- Herbs, spices, veggies, and/or fruits.
- A high quality liquor.
Remember, the liquor infusion you make can only be as good as the liquor you start with. Don't buy cheap liquor and expect it to taste delicious after you drop spices in it; it doesn't work that way.
Drop the spices into the mason jar, then pour vodka ontop of them.
Part of getting a good infusion is keeping the air OUT of your infusion. The reason why is because oxygen can ruin some of the flavors inside herbs, and can also cause the liquors to lose some of the most delicate aromas. So, add as much liquor as you can, then close the mason jar lid.
Once you've done that, close the mason jar's lid, and shake it up a couple of times. Once you've given it a good shake, it's time to play the waiting game.
Now, here's where most people make a huge mistake.
People often don't know how long they should steep their infusions. Some take a lot longer than others. Here's how long you should expect to steep them, according to the "genre" they fit into...
- Tea OR hot peppers. Tea should only be left in liquor for an hour to two hours at most. Otherwise, you're looking at a very overpowering drink. The same can also be said for some of the very spicy hot peppers out there.
- Vanilla beans, ginger, cinnamon and citrus. These goodies are classic infusion choices, and they're also really quick to infuse. You can usually steep them for one to three days with good results.
- Melons, berries, sweet peppers, and watery veggies. These fruit infusions come from stuff that already is light on flavor in many cases. So, they may take a while to really impart that flavor. Usually, these are done in three to six days. The more watery the veggie or fruit, the longer it will take. So, apples may take five days, while cucumbers may go for as long as a week in infusion time.
- Dried herbs. Most dried herbs will impart flavor after a week to a 12 days. That being said, these infusions can be tricky.
Obviously, these guidelines are very pliable - and they can vary depending on how large an infusion batch you make. When in doubt, try a little bit of your infusion on a regular basis until you get the flavor you want.
Once it's been infused to the point of a good flavor, strain the liquor into another jar, clean out the mason jar you just used, and pour it back in.
The best way to strain a liquor infusion is to use a cheesecloth or coffee filter to do it. There may be a little bit of sediment at the bottom after you filter the liquor, but that isn't anything to worry about. That's actually pretty normal.
What isn't normal is if you notice it becoming cloudy or moldy. If this happens, it may be a bad batch. Use your common sense, and toss it out if . you feel your infusion went bad.
Obviously, some people get squicked out whenever they see granules of spice at the bottom of the jar. If you want to get a smoother, more sediment-free vodka, filtering it several more times can help.
Experiment with it!
The fun thing about DIY infusions is that you can make a lot of amazing things happen with them. Try a cucumber-vodka infusion, or a tobacco-whiskey infusion; the sky's the limit with what you can do.