This week I’d like to talk about infusing flavors into different spirits. This is becoming very popular especially with the advent of mixologists. If you pick the right flavors to infuse, you can make the most spectacular mixed drinks that your friends will freak out over. For instance, at the bar across the street from where I live, they serve a Reverse Bloody Mary Bomb made with horseradish infused vodka. You seriously haven’t lived until you’ve tried one. The vodka is good house vodka, but it is full of horseradish flavor. Spicy, but not so much that you can drink it without coughing. It is truly a revelation.
You may find that the most frequently infused spirits will be vodka. But I’m going to show you a couple of other infusion ideas. For instance, another favorite bar of mine here in the Twin Cities, Town Talk Diner, makes a Manhattan with their own bacon-infused bourbon. It is AMAZING!!! I mean, who doesn’t like a lardon with a sour cherry as a garnish in their cocktail?!
The bourbon looks like what you’re used to, but the smokey baconey flavor is definitely there on the very first sip. It doesn’t hurt that Town Talk also makes their own cherry liqueur and cherry vanilla bitters. (Can you say over achievers?) But boy does all of their hard work pay off in that Manhattan. I’m ruined for any other Manhattan from any other bar now. *sigh*
Enough revelry. On to the how-to’s.
Infusing is usually a pretty simple process, but it takes a few weeks of steeping to get the flavors melded and infused into your spirit of choice. So if you start this weekend, you should have an amazing infusion by The Fourth of July. Just in time for more grilling and fireworks! Hooray!
One thing to consider when attempting meat flavors such as bacon, the FAT is the flavor. Make sure to choose a spirit that won’t freeze so that when the fat does it will be easy to remove. That’s how you get clear liquid at the end, as you will learn below. Otherwise, the world is your oyster. I’d love to hear what flavor combinations and cocktails you come up with! Happy infusing!
Adapted from Gourmet
750 ml bottle of plata or blanco tequila
1 quart ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, and finely chopped
2-quart mason jar
fine mesh sieve
Place chopped strawberries in jar. Muddle to release juices, then pour in tequila. Seal tightly, and allow to stand for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or double cheesecloth.
Yields 750 ml of strawberry tequila.
1/2 lime, chopped
1-1/2 ounces strawberry tequila
3 mint sprigs (one for a garnish)
1/2 ounce triplesec
4 large strawberries
1 ounce fresh lime juice (one for a garnish)
1 ounce simple syrup
Muddle the lime, two mint sprigs, and three strawberries in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a margarita glass with ice. Garnish.
Makes 1 drink.
750 ml vodka
1 3-inch piece fresh horseradish
Either pour vodka into a clean, large glass container or empty an inch or two from the bottle (note: if you infuse the vodka in its original bottle you will need to decant it into another bottle when the infusion is complete).
Peel the horseradish and cut into 6 slices (about 1/2-inch thick each). Add horseradish slices to vodka. Seal bottle or container and let steep a least one week and up to one month. Taste every once and awhile. When the strength of the horseradish flavor is as much as you like, either remove horseradish slices or strain vodka into a clean container.
You can start using the Horseradish Vodka as soon as you like, but the flavor will mellow and soften pleasantly with time.
Yields 750 ml Horseradish Vodka.
Horseradish Bloody Mary
2 oz Horseradish Vodka
4 oz tomato juice or Clamato
2 to 3 dashes Worchestershire
3 dashes Tabasco Sauce
Pinch of coarse salt or sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Pinch of celery salt or crushed celery seeds
Lemon and Lime wedges
Combine the vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco Sauce, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and celery salt in a cocktail shaker over ice, and blend. Strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Garnish with a wedge each of lemon and lime. If you are hungry, add a tender celery stalk, cheese cubes, summer sausage, olives, the garden can go on and on…
Makes 1 drink.
3 to 4 slices high quality, thick-cut, smoked bacon (enough to render 1 oz fat)
750 ml bourbon or whiskey
Cook bacon in pan and reserve rendered fat.
When bacon fat has cooled a bit, pour off one ounce from the pan. Don’t forget to eat the bacon!
Pour bourbon into a non-porous container with a wider neck.
Strain the bacon fat into the container through a cheese cloth lined fine mesh sieve and infuse for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature.
Place mixture in freezer until all the fat is solidified (about 2 hours).
When fat is solidified, strain bourbon back into bottle though a sieve.
Makes 750 ml Bacon Bourbon.
Bacon Bourbon Old Fashioned
2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
1/4 ounce Grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Twist of orange
In mixing glass, stir 2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters with ice. Strain into chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange twist.
Makes 1 drink.