Odds are you are familiar with the uniquely flavored liquors that have flooded the market in recent years. From caramel apple vodka to coconut rum, cinnamon whiskey to melon twisted gin, the hundreds of permutations of flavorings and base liquors can make for some interesting cocktails. What’s more, you can literally make this stuff at home and it is delicious.
Here’s how to create your own custom flavored spirits:
Step one: Pick your base
Here’s a handy rule of thumb: the more complex the flavors of the alcohol, the harder it is to infuse flavors that combine well. The more neutral the flavor of the base alcohol (like vodka), the easier it will be to infuse your flavors and have a delicious end product. Tequila, white rum, and gin are all decent choices as well. Darker spirits like bourbon and brandy can be infused, they just take a more masterful touch to balance. You can skip the top shelf bottles for this exercise; high-end spirits are carefully constructed, and any infusions of flavor will only throw off their delicate balance. But avoid the bottom shelf too; you are going to drink this stuff eventually.
Step two: Pick your infusion
Whatever fruits you choose to infuse with, be sure to select the freshest and best you can find. You are looking for in-season, local and organic ingredients ready to consume, wherever possible.
Fruit infusions are a great place for beginners to start, but they are not the only infusible ingredients out there. In fact, there’s really no limit to what you can infuse. Beyond fruits, you can look to herbs like mint, rosemary, and cilantro for flavor, or spices like ginger, peppercorn, and vanilla, or even to plant matter like hibiscus or almond. Imagine showing off your toasted almond and hibiscus rum runner at the next pool party.
Step three: Prepare your ingredients
Prepping ingredients is all about preparing them to soak in spirits. For fruits, go ahead and wash them and remove the inedible parts like cores and stems before chopping the fruit into nice bite-sized chunks. You can leave or remove skin, depending on your preference; it adds color but can also add some bitter flavor to the infusion. No need to prep extra if you are doing a berry infusion – just toss them into your jar. For citrus fruits, all you need is the peel.
With herbs, wash the item before placing it in your jar. Toasted spices are also a nice touch for darker concoctions. Vanilla beans should be split lengthwise, and peppercorn cracked.
Step four: Infuse the booze.
Add your chosen ingredients to a mason jar at a 1:1 ration with your spirit of choice, muddling to break down the cellular structures and help infusion take place. Remember, you aren’t trying to create a handmade purée, so take it easy as you muddle.
Cap your jar, shake it up and store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Shake and taste daily to determine completion.
Once the concoction has reached an ideal flavor profile, pour through a strainer and cheesecloth to remove particles; repeat until there is no more residue. Because alcohol is a preservative, your infusion can keep on the shelf for months if well-filtered, or in the fridge as needed.
Step five: Serve and enjoy
Whether you drink your infused spirits neat, on the rocks or in a mixed drink, you are destined to enjoy your crafty, homemade infusion.
Check out current flavored spirits available from the Distillery of Modern Art, here.