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DIY Craft Cocktails: Infused (Flavored) Liquors

I maintain that there's a ridiculous secret lurking underneath the craft cocktail movement: as complicated as some of these cocktails can get, it's actually almost impossible to make a bad drink. As my instructor said on day one of bar-tending school: the most important ingredient is ice; you can never have enough. (This instructor was a guru and mentor to me years ago, a person who had devoted his adult life to making drinks. Actually, he's now more of a cautionary tale than anything, but I'll keep the practical knowledge he imparted.) My experience has proved that all you need to do is get some liquor cold, mix in complementary flavors, serve immediately, and a decent drink is inevitable.

 

Making cocktails at home should be as much sport as going out for them, and the more I experiment in the kitchen, the more I view drink making as a wide open, blank canvas. I’ve realized that drinks that used to seem cut and dry (a classic martini, for example) are actually just starting points for experimentation and spontaneity.

 

One way to encourage improvisation at home is to keep the fridge stocked with a variety of flavored liquors. (And for the cooking hobbyist, is there a more pleasing sight than one's own fridge full of mason jars of infusions, fermenting vegetables, home-made condiments, etc?)

 

Liquors can be infused with almost any fruit, vegetable, or aromatic. The finished infusion becomes an easy way to add flavor dimensions to drinks without increasing the drink's sugar content. Below are five recipes that I've been enjoying, but they are merely the starting point for an unlimited number of possible combinations and beverages. 

 

 


 

Some general notes:

 

- Each recipe calls for a 750ml bottle of alcohol. Actual recipes will use a little over 600ml, depending on how the ingredients sit in the jars.

- Once assembled, test each jar every day to make sure the infusion isn't getting too strong. Each recipe below is completed at a slightly different time than the others, and you may want to infuse the liquor for a shorter or longer period of time, depending on your taste.

- Be sure to label each jar with contents and date. This avoids confusion later on, especially deep into an evening of mixing various drinks.

- Once strained, infused liquors should keep, refrigerated, for a few weeks.

- The finished infusions work best in simple, classic cocktails where their flavors won't be masked.

- When mixing drinks, don't forget that the infused liquors' potency has not been diminished despite the fact that they are now fruitier/deeper in flavor. Use them in the same proportions as you would unflavored liquors.

- Where possible, garnish drinks with a vegetable or aromatic that's been included in the recipe. For example, a slice of roasted beet for the beet ginger martini (to let your guests know it's not blood but in fact infused beet juice) or a sprig of fennel with one of the Meyer lemon margaritas.

- And, as always, drink responsibly. 

 

 

 

 

Meyer Lemon Fennel Tequila

 

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel

2 Meyer lemons

1 750 ml bottle of tequila

 

Equipment:

1 quart mason jar

1 empty liquor bottle

Small funnel

Fine mesh strainer

 

Instructions:

 

1. Peel the outer layer from the fennel and discard. Rinse the remaining fennel, then roughly chop into 1-inch pieces and put in jar.

2. Rinse the lemons and thinly slice them into 1/4 inch rounds. Put in jar.

3. Pour the tequila into the jar and close.

4. Store in the refrigerator for 7-8 days, making sure to shake the jar every other day.

5. Strain the tequila using a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, then, using a funnel, pour tequila into a clean, empty liquor bottle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Suggested drinks: Margarita, bloody maria, or a chilled shot with lime garnish and orange juice chaser.

 

 

 

Butter Washed Whiskey

 

The idea behind fat washing any liquor is to get the fat (butter, bacon drippings, etc.) hot and pour it into chilled liquid. The fat will solidify and separate from the liquor, but impart its flavor before being strained out.

 

Ingredients:

 

1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter

1 750 ml bottle of whiskey (chill in refrigerator one day in advance)

 

Equipment:

 

Small saucepan

1 quart mason jar

1 empty liquor bottle

Small funnel

Fine mesh strainer

Paper coffee filters

 

Instructions:

 

1. Melt the butter over low heat in saucepan.

2. Fill jar 3/4 of the way full with whiskey. Slowly pour melted butter into jar.

3. Allow the butter/whiskey mixture to settle for ten minutes.

4. Add remaining whiskey until jar is almost full. Close lid tightly and shake jar.

5. Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, making sure to shake the jar every day.

6. Strain the whiskey using a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard the butter (it will resemble cooked couscous) and clean and dry the jar.

7. Strain the whiskey a second time, this time from the bowl back into the jar, using a coffee filter set inside the strainer. After straining back into the jar, funnel the whiskey into a clean liquor bottle.

 

Note: This produces a very sweet, buttery whiskey that may need to be diluted with regular whiskey, depending on your flavor preference.

 

Suggested drinks: Manhattans, whiskey and ginger ale. Or, drop a half shot into a pint of stout (I'm tempted to call this drink Butter Beer, but I fear Potter-related copyright infringement, so let's go with “Butter Boilermaker.”)

 

 


Apple Cinnamon Rum

 

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized apples

1 six-inch stick of cinnamon

1 750 ml bottle of rum

 

Equipment:

1 quart mason jar

1 empty liquor bottle

Small funnel

Fine mesh strainer

 

Instructions:

 

1. Rinse and core the apples. Cut them into ¼-inch slices and put in jar with the cinnamon stick.

2. Pour the rum into the jar and close.

3. Store in the refrigerator for 7-8 days, making sure to shake the jar every other day.

5. Strain the rum using a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, then, using a funnel, pour rum into a clean, empty liquor bottle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Note: This rum will pair best with mixers normally associated with whiskey or brandy. Its warm-spice flavor profile will not mix well with traditional rum accompaniments such as tropical fruit, mint, or lime. (In other words: no mojitos, unless you're braver than I.)

 

Suggested drinks: Hot toddy, rum and ginger ale, rum and coke.

 

 

 

Pear Rosemary Gin

 

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized, ripe pears

2 five-inch sprigs of rosemary

1 750 ml bottle of gin

 

Equipment:

1 quart mason jar

1 empty liquor bottle

Small funnel

Fine mesh strainer

 

Instructions:

 

1. Rinse and core the pears. Cut them into 1/4 inch slices and put into the jar.

2. Using the back of a chef's knife, bruise the rosemary (to release more of its oils) before adding them to the jar.

3. Pour the gin into the jar and close.

4. Store in the refrigerator for 10-12 days, making sure to shake the jar every other day.

5. Strain the gin using a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, then, using a funnel, pour gin into a clean, empty liquor bottle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Suggested drinks: Martini, Tom Collins, gin and tonic, negroni. 

 

 


Beet Ginger Vodka

 

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized beets

1 three-inch chunk of fresh ginger

1 750 ml bottle of vodka

 

Equipment:

1 quart mason jar

1 empty liquor bottle

Small funnel

Fine mesh strainer

 

Instructions:

 

1. Peel and rinse the beets. Cut them into 1/4 inch slices and put in jar.

2. Peel the ginger and slice it into 1/4 inch coins and put in jar.

3. Pour the vodka into the jar and close.

4. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, making sure to shake the jar every other day.

5. Strain the vodka using a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, then, using a funnel, pour gin into a clean, empty liquor bottle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Note: This will have a fairly concentrated beet flavor. When mixing into cocktails, it may need to be diluted with regular vodka, according to taste preferences.

 

Suggested drinks: Martini, bloody mary, gimlet.

 


 

Peter Groynom is a graduate of Carleton College and the San Francisco School of Bartending. He is an avid home cook, a writer, and a Photoshop enthusiast. His photography can be found at Arts and Hovercrafts. He lives in Minneapolis. His last post for SGT was DIY Craft Cocktails: Lighter Holiday/Winter Cocktails.

 

 

Comments

These are great gift ideas! I love coming across fun new things, well for me at least :) I will definetly be trying this out.

Cheers~Erin

What a fantastic post! I love the idea of trying these cocktails out at home when we next have some friends over!

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