I have a well-stocked bar. I enjoy a drink after dinner or watching a hockey game on TV, but I soon get bored with my choices. So I decided to try my hand at making infused liquor. For Christmas a few years back, I got my wife the Cocktail Zinger which sat unused in it’s box for years. So one day I took it out and tried my hand.
The infuser is pretty cool. It has a lower compartment where you put the stuff you want to use for flavor. This compartment is separated from the liquor by a fine mesh screen. The screen is removable so you can load in the stuff.
The best thing is to make the flavoring material small by cutting into tiny pieces. This will help accelerate the infusing. Once loaded, you attach the lower compartment to the upper compartment and add the liquor which will drain into the lower compartment and steep.
A lid on the top allows you to turn over the infuser from time to time and shake it for better mixing. Different combinations of liquor and flavoring take different amounts of time. The best (and most fun) way is to periodically sample it to determine when it’s done infusing. Hopefully it won’t all be consumed by that time.
What to infuse?
The common spirits to use are the ones usually used in cocktails; vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila. The trick is to match the flavors. So I looked at some popular cocktails using these liquors as a base:
• Mint julep – Bourbon-mint
• Fireball – Bourbon-cinnamon
• Gin and tonic – Gin and herbs
• Margarita – Tequila and hot peppers
Mint Julep Time
Another handy-dandy item I got for Christmas was an indoor herb garden. This thing allows me to have my gardening experience year-round. I comes with six seed pods that will grow two kinds of basil, parsley, thyme, dill and mint. I used the mint to make mint-infused whiskey.
I first cut the mint leaves into thin strips, then loaded them into the bottom compartment of the infuser. Next I put 8 oz of Knob Creek bourbon into the upper compartment and put on the lid.
The bourbon-mint combination takes a long time to infuse, about 2 days. In the end, I had a very pleasant mint-scented whiskey that I served over ice with club soda to make a very tasty and refreshing cocktail.
All you need is a fancy hat and a horse race!
After thoroughly cleaning out the infuser, I then loaded in crushed cinnamon sticks. I put the sticks into a plastic bag and hit them with my tenderizing mallet until the pieces were small enough to put into the infuser.
Once again I poured 8 oz of Knob Creek bourbon and periodically inverted and shook the infuser. Where the mint took a long time, the cinnamon flavored the whiskey very quickly. I decanted the whiskey after only 3 hours after tasting that it was to my liking.
The result tasted very good mixed with water and served over ice. In hindsight, I could’ve used fewer cinnamon sticks as the result was pretty strong.
Now, back to the herb garden where I harvested several Thai basil leaves. Similar to the mint, these were cut into thin strips and loaded into the lower compartment of the infuser.
Next I put in 8 oz of Bombay dry gin into the upper compartment. This time I infused for 24 hours and the result was a very nice anise-flavored gin, which I served with club soda over ice. The same thing could be done with vodka, but I like the taste of the gin-basil better.
Finally, I decided to return to my roots as the pepper master, and infuse tequila with chili peppers. I used jalapeno peppers which I diced into small pieces and placed into the infuser lower compartment.
I added 8 oz of 1800 white tequila, and let it steep for about 4 hours. The result was a nice peppery tequila that is perfect for a spicy traditional margarita, but is also very good with other fruit-based recipes especially pineapple and mango.
I have also used habanero peppers, but care should be taken to cut the steeping time down as this can get very spicy very quickly. I even used some dried smoked habanero peppers from last season which resulted in a dark smoky-spicy tequila that was quite good on the rocks.
So if you want to expand your cocktail menu, consider getting one of these infusers. We recently took some to a party, and went home with empty jars.