Friends and family, humblest apologies for lack of posts. I have been in the doldrums, which here means a time in my life with calms, sudden storms, and unpredictable winds. But that could be said about anyone’s life at any given moment. I suppose that’s just life. During this time I kept thinking about this project of mine, and baking in general and desperately wanted to bake but simply couldn’t find the time, funds, or energy to do so. Now I have time, energy, and mini funds, but have embarked on a healthy-eating challenge for my day job. Alas….c’est la vie. But then it occurred to me, as I was finishing up a birthday gift for a relative, that it doesn’t necessarily have to be baking that I post about. It is, after all, my blog. No boss lady here except me.
So I’m going to start a mini-series on making your own infusions. Sounds science-y, right? Well it’s not, although it may make your kitchen look a bit like a laboratory for a month or so. I’m not sure why people are so impressed with infusing – it makes bars seem fancier and you look like a liquored up genius – but it is so easy. So don’t be afraid. I’ll hold your hand.
Here it is, broken down: Alcohol + Ingredients + Time + Simple Syrup (or not, but this turns your infusion into a bottle of insta-cocktail)
- Large jar – if you’re using a liter of alcohol, get a jar that will fit 1.75.
- Swing-top Bottle – again, size appropriate please, though you probably won’t find one over 1.75. If it’s for personal use, go ahead and re-use the liquor bottle, assuming you used all of the contents. In some gift-giving this is appropriate too, but remove the labels and make sure it’s an attractive bottle.
Start out by picking a flavor. Please don’t pick something you would not want to drink. I have made cranberry + lemon verbena, chile + carrot (you haven’t lived until you’ve had this in a bloody mary), chocolate, grapefruit, apple pie, green tea + lemon (like a spiked Arnold Palmer, amazing), chocolate + orange, and maybe one or two I’m forgetting. Mostly I have used vodka, but have also used 151 (yikes!) and spiced rum to great results. Once you have your flavor in mind you will be able to make a booze selection.
Things to consider in selecting your booze – will it fit your flavor profile? For example, cranberry alone might work well with a spiced rum, but cranberry and lemon verbena probably won’t. Use common sense. Do you want something clean and crisp? Go with vodka or everclear. Warm and nuanced? Spiced rum is probably the way to go. Will you be using it in a margarita? Use tequila, for god’s sake! Because it is almost margarita season and I’m a big fan of spicy cocktails, for this series I will be doing a pineapple + chile infused tequila. Try not to drool on your keyboard.
Another thing – there are camps that say go high-end, and camps that say spend as little as possible because the alcohol flavor will be masked. I say, don’t infuse any liquor you wouldn’t normally drink. Because guess what? If you infuse an alcohol you don’t like with ingredients you do, that yucky alcohol is still the main ingredient and you won’t drink your infusion.
I usually get a big handle, but I like to keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Consider how much of your infusion you want – if it’s for personal use and you’re playing around, go small, about 2 cups of liquor should do it. For a gift, definitely get the liter and a cute, swing-top re-usable bottle.
Full disclosure purposes only – I don’t usually like giving brand names, but people have asked. For vodka infusions I like Tito’s. It’s cheap and clean, and definitely the most bang for your buck, but if you’re a Smirnoff kinda drinker, get Smirnoff. If Skyy is your poison, use Skyy. If it’s Popov….you probably should expand your horizons. For rum I like Sailor Jerry. For tequila I like Espolon – it’s 100% agave and not aged, so the tequila flavor is very smooth and clean.
Round up these things and join me next time when I will be talking about selecting and using ingredients! Don’t be scared!