There’s no time more perfect to snuggle up with a spicy, handcrafted cocktail than on a moonlit winter night. The art of mixology is inspiring bartenders and boozehounds everywhere to create original sipping concoctions or to revive old classics. But you don’t need to stock the cabinet with a fortune’s worth of pretty liquor bottles to enjoy these delights. Infusing your own spirits at home is an easy way to build ingredients for your home bar and allows you to dream up customized flavors. You only need a few staples, some glass jars, and whole dried herbs.
A basic infusion-ready bar includes vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, brandy, and tequila. Any of these liquors can be transformed with herbs. Since you’ll be drinking infusions for pleasure, be sure to start with high quality spirits. They don’t have to be top shelf, but after that first taste you’ll really appreciate spending a few extra dollars on the good stuff. Please, no plastic bottles!
As a general guideline, I like to experiment with small batches first. Making pints is a great way to test flavor development without using an entire bottle. Spoon 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of your herb or herb mixture into a glass pint jar and top with the liquor of your choice. The amount of herb to use will depend on which plant parts you choose and their aromatic strength. You can always add more, so it’s smart to go light. Label the jar with the herbs used, the measurement, liquor, and date. Shake the infusion everyday for a week and taste test on day 7 to gauge flavor intensity.
You’ll have some choices to make at this point. If the flavor is too light, you can add another tablespoon of herb and allow the infusion to go another week, or you can just give the flavors another week or two to develop before adding more herbs. After a month, the alcohol will have extracted about as much flavor from the herbs as it can. Keep tasting throughout the infusion time though and strain out the herbs when the spirit has the flavor you desire.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations, but let your imagination fly free when formulating. I love to make gift sets that include a variety of infusions in 2oz bottles with handwritten labels and cocktail recipes. Unique, delicious, and always a big hit!
Chai Spiced Rum
1 pint of gold rum
2 tbsp Firefly Chai
Roasted Cacao and Vanilla Bean Brandy
Smoked Peppercorn Vodka
1 pint of vodka
2 tbsp smoked black peppercorns
1 pint of gin
1 tsp lavender flowers