While walking down the alcohol aisle in the store you can't help but notice the vibrantly coloured bottles of flavoured spirits, often priced slightly higher than their boring, ordinary and plain tasting base spirits. You might even be hoping to find one in your favourite flavour and get a gut-wrenching feeling when you discover its out of stock.
What if I told you there was a way to avoid the cost and ensure that you can get whatever flavoured spirit you wanted, whenever you wanted? The magic trick is to infuse the flavours yourself!
You might now be wondering how on earth you infuse spirits like vodka at home but the answer is incredibly straightforward. You simply just allow ingredients of your choice to steep for up to two weeks in a spirit of your choice, like vodka, rum or gin, and the flavour will diffuse perfectly into the alcohol. We will explain how to do this in the best way in a moment.
Other than being a super cool skill to learn, there are countless reasons why you'd want to start infusing your own spirits at home. The most obvious is that it will dramatically increase the range of flavoured spirits you can add to your home bar. This will also allow you to make more cocktails that require a specifically flavoured ingredient, such as lemon vodka in a Cosmopolitan.
Infusing your own spirits also means that you can breathe new life into bottles of alcohol you might have had sitting on the shelf for a long time. Got a bit of leftover gin? Turn it into pink gin and enjoy it with lemonade! Half a bottle of cheap vodka somewhere but no idea what to do with it? Infuse it with vanilla and add some pizzazz to your Espresso Martinis!
We love the idea that we can jazz up our alcohol collection at any point without any significant additional cost, and we want you to share that same liberating feeling with us.
Lets get down to it! Although the process is insanely easy, before jumping into it you need to prepare a few things beforehand - specifically these three following things:
Choose what spirit you want to infuse
You can choose any spirit you like to infuse a flavour into but just know in advance that all spirits are not made equally. Infusing a flavour into spirits that already have a distinct one incorporated into them, such as juniper in gin, will add to the list, not replace them, so make sure you choose something that complements the pre-existing taste.
Some flavours will naturally work better with certain spirits than others depending on how they are made. Rum, for example,is distilled from sugar cane and as a result it amplifies and emphasises sweeter, tropical flavours like pineapple and coconut.
In our opinion, the best spirit to use for infusing flavours is vodka, as it has a plain, neutral flavour which allows the flavour being introduced to be in the spotlight. Being a simple, blank canvas mans that you can infuse vodka with essentially any flavour you like without considerations for anything else.
Choose what you want to infuse it with
In exactly the same way you can use any spirit to infuse a flavour into, there is no limit to what flavours you can choose to infuse into a spirit.
Many people will typically choose a fruit to flavour their spirit with, but don't be afraid to go against the grain and pick a wild flavour! Similarly to making flavoured syrups, you can take a different direction and use chocolate, vanilla or any herb or spice you like. Take inspiration from unique alcohol brands like Fireball, who infuse their whiskey with cinnamon, or Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur.
You can even take it a step further and blend two or more complimenting flavours together to create something truly incredible. Hendricks' gin achieves its distinct and refreshing flavour by skilfully combining 11 different botanical flavours including rose petals, cucumber and coriander! Get adventurous and see if you can give them a run for their money.
Whatever flavours you choose, make sure you get its base ingredient in the freshest and ripest condition. Thoroughly clean and remove any skin or covering before putting it into your mixture. You'll need to cut these ingredients into small pieces, so make sure that you have the appropriate tools in advance to be able to do this.
The quantity to put in will vary depending on personal taste and the type of ingredients you use. Usually one or two of the main fruit will be enough - for example a whole pineapple will do the trick but you may need two or three oranges to get the same level of intensity. If you don't think the resulting flavour is good enough, simply add some more and repeat the process!
Pick your container
When it comes to infusing spirits the container you use is just as important as picking the spirit and flavour. Since alcohol will aggressively strip the flavour off anything it comes into prolonged contact with, you can't store your precious mixture in anything that will give impart its taste into the drink. Because of this, by all means avoid using a plastic container. Glass and food grade metals like stainless steel are the best materials to use, but glass beats out because you get to visually experience your concoction getting closer and closer to being finished.
Your container also needs to have an airtight seal, so an open cup or bowl will not work! Glass bottles would be ideal except for the fact that their necks are usually too narrow to put ingredients into. Because of this, we strongly recommend using large mason jars since they are easy to come by and satisfy all the above requirements.
Before using it to infuse alcohol, make sure it is perfectly clean and dry! Anything still in the jar will contribute to the resulting taste, for better or worse!
1) Peel, skin, unshell, or unwrap the flavouring you'll be using if necessary, and chop it up into little pieces. Smaller sized pieces have a larger surface area which allows the flavour and essence to diffuse quicker into the spirit. A 1cm x 1cm x 1cm chunk is small enough.
2) Decant your spirit into your container, and add in the chunks you prepared in the previous step. Seal the container, making sure that it is completely airtight, and store it in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight.
3) Every single day give the container a gentle shake to invigorate the mixture and encourage diffusion. The chunks will be perfectly preserved by the alcohol so don't worry about them going bad and spoiling the taste. During this time, the chunks will simultaneously permeate their flavour into to spirit and absorb alcohol.
4) After 14 days, open up the container. If you are too impatient to wait this long (don't worry, we won't judge) you can still get a great tasting mix in as little as 3 days - just note that the flavours may not blend as intricately before the two week mark. Filter out the ingredients into a bottle. You mixture may be cloudy or coloured depending on what you've used to flavour it so on't be alarmed, just make sure that there isn't anything left floating in it. Simply using the fine strainer from your cocktail kit will be enough to do this in most cases. You will be left with a perfectly flavoured spirit and some very boozy chunks of fruit - you can throw these out but its much, much more satisfying to eat them!
5) Enjoy your new infused spirit! Try sipping some on the rocks to truly appreciate your artwork, and use the rest to add some flair to one of our many incredible cocktail recipes! Let us know in the comments what flavours you've been infusing into your spirits and what concoctions you've made with them!
Spirits aren't the only cocktail component you can experiment with at home. Check out our straightforward guides to making these other ingredients at home: