Some say the art of infusing cocktails, or more precisely, infusing the liquors used in the making of cocktails, is an act approaching blasphemy. Traditionalists simply do not understand the concepts of adding dimensions of flavor to the standard vodkas, gins, rums and other classic liquors. So what is involved in this emerging trend? Read on to discover how to spot a well infused cocktail at your favorite hot spot.
One definition of the word, infuse, is:
- To put into or introduce as if by pouring.
- To steep or soak without boiling in order to extract soluble elements or active principles.
In effect, infusing a cocktail liquor is the act of introducing some type of substance one intends to extract elements of principles. But elements or principles of what?
Flavor! Of course.
Perhaps contrary to the title’s suggestion of the infused cocktail being something faddish, the concept of infusing liquors with flavorings is perhaps as old as most of the liquors themselves. Take vodka for example. Various European countries from the early 1400s to the mid 1750s have forms of official and unofficial documentation referring to vodka’s existence.
Some of that documentation actually mentions vodka with various additives of herbs or fruits. While these early historical mentions nearly always are in reference to using the alcohol for medicinal purposes, one can only wonder if there wasn’t some mixologists taste testing the results of the infused cocktails that might be concocted from those first liquors.
In today’s culinary celebrity world, their are many theories and philosophies of how to get just that little bit more out of the creations one makes in the kitchen or bar. By infusing liquor with highly flavorful ingredients, everyone from professional molecular gastronomists down to the home mixologist can experiment in the creation of their very own signature drinks.
But how to effectively create a quality infused cocktail? Perhaps the most important of the following steps is the first; choosing quality.
How To Create Infused Cocktails In 6 Easy Steps
- Pick the Best Quality Ingredients: Perhaps this should go without saying, however, say it we will. Culinary experts warn continuously that inferior ingredients will produce inferior plates of food. The same is true of the pursuit of a quality infused cocktail. Start with choosing the best liquor one can afford. Skimping at this step can only allow the final product to be elevated so much. Plus, would one really spend the money on high quality ingredients to add to an infused liquor if that alcohol is of inferior quality. Hopefully not.
- Start with Unflavored Alcohol: The bottles adorning today’s liquor department shelves invariably have many choices of pre-infused flavorings. This is not a bad situation, however, when first beginning ones experiments try and start with something unflavored. Once the skill at infusing is down pat, then try starting with something already flavored. This could have great affects, or not so much so.
- Tall, Clean Glass: It may take one a while to get to the point of confidence of infusing a full bottle of liquor. Until that point (and even after it) the experimenting mixologist will want to use tall, clean glass vessels that have a firm, air tight seal. The oxygen needs to be kept out, the flavors kept in. Canning jars with their rubber sealed lids can make excellent small volume experimental containers.
- Thoroughly Clean and Prep Ingredients: Assuming that one has started with high quality liquor and the best fruits, vegetables or herbs and spices, to not diligently clean and prepare those ingredients is to make for a wasted effort. Remove any browning spots on leaves of herbs, cut away bruised parts of the fruit or vegetable. Experience will help educate one in knowing how thick or thin to slice fruits and vegetables. Pepper infused liquors can be made milder by leaving the vegetable whole, or spicier by slicing and leaving the seeds.
- Seal and Store: The amount of ingredients added is a matter of taste. More fruits or veggies will likely take less time to impart their flavorings. Seal up the container and place out of direct sunlight at room temperature, or feel free to place it in the cool of the refrigerator.
- Taste, Strain, Serve: A vital step is the regular tasting of the creation. Some suggest a daily tasting, others every 12 hours (depending upon the ingredients and how they were prepared.) Either way, once the infused liquor is to the point of taste satisfaction, strain out the added ingredients removing anything from the liquor which could alter the flavor profile. Now, create a favorite drink using the amazing infused cocktail liquor. Oh, and enjoy!
Andy West is a health nut who enjoys researching vaporizers, cooking, and writing.