Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Alcohol Infusions and You

It seems like a common trope for university freshmen to make 'Skittles Vodka'. Depending on how they go about the process, it results in some pleasantly colourful booze or a strange sludgy mess; but there's a solid idea there. If you have the patience for it, making infused alcohol is fun and easy - and a great thing to take to parties!

Photograph of an infusion of Parma Violet candy in Gin. Filter paper is used to remove the chalky leftover sediment.

You can do an alcohol infusion with almost any spirit and anything solid and edible - from boiled sweets to bacon. Yes, bacon.

You will need:
  • A large glass jar (preferably with a rubber-sealed lid that won't leak)
  • Smaller jars (For presentation, and if you're infusing something that will put detritus in the mixture)
  • A strainer (the finer the better)
  • Your spirit of choice (Strong alcohols work better)
  • Your infusion items of choice
The Fun Part
First, put all your alcohol and infusion items into a jar. Stir/shake it a little to make sure that your infusion items are coated in delicious booze, and store it in a dark place.

And for now, you're done! But there are a few maintenance things to bear in mind
  • If you're infusing sweets, then you have the easiest job. Agitate your mixture twice a day, and check the how the dissolving process is going. In about 3 days it should have fully dissolved. Some sweets (like Skittles) will leave pulp behind that you'll have to strain off before serving. The sugar in the sweets will thicken your booze, so bear that in mind if it's something already viscous, like amaretto.
  • If you're infusing soft fruit, then this will take a bit longer. If you're impatient you can pulp the fruit before you start, but then that's not so much 'infusing' as adding fruit juice. When agitating, make sure that any fruit that's floating at the top gets nicely coated. If you leave it too long, fruit sticking up out of the mixture will mould, and all will be lost.
  • If you're infusing harder fruit, citrus peel, or herbs, this will take the longest. However, the flavours of these are the most rewarding. Go for these if you're going to infuse over more than a month. The longer you leave things to infuse, the better the taste will be. If you're using something spicy (chilli vodka!) be sure to not let it get too strong, if you don't want to nuke your tastebuds.
  • If you're infusing meat, cook it first to get some of the grease out. Put the cooked meat and the grease into the jar. Store the infusion in a cool place (or in the freezer if you're impatient), and check on it regularly to remove the fat that rises to the surface, strain the remainder, and repeat. The taste will be really distinct, but fatty vodka has a... unique texture.
Serving Suggestions
My favourite variation so far has been Apple & Cinnamon Whiskey. It really helped me get through Christmas. There's no need to use super-expensive whiskey here, especially if it's your first attempt. Get a pack of cinnamon sticks (I used 5) and cut up 2 apples, large-ish chunks. While smaller pieces will increase the surface area and speed up infusion, there's no need to go overboard.

This infusion combination took about 2 weeks for the flavour of the apples to start coming through. The cinnamon left a lot of detritus when agitated, so be sure to strain it.
We can use the infused whiskey so make some truly badass Old Fashioneds.

You will need
  • A low glass
  • Brown sugar (2 sugar cubes worth is fine)
  • Angostura Bitters (You can get this from Tesco Online order pretty easily)
  • Citrus peel
  • Ice/Mineral Water
  • Your delicious whiskey infusion
Start off by dissolving the sugar in the bottom of the glass. Try to add just enough to dissolve the sugar, stirring regularly. It's a slow process, but enjoy it! Add at least 2 dashes of bitters (Not everyone's a fan of the taste, but I tend to add a lot), and your Whiskey. The Old Fashioned tastes best cold, but at the same time, drinking whiskey near-straight is not for everyone. If you're not used to the taste, go for a water-mix, adding more mineral water. Going for a water-mix and ice will dilute the whiskey too much.

When you're done making the infused whiskey, don't throw the infusion ingredients away! The infused apple tastes great when cooked with lamb and mint, and the cinnamon sticks do a great job of livening up a cup of coffee.

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