A Cocktail Enthusiast’s Guide to DIY Spirit Infusions and Flavored Liquors
Dazed and Infused
There are countless methods for combining flavors and spirits in a cocktail – the name of the game is mixology, after all. Infused spirits, in particular, add a lovely depth and complexity to mixed drinks. Cocktail connoisseurs will be glad to know that making custom infusions at home is a rather simple feat. If you’ve got a quality base spirit and a mason jar on hand, you’re practically halfway there. For the non-DIY-inclined, you can find bottles lining package store shelves that already contain the essences of various fruits, herbs, spices, and more.
Here, we outline the steps for infusing your own spirits at home, and we provide you with recommendations for three already-flavored liquors that are sure to give you a sensational sipping experience.
By Olivia Halverson | Photography by Emily Pérez Long
How to Infuse Your Own Alcohol at Home
Gather Your Supplies
Mason jar, or any container with an airtight seal
Flavoring agents (fruits, herbs, spices, or vegetables)
Coffee filter, cheesecloth, or fine-mesh strainer
Choose Your Base Spirit and Flavor Pairings
As the old wine adage goes, “What grows together, goes together.” This also applies to spirit infusions. It’s important to note the origins of your selected spirit. Ask yourself questions like: What are the ingredients that this spirit is distilled from? What region was it produced in? What are the flavor notes inherent to this spirit? From there, you can decide if you’d like to infuse a flavor that will enhance, complement, or – for better or worse – contradict the notes already present in your base spirit. A keenness for experimentation will ultimately lead you to the best infusions, but you can always count on a few tried-and-true pairings. Here are three quality base spirits and recommended flavor pairings to consider:
Vodka is the most neutral base spirit for infusions and can be complemented by just about any infused flavor. Belvedere Vodka, specifically, has a soft and inviting scent. Subtle on the palate and with a rich velvety texture, this spirit would be served well by an infusion of strawberry and lemon.
For the whiskey lovers among you, Chattanooga Whiskey 91 is a rich, malt-forward bourbon crafted locally in Tennessee distilleries. On its own, this whiskey presents notes of apricot, sweet tea, and honeyed toast – but an infusion of cinnamon and spice would surely take this spirit to new, warmer heights.
Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila is made with 100% agave. A filtration process renders the tequila colorless while preserving its complexity and smoothness. An infusion of jalapeño slices will give this tequila just the heated punch your margarita deserves.
Step 1: Choose a clean, airtight jar.
Step 2: Wash your flavoring ingredients. Slice or muddle them as needed to release flavor, removing and discarding undesirable parts along the way.
Step 3: Place your flavoring ingredients inside the jar, and fill the jar with liquor.
Step 4: Seal tightly with a lid and shake.
Step 5: Store your infusion in a cool, dark place, and shake it daily for the duration of the infusion. See next section for tips on how to time your infusion.
Step 6: Once your infusion has reached its peak flavor, remove the flavoring ingredients using a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter to strain the liquor into another clean jar.
Step 7: Store the finished infusion in a cool, dark place as you would any other liquor. It will have the same shelf life as the base spirit you used.
On average, the ingredients should stay in the liquor for three to five days. More intense flavors, like hot peppers, cinnamon, and lemon, will need a few hours or days. Subtle flavors like apple, mango, and strawberry should stay in the jar for a full week or more. Multi-flavor infusions should be done in stages. Infuse your liquor with the subtlest flavor first. When it’s ready, remove the flavoring agents and strain the spirit as you normally would. Then, start the process over to infuse the next flavor.
Timing is important, but the best tools to gauge your spirit’s readiness are your taste buds and personal preference. Regularly sample your infusion during the process to see if the flavors are to your liking.
The Case forAlready-Flavored Spirits
If you’re short on time, mason jars, or the will to do one more DIY project, there are a variety of already-infused bottles on package store shelves that deliver on the same flavor-fused fronts. The best part? The master distillers behind these bottles have found ways to infuse flavors that would otherwise be difficult to execute at home. For example, it’s pretty easy to throw a few pieces of fruit in a liquor-filled jar, but infusing an ingredient like peanut butter might make a bigger mess than your home kitchen is equipped to handle. Here are three popular already-infused and ready-to-serve spirits to consider adding to your bar cart, along with tips for how to serve them.
Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose is refreshing, fragrant, and mouthwatering. Flavors from zesty grapefruit and refined rose petals capture the essence of elegance and springtime. The botanical flavoring agents are obtained naturally, yielding the freshest, cleanest taste possible without added sweeteners or artificial flavors. Serve it in a wine glass with ice, soda water, and your choice of fragrant herbs, crisp citrus, or other fresh fruit.
Like most gin varieties, juniper is the most forward flavor profile in Barr Hill Gin. What sets it apart, however, is the incorporation of raw honey after distillation – an “ode to the hardworking bees of the Northeast,” according to the brand. The juniper-forward botanicals are brought to a perfect balance by the floral sweetness of the raw honey. To appreciate the subtlety of this flavor infusion, you’ll want to sample the gin neat. It would also add a wonderful complexity to a Tom Collins or a simple gin and tonic.
Some have described Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey as the essence of a nutty candy bar in a glass. This smooth, slightly sweet whiskey is a sensation for the nose as much as it is for the taste buds. Skrewball is sure to be unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. This spirit is delicious on its own, or it can be used to add a unique, nutty twist to the classic old fashioned.