Tag Archives: infusions

Bourbon Infusion #2: Flavors of the Fall

Fall is in the air! Well, actually it’s been 70 degrees here in San Francisco the last couple of days, but hey, a girl can dream. What better way to celebrate fall than with flavors like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and of course, bourbon. There used to be a cocktail lounge in the Bellagio, Las Vegas called the Fontana. It has been replaced with something much trendier, which makes me very very sad. It was very old-school Vegas, had the most amazing cover band with a lady singer who could do Shakira’s “Suerte” in Spanish, and (to get to my point) had a Manhattan on the menu made with Maker’s Mark that they infused in-house with “a secret blend of herbs and spices.” It was delightful, and I’ve been dreaming of recreating it for years. This week, I finally took a crack at it, and in keeping with my new mission of consistency, I wrote down exact amounts of everything I used. I made a big batch, because we still have some people to thank for all their help with the wedding, and what better way to thank people than with booze? If you re-create this recipe for home use, I’d recommend halving all the amounts, unless you throw a lot of cocktail parties. Here’s my recipe:

1.75L bourbon

6 whole vanilla beans (scored lengthwise)

2 large cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup fresh ginger (coarsely chopped)

20 whole cloves

dash nutmeg

teaspoon brown sugar

My ingredients. Aren't they pretty?

My ingredients. Aren’t they pretty?

The infusion process at work.

The infusion process at work.

Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart mason jar with a sealing lid. Then you just let it sit for 2 weeks or so and shake it up a few times a day. Usually I’m nervous about my ingredients overpowering the bourbon, but in the end the flavor turns out to be quite subtle. This time I decided to go bold. In addition to the usual fall spices, I added some ginger for a little bite. I didn’t have any whole nutmeg, so I just put a dash of the ground stuff in…we’ll see how that goes. I also added a little sugar to counteract the bitterness of the cloves and nutmeg, but you could leave that out. It’s got another week of infusing. Check back soon for the results. Happy mixing!

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Earl Grey Tea Vodka

Adding further evidence to my making-fancy-flavor-infused-booze-is-the-easiest-thing-ever theory, I experimented awhile back with infusing vodka with Earl Grey tea in an attempt to re-create a cocktail I had at the Bourgeois Pig in New York called the “Cold Toddy.” The name still doesn’t make sense to me, because Hot Toddies usually have bourbon or whiskey in them, not tea or vodka. In any case, it must have been seasonal, because it’s not on the menu anymore, but you should still definitely go there if you are in New York and want an amazing cocktail.

Right, back to the infusion. Here is how it works: take a 750mL bottle of vodka, pour it into a mason jar (wider mouth makes it easier to get the teabags in), add two bags Earl Grey tea (any brand), let sit for approximately 3 hours (the more time you leave them in, the more intense the tea flavor), strain if there are any loose tea leaves in the liquid, chill, and serve. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. You can drink it on its own over ice, or use it to make Cold Toddies (feel free to rename as you see fit):

2oz Earl Grey tea vodka

juice of one lemon

2 teaspoons honey

soda water

Shake honey, lemon, and vodka in a cocktail shaker, pour over ice, and top with soda water. Honey takes awhile to dissolve, so you’ll have to shake well. Garnish with a lemon twist if you want to get all fancy with it. Happy mixing!

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Simple Syrup Infusions

Sooooooo it’s been a really long time since my last post. Lots of life changes between than and now. I quit my job! I got married! Also, I made a lot of cocktails, probably too many to blog about, but I’ll do my best. First up: simple syrup. For those not familiar with it (and believe me, you WANT to be familiar with it, simple syrup is used to sweeten up fruity cocktails. You can buy it pre-made at Bevmo, but where’s the fun in that when you it’s so easy to make at home?  Simple syrup is called “simple” for a reason. Here is the recipe: 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar. Heat the water just below boiling until all the sugar dissolves. See? I told you it was simple.

The great thing about making your own simple syrup is that you can infuse it with almost anything, which is a great way to add extra flavor to your cocktails and impress your friends. “Oh this? It’s just a ginger-infused simple syrup. I made it myself. NBD.” You don’t have to tell them how easy it is, it’ll be our little secret. After the sugar dissolves in the water, turn the heat down as low as it goes, add anything you want for flavoring, stir and taste occasionally until the flavor strength is to your liking. Unlike liquor infusions, with simple syrup it’s best to stick with just one flavor. Some ideas for simple syrup flavors include: ginger, vanilla bean, lavender, mint, lemon zest, jalapeno peppers…feel free to experiment. We all know I’m obsessed with mint, so my latest experiment was a mint-infused simple syrup. Look for an upcoming post where I use the syrup in a cocktail. Happy mixing!

One bunch of fresh mint.

One bunch of fresh mint.

Mint in the sugar-water mixture.

Mint in the sugar-water mixture.

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Bourbon Infusion #1

Since this is my first post, I thought I’d start out with an infusion. When you bust out home-made infusions at parties or while hosting guests, it never ceases to amaze people. The oohs and aahs you get are great for the ego. Little do most people know, making the infusion is incredibly easy. The real art lies in coming up with interesting and delicious ingredient combinations. It takes a little experimenting, but it’s pretty tough to come up with something that doesn’t taste good, as long as you start with a liquor you already like to drink.

In my household, we are a bourbon family. We’ve also made a series of delicious, candy-infused vodka, but bourbon is our go-to for cocktails. My recent favorite is Samuel Grant. Why? Because it’s always on sale for cheap at the Safeway across the street. I recently found out that this is because it’s the house brand. Safeway makes its own booze, who knew?

The infusion I made is based on a recipe I found on Culinary Anthropologist, but I used less vanilla, and grapefruit zest instead of lemon and orange, mostly because I had some lovely organic grapefruits from Rainbow Grocery. Grapefruit is also my latest obsession as a cocktail ingredient. Put freshly squeezed grapefruit in any drink, and I defy you not to love it.

I started by putting the bourbon in a large bowl, in order to catch all the oils of grapefruity goodness that splatter with zesting. This proved a bit difficult later on for pouring, so next time I’d go with a wide-mouthed jar or pitcher instead. I cut open a fresh vanilla bean with a knife to expose the seeds, and zested two grapefruits with a vegetable peeler, over the bowl.

                               

Now you might be asking yourself, “Where in the heck do you get whole vanilla beans?” At least that’s what I was asking myself when I first found this recipe. The answer is Xanath , on Valencia St, which also makes dynamite ice cream…though nothing vegan as of yet. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in San Francisco like me, they also operate Saffron, which will ship them to you anywhere in the US.

After everything was in the bowl, I proceeded to pour it all into a mason jar. Mason jars are perfect for infusions, though the process of pouring, as aforementioned, was a bit messy, even with a funnel. Turns out, bowls are not so good for pouring liquid in an organized fashion. Live and learn. Life is all about experimentation! Make sure all the leftover bits of zest make it into the jar.

Once everything was in the jar, I added just a touch of honey, to take away some of the bitterness, in case I wasn’t as careful with the zesting as I should have been, and because of this math equation:  bourbon+honey=deliciousness. Math doesn’t lie people. Once it’s in the jar, you just store it in a dark-ish place, like a pantry, and shake it a couple of times a day for about a week. Mine will be ready on Sunday. The next post will feature whatever concoction I mix it up with. Happy infusing!

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