Half a dozen Mason jars line up on the top shelf of Toni Dash’s pantry. Some are filled with a clear, colored liquid that is barely noticeable. Others, such as vodka jars infused with ripe pears and plenty of spices, are full of vibrant colors that make cocktails as beautiful as they are delicious.
Dash is not a professional bartender. She is a recipe developer. But many years ago, she discovered that by injecting fruits, herbs, spices, and even candies into a liquid, you could easily make a complex and delicious cocktail at home with little effort.
If you serve fresh craft cocktails from the latest menu, it’s easy to think that it would be difficult to make something similar at home. But by layering additional flavors on your favorite gin, bourbon, or vodka, you can build a collection of spirits with nuances that you can mix right away.
The process is simple. Soak the flavor ingredients in alcohol for hours or days (or weeks if you’re making something really intense). Then strain those ingredients and return the alcohol to the bottle or store it in a Mason jar.
The range of possible ingredients is infinite.Dash and blog in Boulder, Colorado BoulderLocavore.comHas tried everything from dried goji berries to candy canes.
“My inspiration tends to be seasonal,” she said. “But there is no limit. If you think about it, give it a try.”
Besides the last drink to drink, the following are some fun things to inject. It’s about mixing flavors. It’s about taking fragments of wisdom you might have gained from cooking and applying them to mixology. And that’s learning the subtleties of nature — which flavors complement each other and which collide violently.
Seasonal fruits urged Josh Williams to start injecting liquor over a decade ago. He began dipping fresh summer peaches in bourbon when he was in college and continued to hone his hobbies when he moved to New York City in 2008.
Eric Plum, which operates with a focus on food and drink W & P design With Williams, I remember the reaction when Williams put a fruit-injected bourbon in a jar and gave it to a friend. People were surprised at how easy it was to mix complex cocktails at home, as they could create custom ingredients in a very simple process.
“It was touching to people that we were able to get something really great and really enhance it, like a great bourbon,” said a few years later in a book called “Injection” with Williams. Said Plum, who wrote.
Dash and plum are also recommended to inject syrup. Then you can easily create a multi-layer cocktail. One is fusion liquor, one is infused syrup, and a small amount of fresh juice.
During last year’s on and off quarantine, Pittsburgh-based bartender Derek Otto says more people began trying to make unique cocktails at home.
“They are digging deeper into their creativity to see how their syrups, tinctures and infusions can be replicated,” he said.
Home infusions can start with something as simple as a cheap bourbon bottle and cinnamon sticks. Caraway seeds can enhance the basic bottle of rye. Cacao nibs can turn liqueur into a multi-flavored dessert drink. And a handful of peppers and sweet basil can power any vodka.
Loose tea leaves and ground coffee are probably the easiest way to add flavor to a liquor or syrup. After all, they are already made to inject into water.
“I made strawberry tomato basil syrup,” Otto said. “Strawberries are sweet, but tomatoes have a sour plant taste.”
The basil flavor goes well with vodka and gin, “it goes well with lemon juice and grapefruit juice,” he said.
Not everything works well. But if you’re injecting materials that’re already in your kitchen and you’re working in small batches, it’s cheap to experiment.
“I’ve just tried all these different things,” Dash said. “Usually good. Sometimes not.”
Both Ott and Dash offer the use of medium-priced liquor brands.
“It makes sense to get something cheaper,” Dash said, because your infusion improves the taste.
But for best results, avoid the lowest spirits.
As a result, there’s something you might not have realized you could do, and the horizon of cocktail possibilities right there.
Interested in trying your own infusion? Here are two basic recipes for you to get started.
Coffee infused bourbon
1 regular size bottle (750ml) Bourbon
1/2 cup of ground coffee of your choice (use flavored coffee for more complex results)
Pour the bourbon into a large mason jar. Add coffee Screw in the cover and soak for about 4 hours or to taste. (Similar to hot coffee, the longer it is soaked, the stronger the flavor.) Strain the bourbon with a cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. If necessary, rub multiple times to remove all coffee grounds. Pour into a Mason jar or put it back in the original bourbon bottle.
Simple syrup infused with lavender
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup dried lavender flowers (available at spice shop)
Dissolve sugar in boiling water in a pan. Removed from the heat. Add lavender, cool and soak in sugar syrup. When it cools, test the flavor. When it’s strong enough, I’m nervous to get rid of lavender. Transfer to a clean Mason jar or an empty liquor bottle. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.