Mixology 101: DIY Infused Liquor
by Andrew Connor, Columnist
UV Blue. Cake-flavored vodka. Root beer vodka. Grape gin. Freaking popcorn-flavored vodka, guys. I’m not even going to pretend that I think any of these are such a great idea, but they sell and that’s what matters. Flavored liquor isn’t going away soon, but I’d rather mainline hollandaise sauce before I put tequila-flavored rum in my body. Yes, you read that correctly; they make rum that tastes like tequila.
All right, so some of those are some pretty bad examples. Flavored liquor isn’t so bad; you can sure as hell make a lot of interesting drinks with it. The thing is, though, that if you aren’t a Rockefeller or a club owner you probably aren’t going to buy an entire bar’s worth of flavored liquor. The good news is that you can make your own flavored liquor on the cheap, and you can make as little or as much of it as you want. Better still, this is truly flavored liquor, and it’s a lot better than just a bunch of flavor additives.
The first thing you’ll have to do is pick a type of unflavored alcohol. Vodka will pretty much infuse with anything, but gin, brandy, tequila, and whiskey can all be infused with anything you want as well, but try to be a little more discriminatory with what you use. For best results, pick some average grade liquor. Something like Fleischmann’s or Mr. Boston is going to ruin the flavor of the liquor, but buying Grey Goose or Bombay Blue is a bit overkill.
After you’ve chosen a type of liquor, pick a type of produce to go with it. Once again you can really go with anything here as long as it compliments your alcohol choice. Peaches, mangos, apples, strawberries, tea bags, even cucumbers could work. You’ll have to peel the skin off of any fruit you use, as well as remove any stems or cores if you can. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t eat that part of the fruit, don’t use it. If you’re using a larger fruit, it should be sliced or chunked to create the largest amount of surface area contact. Smaller berries or pomegranate arils can be left whole.
Once you’ve washed and prepared the produce, put it into a clean, clear mason jar. Try and fill the jar mostly to the top with the fruit. Next add your liquor of choice, then close and let it age. The time it takes to infuse will be one to two weeks, it just simply depends on how strong you want the flavor to be. Be sure to store in a cool, dark place (i.e. the refrigerator), and be sure to shake the jars up a couple times a day.
The most fun about this is creating a whole mess of potential flavors. You’re really opening a door to limitless possibilities. Hyperbole aside, feel free to get creative and drop off your suggestions in the comments. I’ll leave you all with a list of combinations to get you started. Have fun, drink tastefully, and always remember to enjoy in moderation.
Combinations to try:
Cucumber and Gin: Use it in a Gin and Tonic, but muddle a little mint in there, too. Also tastes great with honeydew nectar, but once again do not forget the mint.
Cherry Brandy: Cherries are expensive, but they also mix great with brandy. Be sure to add a bit of sugar to the mix and perhaps even a little cinnamon, and you’ve just created your own liqueur. Be warned, though, this recipe takes about two months to fully infuse.
Jalapeño, Mango, and Tequila: Although I haven’t tried making it, it’s probably the only way you’d get me to put tequila in my system. Could make for a killer margarita on the rocks.
Blueberry, Pomegranate, and Vodka: A classic combination of berry flavors, this will add great extra taste to a Vodka and Soda.
Mint, Vanilla Beans, and Vodka: Once again, this vodka would go great with a variety of mixers, though I think ginger beer would be outstanding with this. Here you can just wash the mint leaves, but make sure to slice the vanilla beans lengthwise.