Babysitting After Midnight: Infusions
It’s about to be summertime, which means grilling and drinks with friends and family outside on sunny days. We’ll be talking about some fun home infusions you can make at home and the drinks to go along with them. Infusions are a great way to play with your favorite liqueurs, or make that bottle you bought that wasn’t so great better. This process of flavoring alcohol with ingredients also allows you to explore the mad scientist in you.
To begin, you will need something to infuse all of the following in. You can get large mason jars, or if you feel like being super fancy, you can get large infusion containers; they’re pretty easy to find and not overly expensive.
For the whiskey drinkers out there and for the ones that don’t love whiskey, but what to learn how to, this one’s for you. This infusion will work with bourbon or rye, but I suggest using Rittenhouse Rye. The reason I chose this as the base is because of its high alcohol content and because it’s just delicious. I suggest sampling it by itself before you put the upcoming yummy-ness in it. Also, the high alcohol content will make the flavors combine a little bit more quickly than something with a lower proof.
So you’ve purchased your preferred bottle of whiskey. Next, you need to buy some fresh apricots as well as some fresh ginger. Yes folks, this is an apricot ginger whiskey. Just wait, it get’s even better. In your container of choice, put in the peeled and sliced apricots, then add the fresh ginger, which will also need to be peeled and sliced. After you’ve spent some time doing that, add the most important ingredient, the whiskey. For this infusion it will only need to set for two or three days, then it’s ready to be made into a delicious drink.
I had help from one of by favorite humans on this cocktail; Brian Grumet had the genius idea of making a homemade honey simple syrup. It’s rather easy – all you need is honey and hot water. On your stove top, put water (about three cups) in a pot and bring it to a gentle boil. Once the water is ready, add one cup honey and let it combine completely. You’ll know it’s done when the honey is dissolved into the water.
Now that all of that’s done, the infusion as well as the honey simple syrup, we’re onto the actual drink. In a rocks glass, or really any glass you have available, add ¾ oz of the honey simple syrup, ¾ fresh lemon juice, 2 oz of your fantastic infusion and top that baby off with some soda water. This drink is going to be light and refreshing, with a nice little kick at the end from the ginger and the Rittenhouse.
Next up is a savory garden margarita. Blanco tequilas are the best for infusions. Make sure that it’s 100 percent agave tequila also (I used Cabrito for mine). What you’ll need is jalapeño, cucumber, a red pepper and some fresh cilantro. This infusion is also perfect for you gardeners when you’re trying to use up all your fresh produce. When slicing up the jalapeño, make sure you get all the seeds out of it. If you don’t, this concoction will be extra spicy. Slice everything else. When putting the veggies in, I always put the cucumber on the bottom because it will be soaking the longest, which will make your drinks light and refreshing instead of overly hot. I then add the red pepper/sweet pepper, with the jalapeño on the top. Toss the cilantro in last because after a day or two you’ll want to take it out. Cilantro can be a very potent flavor; you don’t want it to overpower the infusion. Sample the infusion before pulling out the cilantro to make sure the flavor is there, but not as the keynote speaker of the infusion.
Now onto how to make the margarita: Put 2 oz of the tequila into a glass filled with ice, ¾ oz triple sec or Cointreau, ¾ oz fresh lime juice and shake the living hell out of it. Shaking it will add a nice frothiness to your drink. Strain over ice and garnish with a lime wedge and a cucumber slice. After this is all done, it’s time for you to step outside into the sunshine and drink up.
Gin is already a fantastic liqueur and that’s why it’s so much fun to play with. I chose to use a London Dry Gin because it’s easiest to use its natural flavors. I used Brokers for this batch. You’ll need fresh blackberries, a good green tea (three or four tea bags) and blueberries (one small container should be enough). Throw the blueberries in the bottom of your container and make sure to have the tea bag tabs hanging out of the top so you can pull them out in case it gets overly green tea forward.
The drink that pairs wonderfully with this infusion is a gin Collins. In a highball glass add ice, 2 oz of the gin infusion, ¾ oz fresh lemon juice, ¾ oz simple syrup and top with soda water. If you decided to make the honey simple syrup, you can use that instead of regular simple syrup. Presto, you have a tasty drink in your hands.
This next one might sound a little odd for the combination of ingredients, but this one turned out to be my favorite. When at the supermarket, grab the freshest honeydew, some fresh mint, a lemon and a decent vodka. I used Stoli (non-flavored). When cutting up the honeydew make sure to take off the rind. If you don’t it will add a bitter flavor to the infusion. Layer the bottom of the infusion jar with the honeydew and throw a few fresh mint leaves on top. With the lemon, you’ll just want to add some zest from the rind, about three tablespoons. Top everything with the vodka and let sit for four or five days. Honeydew has a very light flavor, so it takes a bit longer to get its flavor to hang onto the vodka.
I didn’t get too experimental with the cocktail to go with this one. I decided it was best as a Collins also. When I tried to play with this infusion, anything slightly crazy I tried tended to overshadow the flavor of the infusion, which should be the star of the drink. When I finally tried it as a Collins, the honeydew had a wonderful presence and was never lost. Use the same measurements as the gin Collins above.
Lastly, for you rum drinkers, don’t worry I didn’t forget about you. Rum can be tricky to play with, so when in doubt, use white rum. Anything spiced can be a bit complicated to infuse with. You will need to get some fresh peaches and a little bit of lavender. Cut up the peaches; don’t add the pit to the infusion. Add the lavender on top and put the white rum in. I used Bacardi, mostly because I’m just partial to Bacardi, but pick whatever white rum is your favorite. Let sit for two or three days and then make a traditional daiquiri. In a pint glass filled with ice, add 1 ½ oz of the rum infusion, 1 oz fresh lime juice and 1 oz simple syrup. Shake vigorously, or until the lime juice has made the drink nice and frothy. Strain into a cup or a martini glass and drink up, buttercup.
All of these infusions were really fun to play with. Infusions are a great way to have a little fun with seasonal ingredients this summer. Plus, you get the added perk of being able to drink your research. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, but you’ll never know unless you try. A great source to help decide flavor combinations is a book that I use called The Flavor Bible, written by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It’s a great resource, not only for infusions, but a great book to have in the kitchen in general.
- Four apricots
- Fresh ginger
- Rittenhouse Rye
- Two jalapeños
- One cucumber
- Red/sweet pepper
- Fresh cilantro
- Blanco 100% agave tequila
- Good green tea
- London Dry Gin
- Fresh mint
- A good non-flavored vodka
- White rum
I'm the college drop out that ended up falling into a job that I love, which is bartending. I was majoring in English Lit, which is why I love to write. And since I know booze, what better thing to write about? I also have the cutest puppy that has ever existed.
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