Infusing spirits with herbs, spices, botanicals, and fruits are not only tasty. It is also rewarding to mix drinks with your own custom liquor flavor profile. Sounds complicated, right? The thing is, it does not need a lot of equipment nor mastery in bartending to come up with well-infused beverages.
Infusions work well in simple drinks like pairing it with tonic water and lime, but you can also use them to round out a much more intricate, complex cocktail. The only limit is your imagination!
The Complete Guide to Infusing Drinks
1. Know Your Base Alcohol
Knowing what’s going to be your base alcohol is an essential part of any infusion. If you are just beginning to learn this process, you should go with mid-price alcohol and something your palate suits. When choosing your base alcohol, make sure to remember this: the higher the proof, the more extraction power it will have.
The first alcohol on our list is vodka since it’s not too strong to overpower your cocktail. Plus, you can find this spirit anywhere. Go with cotton candy vodka, bubblegum vodka, or marshmallow vodka. Do not hesitate to experiment a little with the types of vodka. When you want to infuse food like bacon or oatmeal, you can easily do it all with vodka.
Gin is often considered the first love of people who like cocktails. It’s a mixture of herbs and other neutral grain alcohol. You will feel a different punch with gin and a bit of the martini’s hint in it. Some of the infusion flavors for you to try can be citrus fruits like lemon and cucumber. Or you can also incorporate herbs like fennel and basil.
Tequilas are strong and have a very bold flavor to them. However, contrary to what most people know, tequila comes in various hints. There is something called “Gold Tequila” that has a caramel-like flavor in it. “Blanco,” which is aged, has a straightforward yet punchy flavor.
There’s another called “Reposado,” which is also aged and has an oak-like flavor. You can use them to taste along with chili, citrus or tropical fruits, ginger, melon, and other sweet herbs like mint, and cinnamon
Rum is also very simple to understand and comes in various forms. If you want a more specific and smoother taste, you can opt for a “dark” label. Whereas, if you feel a little challenging, you can choose the “complex” one.
The rule with rum is that the lighter it is, the more adaptable it is to be used. When it comes to the richness in flavors, then it’s second only to tequila. You can use them with fruits like bananas, coconut, and apples. You can also use elements like nutmeg, citrus, pineapple, mango, and lychee for a lighter taste in your infused drink.
Brandies are made from grapes and made to age in wooden casks for 2 to 6 years. Of course, the longer the aging, the more complex the taste of the alcohol will be.
There are undoubtedly high-quality brandies like Eau de vies, which are quite fruity that go well with infusions. Fruits such as apricot, cherry, apple, pears are a perfect match to the earthy and nutty flavor of brandy.
Whiskey, Scotch, & Bourbon
Whiskey is a name that has a lot of things inside it, from the alcohol made to age in wooden barrels to some that are distilled and aged in steel barrels. There’s a lot that goes in a whiskey.
When we talk about scotches, they are also compelling and contain a lot more flavor than other drinks. You have to be a bit careful when infusing scotches as it can alter your drink instantly. Meanwhile, bourbon is a premium brand that offers more flavors like fruity punch and can be infused with apple, cherry, plum, and other ingredients.
2. Know Your Base Ingredients
Fruits and Berries
Certain fruits like apples and pears can be peeled or unpeeled, depending on your preference. The peel does not alter the taste of the infused drink.
One thing to note is to let go of parts that are not necessary, such as seeds, stems, and cores. They might add a bitter taste when you allow them to be mixed in the drink. For berries and cherries, make sure to get the most of the pulp and flesh when you muddle them.
Meanwhile, If you’re using citrus fruits, then you need the zest plus the juice. You can use lemon or lime and allow them to sit for at least 5 days before pouring yourself a cup of the infused drink. The timeframe is dependent on how citrusy you want the liquor to taste.
When it comes to infusions with nuts, it can be quite tricky. Try to shell your nuts so that their texture comes in contact with the booze you will infuse with.
If you are using booze with a strong kick, you better toast your nuts until they are golden brown. This way, the liquor will not overpower the nutty taste. You can also chop your nuts and add them to your base. For every 1 cup, you need 2 cups of nuts. For a more tasty mixture, let it infuse for a day or two.
Dried fruit infusions are one of the fastest to make. They bring out the flavor quicker than others and mix well with most drinks. When it comes to using dried fruits, ensure they are natural and don’t have any heavy preservatives. As far as infusing them is concerned, you can let it rest for days to a few months.
Probably the easiest things to infuse are spices and dry goods. All you need is a container with booze, and then add some heat to top it off. Make use of spices like fennel and star anise.
Vegetables, Roots, Herbs, and Flowers
If you are going to use vegetables, better use root vegetables that can be peeled and trimmed. Vegetables can be allowed to infuse for 3 to 7 days. Some popular veggies used in liquor infusions are cucumber, beet, carrot, and horseradish. You can add some flowers like hibiscus that can give a unique flavor to your infusion.
3. Infusing the Drinks
Now that you’re clear about your booze and the elements to be added, it’s time to combine them in a mason jar. Add your ingredients to the alcohol base and add it to the container. Close the lid of your mason jar and keep it in a cool place.
Shaking / Mixing
Once a while, you need to shake the jar so that the flavors are mixed well. You can also taste the infusion once in a while and see how it’s coming up.
Good things come to those who wait. No matter what drink you use or what ingredients you have at your disposal, you need to wait for the infusion to age properly. Usually, you can infuse the drink for a week or two. Meanwhile, if you are working with dried fruits, then you can let the infusion age longer.
Straining and Filtering
Now the final step is when you have strained the concoction. Let it strain through a cocktail strainer or any strainer that you have around. You can also use cheesecloth to remove any residual sediment.
Liquor Infusion Drink Recipes
Why not make a switch to drinks with infused herbs and spices? Curious, aren’t you? Here are some tasty yet super easy-to-make infusion drinks.
Vanilla Bean Infused Bourbon
The best part about this drink is that it has vanilla. This means that apart from the infusion of flavors, you will even get more aroma out of it. Plus, the earthy and bitter taste of the bourbon results in a well-balanced sweet and tangy drink.
- 8 ounces of your favorite Bourbon
- 2 vanilla beans split (any variety)
- 1 8.5 ounces swing top clear glass bottle
Steps to Make
- Take the container and cut vanilla beans lengthwise.
- Pour bourbon into the same container.
- Let it rest for 3 to 5 days.
- Shake a few times daily so that infusion happens.
- Strain the vanilla bean and serve.
This one is fun to have on hand for a minty Moscow Mule. You can put the mint in the container with the stems still on, making it super easy to strain them out later. Moreover, if you feel a little hot on a summer day, this refreshing and cool drink will seriously take out all your stress and sweat.
- 2 cups vodka
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves (any variety will work, I've used orange mint, chocolate mint, and peppermint)
- 1 mason jar
Steps to Make
- Take a container and put the mint with stems still attached.
- Add mint in the ratio of 2 to 1.
- Add 2 cups of vodka to the fresh mint.
- Crush the mint to release oils.
- Seal tight and let it infuse for 5 days.
- Strain and serve.
Ginger Lemongrass Tequila
This is an Asian-Mexican fusion infusion and a darn good one. Imagine the spice coming from the ginger and the citrusy-mint flavor from the lemongrass. Plus, the bitter and nutty hints from the tequila. When combined, you’ll have a strong yet refreshing beverage perfect after a long day at work.
- 750 mL bottle of premium Blanco tequila
- 2 stalks of lemongrass
- 1 large piece of fresh ginger
- Infusion jar with a tight sealing lid
Steps to Make
- Take lemongrass and peel off the cover.
- Slice the lemongrass and add that into the container.
- Add a slice of ginger.
- Add some tequila to it.
- Let it rest for 2 weeks.
- Server after straining.
Apple and Pear Infused Gin
You may have heard of recipes that use vodka, rum, or tequila, but you may rarely have heard of drinks or infusions that use gin. The reason is that gin is already so flavorful, and it can completely overpower your drink. However, when combined with apple and pear’s sweet taste, these two fruits can balance out the gin’s strong hints.
- 1 (750 ml) bottle gin (premium)
- 4 red apples
- 1 pear (red is recommended)
- 1/4 pound pears (dried)
Steps to Make
- Take all the ingredients and cut the pear and apples into slices.
- Take a huge jar and place these fruits at the bottom.
- Pour in the gin over fruit and shake.
- Seal the container tightly and store it in a dark place.
- Strain the fruits and wash the jar, Store as you do to other liquors.
Green Tea Gin
You might have already guessed from the word green tea gin that it's a liquor infusion made from green tea. The best part is that this infusion requires only 4 ingredients. If you don’t have any recipes like pistachio honey syrup, you can use maple syrup instead. At the same time, you can use a nutty syrup or something you already use as a natural sweetener.
For the Green Tea-Infused Gin
- 1/4 cup green tea leaves
- 1 750ml bottle gin (Ford's Gin)
For the Salted Pistachio Honey Syrup
For the Cocktail
- 1 1/2 ounces green tea-infused gin
- 1/2 ounce salted pistachio honey syrup
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 3 to 4 dashes of chamomile bitters (Olive Heights Roman Chamomile)
Steps to Make
- Take all the ingredients and add them to an infusion bar.
- Add tea leaves and fill them with gin.
- Let it rest for 2 hours and then taste once.
- Strain out the tea leaves and store the rest of the gin in the same container.
These are some basic ideas for crafting your first infusions. Get creative and think about matching flavors to your favorite spirits. If a spicy salsa tastes good to you while drinking a margarita, try a jalapeno and cilantro-infused tequila.
There are no rules when making liquor infusions. So, if you have an idea, give it a try (maybe with a cheaper bottle of your base spirit to start). Just remember to taste frequently. Let us know your favorite infusion on the list!