One of the hottest crazes in the industry today, aside from the re-emergence of classic cocktails which I wrote about here, is alcohol infusions. Infusing liquors is one of the best ways to create different flavor profiles in your cocktails and, believe it or not, it is insanely easy to do.
I'm sure that if you are reading this you have been around booze a bit in your life and have noticed the incredible number of flavored vodkas available on the market. This is what kicked off the infusion craze almost 20 years ago. Now if you want a basic fruit flavor like lemon, cherry, or apple, stop reading this and just go buy a bottle, you will save yourself a lot of heartache. In a similar vein, if you want to go silly with cotton candy, salted caramel, or bubblegum vodka and get white girl wasted then this probably isn't for you either. Those flavors are damn near impossible to infuse naturally and you would be shocked what goes into the artifical flavorings.
Yes, those are ALL flavored vodkas.
Since throwbacks are all the rage with fashion, music, and especially movies (I'm looking at you all you superhero movies that got me beat up for liking as a kid) we will harken back to the halcyon days before the Kardashians were a thing and go to every kids (and Marshawn Lynch's) favorite candy; Skittles. As a fat kid, I probably ate enough Skittles to choke a hippo in my youth but in adulthood I much prefer adding them to vodka.
First off you will need a 1 lb. bag of Skittles, 5 Mason jars, 1.75 bottle of vodka (I obviously prefer Absolut for this), a funnel, large measuring cup, and coffee filters. Start off by seperating the Skittles by color and putting them in the mason jars. Add about 12 ounces of vodka to each of the jars and seal them. The rest of the infusions call for gently agitating the jar but this one you want to shake the hell out of it about every 2 hours to help get the candy coating into the vodka. Let them sit overnight and in the morning you should be ready to roll. To strain all the white gunk out of the vodka put a coffee filter over a measuring cup and pour it very slowly. Wash out the mason jar very well and pour your Skittles vodka back into the jar. Chill and serve! I assume most of you don't drink straight liquor like I do so keep in mind, THIS IS STRAIGHT VODKA! If it is too strong for your taste mix it up with some Sprite or Ginger Ale.
Enough with the sickly sweet, for our next infusion we go to the other end of the spectrum for the Ron Swanson approved Bacon Vodka. For this you will need all the same gear from the Skittles vodka but only a 1 liter bottle of vodka and 2 mason jars. Fry up a whole mess of bacon and save the grease. Eat most of the bacon (this is an important step) but leave 8 slices, divide them between the jars. Add the vodka and bacon slices to the jars as well as about 1 oz of the bacon grease to give the vodka texture and seal the jars. Store them at room temperature (dont worry, the alcohol means you don't need to refrigerate it). It is best to let these sit for 2-4 days depending on taste and agitate once or twice daily. Triple strain to get all the bits and grease out and enjoy. If you want to make the best Bloody Mary you have ever had mix 2 oz Bacon Vodka, dash of sea salt and black pepper, 3 dashes of Frank's Red Hot Sauce, 2 dashes of Liquid Smoke, ½ oz of olive juice, 3 oz of tomato juice, salt and pepper the rim, and garnish with a slice of beef jerky. Your hangover will thank me.
Back to the wisdom of Ron Swanson, he once said that, “Clear liquors are for rich women on diets”. Since I am a broke, fat, guy, I think it is time to move on to the infused whiskies. These infusions are cool because you aren't imparting a flavor on to a neutral spirit you are actually blending the complex flavors of your whiskey with your infusions.
The first whiskey infusion I ever tried (and still one of my favorites) was an Apple Pie Bourbon. For this one I chose a 750 ml bottle of Four Roses Small Batch which clocks in at around 90 proof. The proof is important because the higher the alcohol content the more flavor that will get stripped out of the ingredients and into your infusion. Add 1 chopped Granny Smith apple (without core), 2 cinnamon sticks (around 2-3 inches), 1 vanilla bean, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, and 2 oz simple syrup (brown sugar works best) to a large mason jar. Let sit for 3-4 days to taste agitating twice daily. Strain, chill, and fall in love.
Another way to take infusing 1 step furter is to infuse the whiskey in a barrell to not only impart the flavor of the ingredients but also add a smokey flavor from the wood. The guys over at Deep South Barrells in Pearland make some damn fine ones and it is what I used to make my blueberry bourbon. In a 1 liter barrell I poured in a 750 ml bottle of Knob Creek and added an 8 oz carton of blueberries halved. Seal the barrell and let it sit for 8-10 days to flavor gently agitaing the barrell daily. What I was left with was the amazing purple juice on the right.
The one on the left is one that I am STILL trying to perfect after 3 batches of jacked up juice. It is a raspberry chipotle infused whiskey that, try as I might, I still end up making hot enough to make a dude from Tijuana blush. It sounds amazing and I know it can be done so I will update this blog as soon as I get it perfect.
Cheers to it kids!