This is the first in a two-part series on home whiskey infusions, which make excellent gifts year-round and are a fun way to stock your bar aside from making simple syrups and shrubs.
If you have ever been to El Gran Malo, you probably have an idea of just how awesome infused booze can be. In fact, Malo's infused tequilas are so good that you might think infusions are something too difficult to try at home. While the folks over at El Gran Malo have taken infusions to the level of artistry, even they will tell you it honestly can be as simple as placing a single ingredient into a sealed container of spirits.
Last Christmas, broke, as I tend to be around that time of year, I got the bright idea to try my hand at infusing my own whiskey to give as gifts. The results -- one a bacon whiskey and the other a vanilla infusion -- were simple enough to accomplish and were well-received. This year, I decided to take things up a step and make four or five different infusions using more complex recipes.
One of the toughest parts about infusing your own liquor at home is knowing how much of an ingredient to use and how long to let the infusion sit. This is where borrowing experience and input from recipes and online advice comes in handy. As you start to become familiar with ingredients and your own taste preferences, you can begin to modify your infusions to suit your needs. For instance, I rarely infuse the called-for amount of cinnamon and tend to remove cinnamon sticks after only a few days where most recipes I have found can leave it in for upwards of a month.
Having read up last year, I had a pretty good idea what tools and tricks I needed but I did come across a great blog with notes on straining and filtering as well as excellent recipes at Boozed and Infused
In fact, two of Alicia's recipes served as the basis for a couple of the recipes I used this year. My Apple Pie Whiskey found below is simply a modified version of the one found here. For the coffee addict on my Christmas list, I used this recipe.
While basic infusing really isn't much more complex than picking ingredients and throwing them in a jar with your booze, straining has proved to be a process of trial and error and each infusion has presented unique challenges. For instance, both my bacon and peanut butter infusions have required the infusion to be frozen in order to extract the fat content. Straining also proves to be where I inevitably lose a small amount of my batch to the straining media and to the fact that despite being an [arguably] functional adult, I have the motor skills of a four year old while pouring liquids.
In an effort to help you avoid some of the problems I have come across, I've listed the tools that I've found handy in bottling my finished product. Having these on hand when you are ready to bottle your finished product will save you time, effort and hassle.
- 1 case 32 oz canning jars
- 1 case 10 oz canning jars
- Handled mesh strainer
- Paper cone-style coffee filters
- Large spouted bowl
The majority of the actual work involved in the infusion process is straining and removing your infusion ingredients from your finished liquor. I recommend setting up all three of your straining stations prior to beginning if space allows.
Beginning with the mesh strainer, you can remove any large ingredients or other sediment with a quick pour through the strainer over a large bowl.
Next, take a 10-inch square section of cheesecloth and fold it over on itself twice and place over the mouth of a clean empty 32-ounce canning jar and secure with a rubber band. Pour the infusion from your spouted bowl through the cheesecloth. At this point, most of the small, visible ingredients should be removed from your infusion.
The final and slowest step in filtering your infusion through the coffee filters. Placing a paper filter over a canning jar, slowly pour your infusion into the filter and allow the liquor to strain.
At this point you should have a finished product with a clarity similar to that of your original uninfused liquor.You may repeat straining steps as needed. Your infusion is now complete and ready for bottling.
For even more info on straining and clarifying your infusion, see this awesome entry from fellow Eating...Our Words blogger Nick Hall back in 2011.
The most popular infusion I made this year was a whiskey infusion that tasted a lot like vanilla-and-cinnamon-laced apple pie. The recipe is as follows.
Apple Pie Whiskey Yield: 3 cups (24oz)
- 750 ml Rebecca Creek Whiskey
- 3 large Granny Smith apples
- 1 vanilla bean (split)
- 1 three-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp dried cloves
Total cost: $26.75
I use Texas-made Rebecca Creek whiskey because it is somewhat of a blank canvas flavor-wise, it's exceptionally smooth (making it perfect for sharing) and -- as an added bonus -- comes in at under $25 a bottle.
In a 32-ounce canning jar, add sliced unpeeled apples, the vanilla bean (split vertically) and brown sugar. Pour over whiskey and seal. Store in a cool, dark space for 10 days, shaking occasionally. Add cloves and cinnamon and return jar to storage for three more days, shaking occasionally. Strain and bottle.
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Because the cloves and cinnamon add their flavor so quickly -- a lesson learned after experimentation with earlier batches -- we gave the other ingredients a head start. This leaves the final product with a complex, layered flavor that mimics homemade apple pie.
Be sure to sample your infusion along the way. This will allow you to modify the recipe to your taste. Don't be afraid to stop the infusion early or allow to sit longer based on your individual taste.