Infusing booze is like the crock pot cooking of the cocktail world – you just set it and forget it. I love infusions for my home bar because it makes creating fun cocktails so painless. There are no limits to the types of infusions you can play around with, and friends, anytime I can live without limits it makes me feel like a female version of Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse (random reference, perhaps, but I just really dig that movie). So, a couple things to remember when infusing spirits:
1) You want to find a cool dark place for your booze to hang out and marinate.
2) The higher the proof of whatever base spirit you’re infusing, the more extraction power it’s going to have. So a higher proof gin or bourbon will pull more flavors from your infusion ingredients than an 80 proof bottle.
3) Agitate the jar you’re infusing at least once a day.
4) Taste. Taste. Taste. Most infusion recipes will tell you the amount of time for which your recipes should sit, but every mixture and palette is different. So taste and when it tastes ready to you, well, it is. Spice and tea infusions, as well as anything involving chili peppers, will become potent in a jiffy. Alcohol extracts more of the bitter notes from things like coffee, tea, herbs and spices, so be especially diligent in tasting when using these ingredients. A shorter infusion time with a greater quantity of your ingredients will tend to give you a more straightforward and less bitter flavor. Longer infusions with smaller amounts of ingredients will be more complex but should be watched for developing bitterness or unpleasant flavors.
5) Storage: When using fresh ingredients to infuse a spirit it will last several months if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. If using dried ingredients like spices, tea or coffee beans, the infusion will keep indefinitely and does not need refrigeration.
I especially love using infused spirits in classic cocktail recipes to give an old favorite some new life. In my opinion, there is hardly a more heavenly libation than a Perfect Rye Manhattan on the rocks. If I could only order one cocktail for the rest of my life, this would definitely be a contender. For today’s cocktail recipe I use a chamomile infused rye to elevate and soften this time-honored classic. Other infusions you can play around with are: fig infused gin, cucumber infused vodka (I use this in Bloody Mary’s and garnish with a pickle…a delight!), pomegranate infused bourbon, and coffee infused brandy…the list goes on and on.
RYE INFUSED WITH CHAMOMILE
6 tbsp. chamomile flowers
2 cups rye whiskey
Peel of one orange
Place all ingredients in a mason jar (preferably a wide mouth jar), and place in a cool dark place. Allow to infuse for at least 5 days. Make sure to shake at least once a day, and also taste each day. Once rye has reached the flavor you like, strain through a coffee filter or fine mesh tea strainer. Pour infusion into a bottle or Mason jar.
THE GREENWICH VILLAGE
GLASSWARE: coupe or rocks glass
GARNISH: cherry or orange peel
2 oz chamomile infused rye
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters or orange bitters
Build in a shaker tin; add ice, stir and strain. Cocktail can be served up or on the rocks.
DON’T WORRY: If you can’t find chamomile flowers just use chamomile tea, you can also play around with different teas.
PARTY TIP: There are a couple ways you can serve this cocktail to a large group. You can pre mix all of the ingredients depending on the amount of portions you’d like to serve, then pour the large batch into empty bottles. You can then just pour and stir large batches, like 4-5 at a time, for your guests as they arrive. If you’d like to omit the stirring process completely, pre batch the cocktail with water to make up for the dilution that takes place during the stirring process. Old wine bottles are great for pre batched cocktails. So, if you were pre-batching this cocktail, here is the break down to fit in a standard 750ml wine bottle:
11 oz Chamomile Rye
2.75 oz sweet vermouth
2.75 oz dry vermouth
8 oz water
8 dashes of bitters
Pour ingredients in a 25 oz bottle, cap the bottle, shake a few times to mix up the ingredients, then put in a refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. I like to serve this cocktail on the rocks, so I would probably only add about 4 oz of water. Play around with how strong you’d like your cocktails and always take into account if you’re serving something neat or on the rocks.
Infused spirits are awesome gift ideas. You can create a gift basket comprised of all the ingredients needed to make this cocktail and end up with an especially wonderful gift. In the basket you will include: a bottle of chamomile rye, a bottle of sweet vermouth, a bottle of dry vermouth, a bottle of bitters, and maybe some fancy cherries if it’s for someone especially awesome. This is a thoughtful way of giving a boozy gift so that the recipient isn’t left thinking, “Okay now what do I do with this bottle of booze?”. They also sell many vermouths in a half bottle size, so not only is it thoughtful, it’s also cost effective.
WITH A TWIST:
To warm up this infused spirit, turn it into an especially delicious Hot Toddy:
2 oz Chamomile rye
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup hot water
Cheers, and here’s to keeping it creative,
Your neighborhood bartender,