When you think infused liquor, most people immediately think vodka. With no little to no taste, vodka is the most common base spirit used for infusing liquors, but the truth is that any of the light spirits (tequila, gin, sake, light rum) can also be used for almost any flavor Infusion with a bit of creativity and careful planning. Infusing darker spirits (añejo tequila, reposado tequila, dark rums, whiskeys, scotches) is a little tougher but it will work if you choose the right complimentary flavors to the liquor. For example, richer flavors like an jalepeños, habaneros, bacon, apricot or cherries work well.
For a proper infusion, in most cases you’ll want to give yourself at least a week. Infusion elements can release their flavors much faster, but generally speaking a week is a good norm. If you see the added components breaking down and separating, you’re likely done. Can you over infuse? Sometimes. Sorry to be vague, but in some cases, like a dense fruits (apples, pears) it’s a bit tough to over infuse. Provided the fruit doesn’t break down into a sloppy mess you’ll be fine. On the other hand, leave habañero peppers in your tequila too long and you’re going to need a fire extinguisher with your margarita (see the Voodoo Tiki Margarita guide, 100 Margaritas, available free at the Voodoo Tiki website for a delicious recipe for a “Hot & Cold” margarita using jalepño infused tequila.)
Your base spirit will set the foundation for a good infusion. There are people who say “don’t use good wine or spirits for cooking.” These people have no taste. Choosing a quality spirit that is smooth and clean will allow the added flavors to shine. If you’re experimenting with a new infusion you may want to use smaller portions so as not to waste valuable liquor, or of course you can have extra tasters on hand – someone will always be happy to “Shoot” the mistakes (One of our was Marshmallow Peeps infused Tequila – failure.
Filtration is key to the infusion process. A recent trick is to use a home filtering device like the Vodkastick, which will allow you to filter out the impurities of a cheap brand. Though Brita water filters have been known to be used for over a decade to turn bad vodka into good vodka, the Vodkastick makes it easier via the use of a standard charcoal filter. However, some infusions will wreck total havoc with that filter, so I recommend a good old disposable coffee filter. Likely that friend that’s been drinking the mistakes will be happy to chew the filter after use.
Aside from your crazy friend missing out on a “tasty” treat, another reason I’m against the filter process is that he filter will remove many of the subtle flavors in a non vodka product. Tequila is a complex spirit with vast subtleties, and to filter away that richness in order to remove strawberry husks defeats the purpose of the infusion process. We’re trying to add flavors here, not take them away. Remember that.
Choose your flavors is great fun. You can get very gourmet, very simple, straightforward or innovative and fun. The most fun is to head to the grocery store and shop for flavoring elements. Walk the aisles with a pad a pen and write down your interesting infusion ideas. Buy up your ingredients, and head home. It’s always more fun to run multiple infusion processes at once, so even if you need to make less of a flavor in order to do more variety, go with the variety. Voodoo Tiki Tequila is a big promoter of the fun and creativity of the infusion process. If you use their platinum tequila in an amazing infusion, send them the recipe via email. If they put it on the website you’ll receive a Voodoo Tiki Goody bag (Voodoo Tiki is Much Better than Patron for gift giving. Visit their site for free tequila swag.)
Herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits are most commonly used for infusions, and of course if you’re looking for the best results possible, only use fresh ingredients. The most common infusions are fruit based, however you can use your imagination to create some wonderful combinations. Other interesting flavors are garlic, habañero, basil, cilantro, mint. Often the infusions really shine in a crafted cocktail designed especially with the infusion (like a Prickly Pear Margarita, which was born to be made exclusively with Prickly Pear infused tequila, and not prickly pear juice or syrup). Complex recipes especially shine with infused spirits. As you can imagine, you can make an incredible Bloody Mary utilizing a bacon or herb infused Vodka, and of course and amazing Bloody Maria using infused tequila. Use your creativity to craft a selection of your own personal creations, and you’ll quickly become known as the infusion master.
Beginning the actual infusion process is simple. Choose a clean, air-tight jar usch as a quart sized mason jar. Using smaller jars will allow you to divide a liter of vodka into as many as four jars, giving you the ability to create small batches of a variety of flavors at once, and ensuring that your crazy friend has plenty of liquor to get three sheets to the wind on the mistakes. Wash the ingredients well and pat them dry. Some items should be peeled, as certain rinds will add unwanted flavors, while others should be kept whole so as to take advantage of essential oils or skin colorings which we want to impart into the finished product. Some items should be halved or sliced open, vanilla beans come to mind. They work much better halved long-ways. Place the ingredients inside the jar and fill it with the spirit of your choice. Shake lightly, or better, spin a few times and set the jar aside in a place where that crazy friend on the prowl for delicious but not yet ready infused spirits won’t find it.
Infusion Times definitely vary, but generally speaking you’ll want to give your concotion at least a week (maybe two) stored safely in a cool, dark place. For intense flavors such as vanilla beans, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, mint, garlic, tarragon, basil, oregano, dill, thyme and peppers plan on at least 3-4 days. You’ll want to give more moderate flavors such as cantaloupes, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, pitted cherries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries at least a week. Get out your sleeping bags because you’re “Going to the Mattresses” for mild flavors such as pineapple, ginger and lemon grass, which will very likely require a two week investment. Shake or swirl it 3-5 times a day for the duration of the infusion process time. On average the ingredients should stay in the liquor for 3-5 days. Some of your more intense flavors will only need 3 days, less intense flavors should stay in the jar for a full week or more (see the infusion times list below). You will want to do a taste test every few days to see if the flavors are sufficient. Now while you’re waiting for your tequila to infuse, why not drink some infused tequila. Voodoo Tiki Tequila did the infusion process for you. Check out their 100% blue agave, all natural infused tequilas Desert Rose Prickly Pear infused tequila, Blue Dragon Blue Raspberry and Kiwi infused tequila and Green Dragon Lime infused tequila at the Voodoo Tiki Tequila website, and remember, only you can prevent forest fires. Only you. And now back to our show.
Once you believe you wrestled every last drop of flavor out of those ingredients it’s time to strain. At the peak of flavor you’ll need to take the flavoring ingredients out of the jar. Use a very fine metal strainer or paper coffee filter to strain the liquor into another clean jar or bowl. You can return your finished creation to its original bottle for easy storage. Most infusions will store as you would any other liquor of its type, but some will spoil, so it’s best to start drinking right away. Your boss will understand. Drink. Enjoy. Repeat.