Technique: How to Infuse Liquor

The sky’s the limit when you infuse spirits at home.

These days you’re almost guaranteed to spot the words “house-infused” on any cocktail menu. Mixologists love to infuse spirits, simple syrups, even bitters and tinctures. It’s a great way to customize ingredients and add extra flavor to cocktails—and it’s easy. The secret ingredient? Time.

When it comes to finding ingredients that infuse best with spirits like vodka, Tequila and whiskey, the potential combinations are unlimited. Bacon-infused Bourbon and ginger-infused vodka are interesting, but fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are the most popular options. For lesser-known flavors but equally delicious flavors, go with horseradish, cucumber or beet.

1. Wash and dry ingredients to infuse. Halve or quarter the ingredient and add to a bottle of liquor. You can infuse inside a liquor bottle, but an easier method is to pour out the liquor into a wide-mouthed jar, then add your chosen ingredients. Seal it tightly, allow it to steep for as little as a couple of hours (for strong items like chilies or spices) or as long as a couple of days (for mild items, like fruits), tasting occasionally to check for strength and flavor.

Convinced that you’ll never use a whole bottle of infused liquor? Pour a cup or two of vodka, Tequila or whiskey into a smaller container with a lid and use that to steep and store your infusion. Keep in mind that smaller amounts of liquor will infuse faster, so you’ll probably need to check on your infusion more frequently. 

2. When you’ve hit the right flavor and heat, remove the peppers and fruits, and use a funnel (and a strainer if needed) to return the now-infused liquor back to the original bottle. The infused spirit will keep almost indefinitely.

Resist the temptation to leave the ingredient floating in the liquor, otherwise the flavor will grow more intense and ingredients left floating in the alcohol can pickle, disintegrate, or simply go rancid, ruining your results.

3. Close the bottle tightly and keep it in a cool, dark area as you would any other bottle of prized liquor. Be sure to label it to avoid surprises later on!

4. Use your infused spirit in making cocktails, or for sipping straight up.


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