The art of infusing is the key to making any outstanding and unique cocktail. The seasoned mixologist will tell you that they spend most of their down time creating ingredients such as tinctures, infusions, syrups and mixes to use in their recipes. Whether it’s as subtle as a vanilla sugar rimmed glass or as bold as a Chinese five-spice guava tincture, infusions will pique the drinkers interest and keep them wanting more. Here are just a few recipes to get you started into the world of potable alchemy!
I love to use this in my Michelada and Beer Margarita recipe. This adds that extra kick of hops and really pulls a drink together in the end. Of course this takes some time in preparing to do it right but I have a quick and dirty way as well.
1 part crushed hops (I use Cascade and Centennial)
3 parts Kosher Salt
Keep the hops in tea cloth, cheese cloth or even in a hopping bag and put in an airtight container with the salt and forget about it for 6 weeks. When you come back you will find the salt is left white with a wonderful citrus hop aroma and just a hint of extra bitterness. If you don’t have the patience or you need the salt right away you can also just put them all in a food processor and grind away till you’re left with green salt, but I prefer the infusion because you can use it in everything from cooking to rimming your glass.
This is beautiful with a cool weather cocktail like my Grog Nog and only slightly less time consuming as the hop salt.
1 whole vanilla bean
2 cups white sugar
Pour the sugar into an airtight container. Slice the whole vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape the seeds out into the container and blend them into the sugar with a fork. Bury the whole vanilla bean in the sugar. Let it sit for about 2 weeks. This too is good for other things, like your morning coffee!
Syrups are fun ways of adding sweetness and flavor to your cocktails. Hibiscus syrup adds a light tartness and a wonderful magenta tone that you get in my Pink Berry cocktail.
1 part dried hibiscus flowers
2 parts water
4 part white sugar (you can use raw but keep in mind that you want to keep your cocktails vibrant and raw sugar does turn brown)
Bring water to a rolling boil and then turn the heat off. Steep hibiscus flowers in the hot water for about 20 minutes. Strain out the flowers from the bright red tea and bring it back to a boil adding the sugar and reducing the heat to simmer. Simmer the mixture for about 4-6 minutes, you should see the consistency has become thicker (it will stick to the back of your spoon) and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool for 20 minutes. If you see any little particles left from the flowers strain the syrup again and place in an airtight bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator.
Alcohol infusions are the fastest infusions in the mixing world and I personally think they taste better than the flavored spirits you can purchase. I love to use this citrus vodka in my version of the Radler- Shake Radler Roll.
1 clementine or cutie
1L bottle of your preferred vodka (I used Skyy for this)
Thoroughly wash and dry your fruits. Take a peeler and carefully peel each fruit making sure to avoid the pith (the white part). It’s okay if you get a tiny bit of pith but make sure it’s mostly colored rind. Place the rind in an airtight 1L jar and decant your vodka into it, cover and let sit in a dark cool area for 3-5 days. Strain out the peels and funnel the vodka back into your bottle for easy pouring, it should have a pleasant yellow/ orange tinge to it.