Infusing your own alcohols

I am going to be honest, I have made several pretty bad infused liquors.  That goes with the territory. You win some, you lose some.  In college, I took a $30 bottle of vodka and soaked a huge pile of blackberries in it, then added a huge amount of sugar.  The result – $40 worth of fail.  That $40 failure was a huge financial hit for a college student, and dissuaded me from attempting to infuse booze for many years after that.  Last fall Craig mentioned a mixed drink that he had tried where you mix fireball (cinnamon liqueur) with apple flavored snapple, but mentioned that it was very sweet.  I set about coming up with a way to make it tastier and lower sugar.  I soaked a few cinnamon sticks in some whiskey, and mixed it with actual apple cider.  It’s delicious, and has the benefit of no added sugar.

 This post is not about my whiskey though.  It is about infusing gin.  Most of us have had a bad experience with gin that has put us off drinking it.  Mine involves running out of juice midway through a night of drinking when I was in highschool, and switching to doing shots of it out of a mug.  It was not a positive experience.  The next time I touched gin was close to 8 years later, when I spent the weekend getting cut, bruised, sweaty, and dusty tearing out a huge pile of juniper bushes from our front yard.  Deciding that I needed a victory cocktail, nothing seemed more fitting than drinking a spirit steeped in juniper offspring (berries).  It was then that my love affair with gin began.  Unfortunately, nobody else in my circle of friends felt the same way about it.  To this day, I have to come up with something pretty fancy to get Craig to drink it.  This spring, I came across the ticket.  I made a rhubarb simple syrup, and began my experimentation with adding different herbs to cocktails made with the syrup.  If I remember correctly, I think the gin cocktail was rhubarb simple syrup, muddled basil and lime, plus gin and soda water.  And it was magnificent.  It was then that I coerced Craig’s best friend (and my secondary husband) Ian to try gin.  He then began drinking gin and tonics (G&Ts!) and has also begun exploring the exciting world of craft-distiller’s versions of gin.  Rogue brewery has a gin that they put out somewhat recently which is great.  My PERSONAL favorite is Dry Fly from Eastern Washington.  They scale back a bit on the standard botanicals, and add in apple, lavender, hops, mint, and some other similar flavors.  It is an incredibly complex flavor and is a lot less juniper-heavy than many others.  This spring, when lavender was blooming, I took a cue from Dry Fly, and collected some lavender flowers, threw them in a jar, then filled it with gin and allowed it to sit for a few days.  The gin turned a yellowish color eventually, and I strained everything, and made cocktails using elderflower syrup and soda water.  It was like drinking a flower, but in a good way.

lavender-infused gin
It tasted as pretty as it looked

So this year for Christmas, when I found myself unable to find a suitably thoughtful gift for Ian (he is a very good gift giver), and he mentioned having gotten a new fancy gin, I knew what to do.  I decided to make him a trio of infused gins.  The biggest trick to infusing liquors, is to start with something CHEAP.  It doesn’t have to be enormous plastic bottle cheap, but unless the enormous plastic bottle liquor is actually unpleasant tasting, it should be fine if you start with that.  When I infuse our cinnamon whiskey, I get a 1.75 liter bottle of the cheapest whiskey I can find, and dump a few cinnamon sticks in.  My go-to gin is Beefeater, and I get it in (glass) 1.75 liter bottles for a pretty decent price, so I feel OK keeping it around for drinking, and whatever hair I have up my ass for infusing. My first plan was satsuma-cranberry.  For this, I just threw half a bag of fresh cranberries into a bottle (I’ll mash them up a bit if I do this in the future) and the zest from 2 satsumas.  I like doing large ribbons of zest, so I slice big pieces of peel off, then shave away any visible bits of white pith (pith=bitter=unpleasant).  Here it is after having sat for a few days.

Satsuma-Cranberry Gin
The second one is lemongrass-lime.  For this, I got a stalk of lemongrass and cut it to about 8″ long, then cut it into strips so that I’d be able to remove them from the bottle, and did the same zest trick with 2 limes.  Due to the assertiveness of both flavors, I expect that this one will only take a few days to infuse, but I think that it’ll be a fun one to experiment with, so I’ll be happy to “water it down” with some additional gin(if it’s too intense) and take whatever leftovers I end up with.

lemongrass-lime infused gin
My final infusion is a grapefruit-basil infused gin.  As you can see, it’s only grapefruit zest so far.  That is partially because I think that the grapefruit will need a little longer to infuse to release its flavors, and partially because I haven’t made it to the store to get some fresh basil in the middle of winter yet.

grapefruit infused gin

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