On Thursday, January 16, Bazaar Spices had the pleasure of hosting a class all about using spices, botanicals, and fresh ingredients to make your own unique alcohol infusions. Eliza Mairesse, a personal chef and creator of Jarring Botanicals, went through the basics of infusing, discussed her favorite spirits and ingredients, and prepared two different botanical kits for each participant to take home.
A few takeaways for those wishing to start their own infusing adventures:
When using fresh ingredients such as fresh fruit or vegetables, it’s best to use organic, since alcohol not only extracts the flavors of your ingredients, but also any pesticides or herbicides that may be lurking.
The higher proof of alcohol you use, the more flavor extraction you will achieve. But, this is not always a good thing. Eliza recommends using 80 to 84 proof alcohol for the best infusions.
Dried fruits are a great infusing ingredient, and after you’re done infusing, you could even keep the alcohol-soaked fruits to eat! Eliza recommended infusing bourbon with dried cherries, then using the bourbon-soaked cherry in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Another favorite is using dried pears to infuse gin or tequila, of course keeping the dried pears to munch on or maybe even put on ice cream. Sounds delicious to me!
When using spices, always use whole spices, not ground. The flavor extraction will be much better, and you won’t have little bits of spice floating in your drink later.
As for the alcohol you choose, mid-shelf liquor is best. In the event your experiment goes awry, you won’t have wasted an expensive ingredient. And, as Eliza said, adding ingredients to something that already tastes bad won’t make it taste better. Eliza also recommends infusing small batches (1 pint or even ½ pint jars) when you first start your experimenting so that you won’t waste too much if you really hate your finished product.
Vodka is a good alcohol to infuse, as it has no flavor and will really soak up the flavors of your infusing ingredients. But gin, in its many manifestations, is really meant for infusing. Depending on the brand, you could have a really juniper-forward or a more mellow, earthy gin; this means you have many more infusing avenues to explore! Eliza prepared a kit for infusing gin with juniper berries, crystallized ginger, star anise, and cucumber slices. Why have a plain ol’ martini when you can make a martini with your own infused creation? Another of Eliza’s favorite spirits to work with is bourbon, and she prepared a kit of cinnamon, green cardamom, Calendula flowers, and orange zest, a blend sure to create a lovely spiced, warming concoction perfect for a Manhattan.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that the sky (and your imagination) is the limit when infusing alcohol. Get started with and inspired by Eliza's pre-mixed jars, available at Bazaar Spices, and then try experimenting with your own crazy ideas. Your next cocktail will thank you.
This post is part of our series on drinks. For others in the series check out:
Spiced Sorrel Juice for Caribbean-American Heritage Month
DIY Infusions: Modern Mixology 101
Beat the Heat: Rose Hip Lemonade