How to Infuse Alcohol with Summer Flavors
Words Valerie Liston
You don’t have to be a mixologist to infuse a little extra fun into your summer with these easy (no, really, super easy) tips for deliciously different cocktails.
When I first set out to research infusing flavors into alcohol, I was ready to invest in a lab coat and become a mad scientist. But I was delighted to learn infusing just about anything – berries into vodka, citrus into bourbon, you name it! – was easy as pie. You can infuse with herbs, coffee — even bacon!
Let’s start with the basics. You don’t need fancy tools to infuse alcohol:
- Airtight containers (Mason jars will do the trick.)
- A fine Mesh Strainer
Infusing alcohol is a quick, three-step process:
- Place your ingredients in a jar
- Let them sit and steep. (Somewhere cool and out of the sun, like in a cabinet or on a shady countertop.)
Now, onto the fun part.
You can infuse just about any kind of alcohol with just about anything.
You can infuse just about any kind of alcohol with just about anything. That said, the sheer limitlessness of it can be overwhelming, so here are some combinations to start with. Unless otherwise mentioned, there’s no rule to how long you infuse. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor. Same with ratios; I’ve provided some suggestions, but you really can’t go wrong.
Sweet & Fruity
Vodka + Blueberries
This classic and colorful combination is probably the easiest – just fill up a jar with blueberries and add the vodka. (When in doubt, start with a one cup of fruit per cup of vodka to start.) Soak for a few days or a few weeks, depending on how strong you want the flavor.
Vodka + Watermelon
Doesn’t get much more summery than watermelon! Half a small-to-medium watermelon works perfectly for a 750mL bottle and makes for a refreshing treat.
Whiskey or Vodka + Pineapple
A little tropical twist for a flavorful addition to any punch bowl. Soak for a few weeks for ultimate flavor. (If you use a Pineapple Slicer you can even serve some of it right out of the pineapple!)
Rum + Coconut
Simply chop up the meat of a fresh coconut and add white rum. Coconut needs a little help though – shake it well after the first time you seal it up, and shake it again every once in a while over the 2-3 week soaking period.
Savory & Spicy
Bourbon + Bacon
Impress the bacon-lovers in your life by making bacon-flavored bourbon from real bacon. Cook up a package of bacon, draining the fat into a heat-safe container as you go. Once it’s cooled (but still in liquid form!), pour into your bourbon. About 1/4 cup will do, adding more or less based on preference. This one only needs to sit a few hours, then strain. It’s extra important you remove ALL the bits from this mixture (since, unlike stray pieces of fruit, you don’t want a surprise bit of bacon fat in your beverage), pass this one through the strainer a few times, and use a coffee filter in your strainer for total filtration.
Vodka + Bacon + Peppers
This time, you use the actual bacon strips! Add two or three each of bacon strips, serrano peppers, and habanero peppers and let soak a few hours. (Maybe even jalapeños for an extra kick.) Perfect for bloody marys!
Bourbon + Coffee + Vanilla
This one technically isn’t summer-themed, but coffee is always in season. Split two vanilla beans and crush (not grind) 1/2 cup of your favorite coffee beans and infuse for a few weeks.
Vodka + Rosemary (though just about any herb will do)
Rosemary adds an unexpected dash of delicious to any cocktail, from fruity and fun to classics like lemonade and bloody marys. Put 5-10 sprigs of rosemary in your jar and let sit for about a week. The rosemary sprigs in the vodka are also lovely to look at, making it very giftable.
Tips & Tricks
- Wash before you infuse! From berries to veggies: if you would wash it before you eat it, wash it before you infuse it.
- Cut or score your flavor-makers before putting them in the alcohol; except berries, which you can just pop in whole.
- Store jars in a cool, dry place while infusing. After you strain the fruit out, store the alcohol however you would normally store that type of liquor.
- After straining berries out, save them to use in cocktails for a garnish, or try freezing them if you’re not serving right away.
- You don’t always have to strain! Strawberries, for example, are mild enough that you can leave them in even when you make your cocktail.
- The quality of the alcohol will impact the taste of the end result, so choose wisely before infusing.
- Give yourself a little extra time. Infusing alcohol is preference-based, so you’ll want a little buffer to be able to adjust as necessary.
- Related, make some extra so you can test your infusion every few days until it’s just how you want it.
- If you over-infuse, just add more of your base liquor to dilute. If only all recipes were that easy to fix when you mess up!
Okay, I made my infused alcohol. (You were right, it was so easy!) Now what?
Fill a highball glass with a big ice cube, make a cocktail or punch, add a label and a ribbon to gift your new concoction, or make an infused-alcohol-infused baked treat…the options are as endless as the infusion combinations. Most importantly: Enjoy!
Originally published June 2017. Updated July 2018.
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