Find out how to customize and package your own flavor-infused liquor like a true mixologist.
A personalized gift is always better than a store-bought one—so long as it’s done right. Skip the scratchy sweater or the cookies destined for the freezer this season with a gift you can customize for all the drinkers on your list: infused booze. The project is relatively simple, cost-effective, and unique. You can capture memories of a vacation you took with a loved one with a one-of-a-kind infused liquor inspired by a special meal, or preserve wintry flavors with a slew of seasonal combinations to cuddle up with come January.
What is infused booze?
“Infusion is all about the concentration of flavors,” says Meredith Barry, beverage director at the Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis. The creative choose-your-own-adventure format of homemade infused liquor means you, the mixologist, can pick the base spirit as well as any preferred herbs, spices and/or fruits—the combinations are endless. “Once you have found your mix, then you can use this infusion to add extra layers to your home cocktails. With infusions, it is possible to have a cocktail with more complex flavor notes without the addition of purees or sugar syrups,” she says.
How to infuse any liquor
To start infusing, Barry recommends adding your fresh ingredients to the liquor of your choice for three to four days, at room temperature, and then straining out the solids. Any longer, and the flavor may not taste as fresh. Dried fruits or spices (like cinnamon sticks) can sit in an infusion for a longer period of time, and tea “is a fantastic way to get a collection of complex concentrated flavors,” Barry says. She recommends only infusing liquor with tea for 10 to 15 minutes. “If you want more flavor add more tea, not more time, which will only add tannins,” she says.
In terms of proportion of how much flavor to infuse in a spirit, Barry notes that produce and ingredients are constantly in flux. For example, a Fresno chili may taste super spicy one day, while another harvest may result in a more mild flavor. Test infusion ingredients for ripeness and boldness, and when in doubt, add more of the infusion ingredient rather than letting the infusing ingredient sit for longer.
Infusing can also be a quick way to enjoy holiday desserts in a different, liquid capacity (note that they won’t be shelf stable, and should be consumed quickly). For baked goods and other holiday treats, like fresh mint, Barry recommends just blending the flavors with booze and straining them out. She’s tried this technique with Gooey Butter Cake, a local St. Louis delicacy, and Brandy. “It was delicious,” she says.
Gift your creation like a pro mixologist
To package infused booze as a gift, Barry recommends decanting it into a wire top glass carafe, which is attractive and resealable. Consider gifting a set of matching infused liquors in complementary flavors, or three different types of booze all infused with your signature combo. A custom label helps personalize the gift, and a serving suggestion as well as a garnish (like candied cranberries, homemade salt or sugar blends for a rim, or cute paper straws) also adds a gift-worthy touch. Even better, once your signature infusion is a hit, you’re off the hook on thinking of unique gifts for next year: everyone will eagerly anticipate your creations come cold weather.
Ready to infuse? All you need is a sealable container large enough for your spirit of choice, a fine mesh strainer, and a funnel to help fill your gift-able bottles.
Holiday infusion combinations, as recommended by Barry:
- Campari with cranberry, rosemary, and orange zest (great for any holiday punch with prosecco)
- Dolin Blanc or Dry with thyme to amp up martinis
- Medium-bodied rum or Agricole Rum with pineapple skins, bananas, Fresno chiles, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and fresh bay leaves (tastes like a Caribbean Holiday)
- Grappa with dried apricots and chamomile
- Cinnamon with whiskey, peach brandy, or apple brandy
- Saffron and Mezcal
- Classic Swedish Punsch, an infusion of sugar, lemon, cloves, black tea and Batavia Arrack