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Infusions, Extractions & Tinctures at Home: The Topic (Part 1)


herbacidal
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I'd like to try the vanilla bourbon, too.  Has anybody else done anything with infused bourbon?  It seems like the challange here is to 1) pick an infusion that would complement the bourbon's flavors while 2) not overpowering or destroying them.  As opposed to vodka where there's no inherent flavoring and you're trying to make something that tastes...like something!

I recommeded doing this while back. Having worked in a restaurant with an active Pastry department, I just asked the Pastry Chef for the old scraped out vanilla pods (which they had in abundance) and threw a big handful into a few bottles of bourbon. Several months later it makes a tasty sipping bourbon or is delicious mixed with Coke.

Also good in a Samhattan.

Good one, Sam!! :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I infused peaches in bourbon a couple of years back----it was delicious, but in hindsight, i think that just muddling a few pieces in directly will give off similar results without the time factor. Beautiful visual, though; halved peaches against the brown bourbon---and the fruit could make for some mean desserts...

Infusing lemongrass for weeks? I infuse lemongrass in a spirit for only 6-8 hours, tops. Lemongrass is intense and a lengthy infusion like that can predominate in a cocktail---not in the best sense.

Audrey

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Boy, I wish I'd found you folk a while ago.

So after working in bars around Sydney for a few years and seeing established barpeople infusing their own vodka's and writing them into their cocktail lists. Its my turn right. I'm still confused though as to the optimum conditions for infusing?

Freezer v. Room Temp and One Day v. One Life time.

Obviously this will vary depending on what you are infusing but there are no guidelines, everyone has their own way. Please, educate me.

I know that commercial infusions take place over several years, so how does only a few hours work? Are we mixing the flavours or infusing them, and what is the difference? What is actually happening in the bottle?

To offer some a advice to others, I once had a conversation with a colleague about what infuses best. We decided that a proplerly filtered vodka outguns anything else due to the fact it was essentially flavourless. I feel that bourbon might be too powerful and as was previously suggested would be easier to control the taste at consumption rather than trying to gauge a particular flavour against the whisky. They also recommended tequila's with a low agave (i have forgotten how the scaling of tequila works so maybe someone could help me out here).

In regard to two products being similar because they come from the same distillation plant, I'm little sceptical of judgements like that. Truth is, it's your call. Let your palette tell you which one is more neutral/acidic/smooth/coarse.

Finally, i'll just list the vodkas I've got going.

Feijoa half zested and quartered in 700mls of smifnoff steeping for 6weeks

Passion fruit quartered and emptied into 700mls of vodka-o (a vodka we've had for a while and claims to be free of all flavouring agents like methylalyine)

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We've done a few infusions here. We use Ketel One, which is our house vodka. We do a little at a time, in small jars, enough to make a drink or two each. I liked a cucumber-cilantro mix the best so far. With club soda, it made a nice tall drink.

Someone mentioned garlic becoming overwhelming in an infusion. I was trying to make garlic martinis with gin and vodka. Recipes suggested infusing for only a few hours to a couple of days. I found that after a day the garlic flavor was plenty strong.

Another thing we've tried infusing is tequila. We've used orange, mango and strawberry. Our usual margarita recipe is tequila, fresh lime juice and Cointreau. I've used the infused tequila for margaritas and palomas (like margaritas, but with salt and something like Squirt) with less or no Cointreau and it makes a nice light drink.

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What is better to use in pepper infusions: dried, fresh, or a mix? Is there any sense in using a mix of peppers, or would the hottest pepper prevail over the qualities (Flavor notes other than blatant hotness) of the others?

Can't say what works best, but I can say that fresh works well.

I infused habanero (be careful not to make it too hot for others) with

100 proof Smirnoff.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I enjoy drinking Ketel One. But I've heard a several different pronunciations of Ketel. Is it "KETtle", "kee-TELL", or "kuh-TELL"?

Sacred cows make the best hamburger.

- Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

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The first thing you should know is that it's hard to screw this up -- put your flavorings in, taste it in a week and either add more, adjust or dilute as you see fit.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Making a decent, drinkable infusion is not hard. It might not turn out to be what you expected; it probably won't be revelatory; but it will generally fall between ok and really good and often be quite interesting. The beauty is the ease. Where the skill comes in, as with so many precise culinary skills, is in being able to duplicate the finished product exactly time after time ... but that's not really a concern for someone dabbling at home.

As for quality, a neutral mid-range vodka is the key. If you wouldn't drink it uninfused, it's not going to become better through infusion/maceration/etc; it'll just be a nasty substrate ruining good ingredients. Analogies are easy to come by: would you create an elaborate and subtle sauce for over-cooked, sticky pasta or microwave fish sticks? Folk wisdom comes to mind as well; you're putting make-up on a pig. On the other end, anything expensive, particularly if it has subtle flavors that will be overwhelmed, is overkill. Skyy was recommended. I've used it or sampled infusions made with it several times and it's been great. A little bit less expensive - around $10 for a 750 - is Svedka. I've made infusions, preserved fruit (a sort of confiture), and, most recently used it as the base for Nocino (a green walnut liqueur - won't be ready for some time still). It's worked well enough for me that I don't see any reason to step up and spend more.

Best of luck with your infusions.

rw

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  • 4 weeks later...
Try the local store as well as a good Googling, but this is one that I previously bookmarked:

http://www.save-on-crafts.com/mediumbottles.html

Cool bottles! I like how the have the wavy bottle that the new(?) Rose's flavorings come in. The 'blue raspberry' is actually almost vaguely decent enough* in Coke. Have to kill off the last ounce or so of it and use it for storage!

So, I went out and got two plastic mason-like jars from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It occurs to me at this late hour that the plastic might retain scents from the liquids. We'll see, I guess. Also picked up, along with components for what should be a great steak dinner, peppers and citrus for vodka infusing. So, updates in...however long as the stuff is going to take, when I re-skim the thread for timing suggestions. Peppers were pretty quick, IIRC.

-- C.S.

* This glowing review has not been compensated by Rose's. :raz:

Edited for: Woah, this stuff better be good...started pouring and before I knew it, had the whole Liter in the bottle! :blink::blink:

....It occurs to me I could just pour half the vodka in the citrus jar into the pepper jar. In fact, that's what I did. There's a public service announcement hidden in all this, I just can't find it right now. Night, all!

Edited by Chef Shogun (log)

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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This is a bit coming from one in the biz, but there are bunches of offerings now for infusing jars, however I've noticed the gouging price of these lovely Italian glass beauties.

I got one as a gift from Finlandia, complete with a brass spigot and two lucite pieces that fit into the jar for straining purposes. It only got better with a tastefully decorative bit of metalwork to keep this bottle off of the counter and for easy dispensing which came with the package as well. The Finlandia logo can be easily removed with the aid of a hair dryer, however I've opted to keep their logo'ed sticker in honour of the kind folks that freely gave this wee prezzie for my home collection. :cool:

I luvs it, and Finlandia.

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Things to avoid: Bed, Bath, and Beyond plastic food storage jars. Not even 24 hours, and the lids are already developing cracks. Great :hmmm:. I'll find some real jars for the next round.

Interim update: The pepper vodka is turning yellow/red, and smells like death. I'm supposed to be tasting this stuff?? :shock:* The zests in the citrus are losing their color, but the liquid doesn't smell as bad.

-- C.S.

* So, I tasted the stuff.

Infused vodka tasting notes:

Pepper: kung-PAO! :shock: Lets just say 'strong pepper notes', harsh attack, and 'please somebody make the burning stop' finish, and call it a day. I'll let you know about the mouthfeel when I can once again feel my mouth. Going to have to cut this stuff with regular vodka (Which got a good laugh from one of my roommates, even though that's how it works).

Citrus: Eh, it's comming along. Harsher than I expected. Using Smirnoff 80 for both.

Edited by Chef Shogun (log)

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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?

Freezer v. Room Temp and One Day v. One Life time.

I know that commercial infusions take place over several years, so how does only a few hours work? Are we mixing the flavours or infusing them, and what is the difference? What is actually happening in the bottle?

I'm not sure where anyone suggested a few hours infusion time except for Audrey (libationgoddess) when she was talking about lemongrass below.

Infusing lemongrass for weeks? I infuse lemongrass in a spirit for only 6-8 hours, tops. Lemongrass is intense and a lengthy infusion like that can predominate in a cocktail---not in the best sense.

Lemongrass MOST DEFINITELY is very strong, and it would be the exception to the rule for a few weeks infusion time.

I remember one time, I think we were trying to make Tabla's tablatini at a party.

I followed the printed directions as best as I could, but I'm sure the correct recipe didn't mean for it to end up with as strong and pungent a drink as it was.

I suspect someone got the recipe wrong.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Anyone ever try a strawberry-ginger-vodka combo? I've got a lot sitting around of both. What else might be tasty with strawberries?

Just tasted my pineapple-piloncillo-vanilla bean-tequila infusion. It's quite a lovely caramel color. Needs more pineapple, mainly so that I have enough infused pineapple chunks to blend into frozen margs and, well, because I keep eating them.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know the question of which vodka to use has been discussed so please forgive me bringing it up yet again. I want to try some infusing. I like Grey Goose, it's clean, tasteless and oderless. And I don't mind paying the price of Grey Goose, although I wouldn't want to go much higher, but it is only 80 proof and I read that it is best to use 100 proof for infusing. I don't want to waste my time using a lower grade vodka because then I will end up with a lower grade infusion. I just don't know which 100 proof vodka is good. I see many use Absolut 100 proof. I got Absolut Raspberry 80 proof once and it was nasty, it even smelled nasty, so I am afraid to use Absolut. So the question is, what is a 100 proof vodka that would compare with the taste/oder of Grey Goose?

Also, today I started Grey Goose with cinnamon sticks and cloves. I haven't been able to find any information on infusing spices. Has anyone here done it? It is my first try at infusing so I am only doing about 10 oz. Infusing sounds like something that would be hard to screw up too badly and one can't go wrong with cinnamon and cloves. I'll taste it in a couple of days and maybe will have to remove the cloves so they don't overpower the cinnamon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My cinnamon/clove infusion is wonderful. I only left the cloves in for a couple of days. On day 10 I strained it, made some simple syrup and added that, then put it in a 12 oz wine bottle. I put a few of the cinnamon sticks back in the bottle, topped it off with vodka and put it in the freezer. I guess you're supposed to let an infusion rest for a few weeks. I was so strong and brave....I left it in the freezer for a full 10 days! What willpower! This evening it got the best of me. Ya see, I have peach schnapps, and I have 7up. I used about 10 oz peach schnapps, same amount of 7up and enough of the infused vodka to give it a bit of cinnamon. It was very good but too sweet so I put it over lots of ice. The syrup in the infusion and the sugar in the 7up, not to mention the sweetness of the schnapps, all made a VERY sweet drink. The whole peach and cinnamon thing was really good so I do want to try making it again, but what would be best to use instead of 7up to cut down on the sugar?

My raspberry infusion is very good as well. But it was made with 100 proof and is not as smooth. I haven't made any drinks with that yet. I'm not sure what I want to use with it. Any suggestions?

Today I had 6 limes that I was going to use the juice from so I peeled off the zest leaving behind the pith and put it into the last of my 100 proof vodka.(about 8 oz.) I'll add some 80 proof after it steeps. I read online that the lime zest should only be steeped for 24 hours, and another site says 48 hours to avoid a musty taste. Has anyone here infused lime? And if so, how long can I steep it before it starts taking on a musty taste?

Thanks for letting me glean from you all. :smile:

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My raspberry infusion is very good as well. But it was made with 100 proof and is not as smooth.

How much raspberry per what volume of vodka did you use? And how long did you let the infusion go for?

This is one infusion I would like to try.

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I used about 10 oz peach schnapps, same amount of 7up and enough of the infused vodka to give it a bit of cinnamon. It was very good but too sweet so I put it over lots of ice. The syrup in the infusion and the sugar in the 7up, not to mention the sweetness of the schnapps, all made a VERY sweet drink. The whole peach and cinnamon thing was really good so I do want to try making it again, but what would be best to use instead of 7up to cut down on the sugar?

Try club soda. You might also want to cut back on the peach schnapps and substitute some fresh peach puree for some of it.

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alphaiii,

I filled a quart jar about 3/4 full with fresh red raspberries then filled it with vodka. It looked beautiful in no time. Then I read online that the raspberries should be muddled so I opened it and muddled them. I left it steep for about 5 days and then strained it but because the berries were muddled it didn't want to go through a filter. It isn't completely clear like it probably would be if the berries hadn't been muddled. I made some simple syrup and added a little of that and put it in the freezer. That was a week ago. I will certainly make it again next year when the berries come ripe but I think I'll try not muddling the berries and see how that works. I will use a good 80 proof instead of 100 proof only because my cinnamon/clove infusion is soooo smooth. These are the first infusions I have ever done so you should ask someone more experienced.

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I will try the club soda. I've never had it just because it never seemed like anything I'd like, but then I've never mixed a drink that was so yummy that just needed the sugar cut. I mixed it another way night before last. I live a good 20 minutes from a store so I hadn't gotten any club soda yet. I used 3 oz. vodka, 3 oz. peach schnapps, 1 oz. cinnamon infused vodka, 6 oz. 7 up, over ice. It wasn't as sweet this way, but I do want to try it with club soda.

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I got a bottle of the Level vodka. Thought I'd try it now as it is on sale in PA this month. It is really very good. Smells good, is smooth and clean. I like. :biggrin: I haven't done more than just taste it yet.

Just as I checked out and turned to leave, I saw a display of Priviet vodka. 1.75L for $18. I've never heard of that kind that I can remember. The woman at the shoppe saw me look over at it and said it's a premium vodka and is only priced so low because it is a one time buy. I figured at that price I can't go wrong. If it's supposed to be a premium then it should at least be good enough for mixing. It smells and tastes like rubbing alcohol. :sad: I put it away, thinking I'd use it if I found myself without drinkable vodka. My hubby talked me into trying it mixed. First I tried it in some unsweetened juice and 7 up. It wasn't good. Then I added different things like schnapps and some simple syrup. Mixed with so many ingredients it was actually ok. Of course after tasting it several different ways, it got better and better. By the time we got to talking and playing cards, it went pretty well. Then I worried about the next morning. Who knows what a headache that stuff would give? I drank more when I was younger and never had a hangover but thought maybe age would have changed that. But the next morning I was headache free so at least I don't have to worry about that while I'm using the rest of the Priviet. I don't know anything about Priviet except that it's from Russia and is grain. Anyone know more about it?

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I left my lime zest (from 6 limes)steep in the vodka for 5 days. It is nicely green and does taste very good. I made just a little simple syrup with sugar, water, and the lime zest that I removed from the infusion and added it to the filtered infusion and put it in a bottle that looks like it must be about 24 oz. then I topped it off with more vodka. I put it in the freezer and will try it in a week or so. This stuff would go with so many different things. :smile: If any of you have done infusions and could suggest anything I should do differently, please do so. I am learning and would appreciate your experienced input.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I was at university, I used to frequent a very cool cocktail bar that had at least 100 infused vodkas. They used Absolut, and would put almost anything in there: lemongrass, vanilla, citrus, coffee beans, jelly beans (which sounds good but tasted vile IMHO), peppers, black pepper, caraway seeds........list goes on.

I went on an infusion rampage a few years ago, and found that fruit could be infused pretty well, but it was necessary to strain the vodka through muslin to remove pulp and make it look better. I also kept the infused vodka in the freezer (better anyway, but just in case someone wanted to leave it out....the alcohol would probably ensure that it would keep.....but who knows?). One of my better infusions was papaya and lime!!!!! Soooo yummy! :wub:

Forget the house, forget the children. I want custody of the red and access to the port once a month.

KEVIN CHILDS.

Doesn't play well with others.

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  • 10 months later...

I'm working on a tea-infused gin to be a component in a proposal for the Pig Pickin' Signature Cocktail. I hadn't read about Audrey's Earl Grey-infused gin for her MarTEAni yet, so I just guessed.

I started with 16 ounces of 80-proof gin and one half-ounce of tea (technically, six bags of Twinings Afternoon, a black tea blend). I let it infuse for 12 hours. It smelled great, and the color was beautiful. The taste is good, too, except that it has a Sahara-inducing quantity of tannin. Now that I've read Audrey's formula, it seems that I went the wrong way. More tea, less time seems to be a better direction. But I wonder:

- How much tea can a given amount of alcohol handle in a given period of time?

- Presumably, short infusions extract the pleasant flavor compounds earlier (granted, this theory is based on Audrey's forumla, plus what is known about coffee extraction). Other than trial and error, is there a way to zero in on the tipping point?

- Besides short infusion times, is there a way to reduce tannins while maximizing other flavors? Maybe there's some combination of water and alcohol that would work better? My first thought is that a higher-proof gin would extract more from the tea, but it must depend on the solubility of the various flavor compounds. Are tannins more or less soluble in alcohol than other tea-related flavors?

- Moving beyond tea: other than tradition and trial-and-error, is there a way to predict what's better infused with water and what's better done with alcohol, and a way to establish timing before starting out?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I'm not much of a genius or 'nuthin, but I remember when Vodka Infusions first attempted to catch on back in the early 92's. I did a couple or 4 infusions for a Russian themed joint in DC and they worked out really well. Some better than others. What it taught me was this: Depending on the subject of ya'lls infusion, you gotta figure out how close an eye you have to keep on it. Depending on how fast things sell will tell you something about your production schedule. F'rinstance:

5 pepper infused vodka: Infuse it as fast as you can sell it. It also didn't take long to infuse...

Garlic and Dill Vodka: Pull the Herbs and make a label 'cause it gets fawnky after 2 days.

Ginger Vodka: Let it sweat and let it Purrrrrr. Mary Anne is usually right around the corner but Ginger likes to wait around.

Now, as I write this, it occured to me that a lot of things tend to find their own level, travel the path of least resistance and flow downhill etc. Our 5 Pepper Vodka sold the best, and it only took a couple of hours to get it infused. The Garlic/Dill took a few days, but it rarely sold. The Ginger Vodka took almost 24 hours to get "just right" and that's about the par level I had to keep for it.

This is a really LONG preamble to the post. I apologize.

But this is why I've (more or less) given up on the Infusions and gone for syrups.

I know, I know, I know.....some flavor compounds aren't extracted in water, but can and will be expressed in alcohol. I concede that point. Those of you with the patience, energy and outright-nerdiness can have that parcel of the High Ground.

BUT:

Ginger syrup, 5 Spice syrup, Piloncillo syrup, Cardamon syrup and on and on just can't be beat.

In syrups, you have the versatility of a sweetener (nearly all drinks/cocktails have one) and they play well with the Iced Tea that I'm rarely outside of arm's reach of.

(I know that's a bad sentence, but it is one, up with which I will put!)

myers

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There are fairly accurate solubility coefficients chemists use to predict the absorbtion rates of chemicals in solvents. Both water and alcohol are solvents but some chemicals are more soluble in water than alcohol, and vice versa.

To calculate the absorption rate of the flavors you need to identity the chemicals in the flavors in the infusions but suffice it to summarize that the heavier oils will take longer to absorb than the lighter oils and that the heavier oils are responsible for the cloudy color of the infusion.

While it is possible to predict all these things empirically, it is faster and more accurate to do several simutaneous experiments. Sounds like you're on the right track. Start with alcohol of about the strength with which you want to finish, test often and enjoy the experimenting. That is how the solubility coefficients were derived.

Try googling solubility coefficient alcohol and you will get an idea of the complexity of the equations involved. Personally, I'd rather spend my spare time drinking experiments than hurting my brain solving logarithm equations which have to be verified anyway.

Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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