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Mar 14, 2013 11:58 PM

Best brands and ingredients for spirit infusions

Ive seen this discussed quite a bit, but I was just curious what everyone's favorite type of spirit is for infusing and what they infuse it with. I want to start doing this again and have my heart set on vodka, since it´is the most neutral spirit. Im living in Mexico right now, so Mid ranged vodka is hard to come by. Seems like its only Smirnoff. Theres plenty of high end and low end. Any suggestions on type and brand of liquor as well as what ingredients to use. More tropical ingredients are more abundant and cheaper where I am. Thanks!

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  1. I started doing infusion recently and I've been using any spirit to just try and figure out what works best with what.

    So far I've done Jim Beam with apples and cinnamon sticks, New Amsterdam Gin with strawberries, Bacardi Oakheart with pear and a cinnamon stick, and Popov vodka (a lower brand) with a mixture of pineapple, kiwi and mango.
    They all turned out fairly well, except for the gin cause it tasted like cough syrup to me.

    Honestly high or low range doesn't always matter when it comes to something like vodka. When I drink vodka I either drink popov, crystal head, or tito's and it all seems the same to me. However when you do something with whiskey, tequila, rum or anything that has some what of a flavor to it then you want to use what you like and think of good pairings that would go with the tasting notes. I did a little research on the tasting notes of the Bacardi Oakheart since it is a spiced rum and figured out that pear would be the best choice and I added a little cinnamon for flavor and it turned out well. I just think I should add more pear next time or use a different type since I'm not getting as much flavor as I hoped.

    You could also try and add some sugar to your infusion as well. I know with some distillers they mash up the fruit some and add some sugar and then distill it so you have the sweet flavor.

    Overall its just a trail and error thing like any experiment. You just have to figure out what you like and make it to your taste. I look at this website for ideas
    Just google and see what you find and ask around

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pwelsh4

      Thanks for the response! very helpful. The supermarket near my house had a sale of Skyy, so Im gonna try it with raspberries and mint. See how that turns out. I completely agree with you about vodka, quality isnt too important. The oakheart with pear sounded fantastic, unfortunately, I don´t think its available in Mexico. Going to try tequila next!

      1. re: macksington

        Raspberry and mint sounds good. I normally just go off normal food pairings or some times I just think of crazy things like Everclear infused with ghost chilis or something out there. I'm even thinking beef jerk bourbon.
        With Tequila, I would go with something like lime, orange or pepper to start off with. Basically a "margarita" tequila. Start simple, see how it turns out and then get creative with it. Like I said before, see how it tastes to you and look at its tasting notes and see what you can pair with it. Something more peppery than you might want something more sweet. Just keep experimenting and don't give up it.
        Also I let my infusions sit for a month so I can get maximum flavor but some infusions only need a week or two before its good

    2. My thoughts on infusions, which I fully intend to do more of this year: higher proof in your base will carry more flavor out of whatever you infuse. I have my eye on using overproof rum like Wray & Nephew from Jamaica, which comes in at 126 proof and seems to be more available than ever here in Boston. I'm not sure what might be available in Mexico like that, but keeping the proof up will give you a better result.
      I haven't started yet this year because I want to infuse fruit that's local and seasonal, but that's my plan!

      3 Replies
      1. re: marais

        You need to remember to use more botanicals when you use higher proof spirits because you will be watering it down later. So it needs to be more concentrated.

        1. re: marais

          You will never lose the funkiness of Wray & Nephew (it's a good funky, but not for every drink). For rum, I opt for a less flavorful one like Bacardi 151.

          1. re: yarm

            It's true Fred, you gotta love that funk to use it for an infusion, and I'm glad I developed a taste for it. Thanks to this thread I've got some pineapple macerating in Wray & Nephew right now. And thanks to what you've shared over the years in your excellent blog, I've had fun with potables I never would have tried otherwise - thank you sir!

        2. I purchased a bottle of 2 Gingers Irish Whisky that id di not care for. I decided to infuse it. After much research, I found that bananas were a good match for Irish whisky. I infused it for a week with rasberries and bananas. It was a great dessert type drink.

          1. I would ask myself what type of drink I have in mind and choose the base spirit and infusion pairing based on that, exactly like cooking and seasoning food.
            I would also try to go with the flow. I assume Tequila is plentiful and well priced in Mexico, so IMO there's no point in trying to buck the system with Vodka (unless you really don't like tequila)
            Warm spices
            all come to mind as flavors that pair well with tequila, which is not to say I wouldn't experiment with weirder stuff if I was more of a tequila-phile.

            1. I used Skyy and Raspberries because for some reason, they are both very cheap in Mexico. I left the Raspberries in for 2 weeks until they lost all their color and the vodka still barely tastes like anything more than...well vodka. I added 12 or so strawberries and after a week, they too lost their color and the vodka still has no taste. The vodka is a very dark pinkish red now. Any suggestions

              4 Replies
              1. re: macksington

                Raspberries and strawberries are the most difficult fruits to use in infusions. Not only do you need large amounts, the flavor doesn't hold well.

                1. re: JMF

                  Hmm, thats no good. Thanks for the tip though. I added one final batch of strawberries and some chopped apples so I can hopefully get at least a little flavor into it. I also live in the desert and the average temperature since I started the infusion has been in the 90s. Can the heat change the flavor of the infusion

                  1. re: macksington

                    Yes, heat can have a big effect. Varies upon what is being infused.

                2. re: macksington

                  I recently infused Bombay sapphire gin with peaches (which were not quite ripe enough) and since the flavor was still very peppery I decided to add raspberries. It came out a beautiful rosy color and tasted great (even to my boyfriend, who thinks gin tastes terrible). I let it infuse about 2 weeks.

                  I've had great success with everything I've put strawberries in. Tequila especially. I've paired it with jalapeno, once with basil, and once with lemon. That infusion is a gorgeous ruby color, so I make sure I run that through a coffee filter a time or two to get it really clear.

                  My secret for success with all of those is using VERY VERY ripe flavorful fruit. If what you put in it is bland, I can't imagine how I'd expect it to come out fruity. I always keep it in a cool dry place too. I keep it in a cabinet and swish it around whenever I get out plates. I smell it a couple times a week and give it a taste when I think its close. Everything I've left longer just gets better and better. A batch I made and pulled at 1 week was not nearly as good as the ones I've left nearly 3 weeks.

                  Hope the tips help!