Infusing spirits will take your cocktail making adventures to a whole new level. Although you can certainly bring flavor into a drink in other ways, like in a simple syrup, there’s a certain amount of subtlety that’s achieved when you infuse it instead. Additionally, making your own infusion allows you to avoid buying some of the positively awful flavored spirits that are available on the shelves right now. There are a few rules of thumb to the infusion process. First, use a high quality spirit to start out with. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re infusing it, its original taste doesn’t matter because it most certainly does. Secondly, the higher the proof of the alcohol, the more quickly it will infuse, so take this into consideration if you’re using an overproof spirit. Thirdly, when using fresh ingredients they should be the highest quality possible. Remember that an infusion is a concentrate, so any pesticides etc. on your fruit or vegetable will find their way into the infusion in stronger amounts. Organic produce is really your best bet. Finally, straining is very important. If you’re making an infusion for one-time use only then using a fine mesh strainer should be enough. If you’re planning on keeping you’re infusion for a while, or making a bottle as a gift, you should strain through a coffee filter to remove as many particles as possible. Leaving them behind may affect the taste over time, or make them bitter, especially in the case of tea infusions. As far as storage goes, I opt for refrigerating anything I’ve infused at home. It feels safer to me, even though there’s alcohol involved and room temp should be okay. Most cocktails are served cold anyway, so there’s no harm in keeping them in the fridge fas far as I’m concerned. Always take a good look at and taste any infusion that you’ve had for a while. If something looks or tastes off, don’t use it and simply make a new batch.
For today’s cocktail I created a green tea infused vodka using Stateside and Gunpowder green tea leaves. Gunpowder green has a slightly smoky aroma and taste, which I happen to love. I then added Sukkah Hill Spirits Etrog liqueur, with its slightly sweet, lemony, herbal flavor because I thought it was the perfect accompaniment to the green tea. Feel free to experiment here with other herbal liqueurs that you like. Lemon juice was the obvious fresh citrus to use in this drink, again because of the green tea base. Finally, I made a green tea simple syrup as the sweet component, opting for a regular green this time, rather than gunpowder green, so as not to overwhelm the cocktail with too much smokiness. I used just a bit more simple syrup than I normally would to offset the slightly bitter flavor of the tea. I went with a lime peel as a garnish just to keep the green theme going, and some hibiscus salt on top. The end result was a drink that was surprising in its flavor because it seemed almost comforting, like something you’d drink when you weren’t feeling well. I can also see limitless possibilities for variations here: pineapple juice instead of lemon, some ginger added in, or maybe even a mint tea syrup instead of a green… Let your imagination be your guide here!
The Double Green
2 oz Stateside Vodka infused with green tea*
½ oz Sukkah Hill Spirits Etrog liqueur
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ green tea simple syrup**
Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until well-chilled. Double strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with a lime strip and hibiscus salt. Enjoy!
*To make the green tea infusion, pour the vodka into a glass container and add loose green tea leaves. The ratio is 4 T to 1 bottle of vodka. Allow the tea to infuse, but check on the half hour to be sure that it’s not becoming to bitter. I did mine for 3 hours. When it’s to your liking, strain using the finest strainer you have or pour through a coffee filter. Store back in the original bottle or in something smaller if you’ve made less.
**To make the green tea simple syrup, steep green tea (2 bags or or 2 T loose in a tea ball) in just boiled water for 15 minutes. Strain and add an equal amount of sugar. Reheat gently, stirring until the tea is clear. Store in a Mason jar in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.