In their how-to guide book Infuse: Oil. Spirit. Water, authors Eric Prum and Josh Willians wrote: "The seemingly simple process of adding fresh, local peaches to a mason jar of Kentucky bourbon and infusing the mixture for a few weeks had somehow resulted in something so much greater than the sum of its parts."
Here, we break down the different flavour profiles of base spirits such as gin and vodka, what ingredients matches best for each of them, and how to create your own infused concoctions.
Infuse it with: Saimai Nantarat of Bunker bar in Bangkok, who also won "Bangkok's Best Gin Tonic 2017" award at Asia’s premier festival East Imperial Gin Jubilee, recommends dried flowers such as chrysanthemums as they add a sweeter floral flavour that complements the herbaceous taste of the gin.
Infuse it with: Fruits like fresh plums will work well with vodka. For the more daring, spirits expert Mimi Lorandova from Proof & Company Spirits (the people behind popular cocktail bar 28 Hong Kong Street) recommends using horseradish or jalapeños for that kick of spice.
Infuse it with: Vincent Zheng, head bartender of Bob’s Bar at Capella Singapore, recommends fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries for a sweet taste. Adding spices like vanilla pods will also enhance the base notes of rum.
Infuse it with: Cinnamon sticks, cloves or star anise. Kenneth Au, co-founder of whisky bar The Wall, shares that cinnamon brings out the missing woodsy notes. Au’s tip: don’t leave the cinnamon sticks in the whisky for longer than 15 minutes, as the spice becomes bitter fast and will overwhelm the whisky.
- Assemble your liquor, ingredients and tools. Make sure the mason jar is clean, so the alcohol does not turn sour.
- Pour the alcohol into the mason jar, before adding in the ingredients. Make sure the jar is tightly sealed.
- Take note of what ingredients you are using to infuse the spirit. As a rough guide: strong spices such as cinnamon should be dipped in quickly for no more than 15 minutes (lest its bitterness overwhelms the whisky), while milder ingredients such as dried flowers and berries can take up to a month to fully impart flavour to the spirit.
- Keep tasting your creation to make sure it’s going well. When it’s ready, sieve it once to remove all solids, then pass it through a very fine piece of muslin. This prevents any remnant bits of fruit or vegetables from turning bad and spoiling the infused spirit. Well-sealed and carefully strained infusions can keep for up to a few months in a cool dark place.