Erin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.
Infusing spirits at home is easy, and there’s no time more perfect to snuggle up with a spicy, handcrafted cocktail than on a moonlit winter night. The art of mixology is inspiring bartenders and boozehounds everywhere to create original sipping concoctions or to revive old classics. But you don’t need to stock the cabinet with a fortune’s worth of pretty liquor bottles to enjoy these delights. Infusing your own spirits at home is an easy way to build ingredients for your home bar and allows you to dream up customized flavors. You only need a few staples, some glass jars and whole dried herbs to make your own vodka with full-bodied flavor and more.
The basics for a versatile infusion-ready bar include vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, brandy and tequila. Any of these liquors can be transformed with herbs. Since you’ll be drinking infusions for pleasure, be sure to start with high quality spirits. They don’t have to be top shelf, but after that first taste you’ll really appreciate spending a few extra dollars on the good stuff. Please, no plastic bottles!
The basics for a versatile infusion-ready bar include vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, brandy and tequila.
As a general guideline, I like to experiment with small batches first. Making pints is a great way to test flavor development without using an entire bottle. Spoon one teaspoon to two tablespoons of your herb or herb mixture into a glass pint jar and top with the liquor of your choice. The amount of herb to add will depend on which plant parts you choose and their aromatic strength. You can always add more, so it’s smart to go light at first. Label the jar with the herbs used, the measurement, liquor type, and date. Shake the infusion every day for a week and taste test on day 7 to gauge flavor intensity.
You’ll have some choices to make at this point. If the flavor is too light, you can add another tablespoon of herb and allow the infusion to go another week, or you can just give the flavors another week or two to develop before adding more herbs. After a month, the alcohol will have extracted about as much flavor from the herbs as it can. Keep tasting throughout the infusion time and strain out the herbs when the spirit has the flavor you desire.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations, but let your imagination fly free when formulating. I love to make gift sets that include a variety of infusions in 2-ounce bottles with handwritten labels and cocktail recipes. Unique, delicious, and always a big hit!
Chai Spiced Rum
• 1 pint of gold rum
• 2 tablespoons Firefly Chai
Roasted Cacao and Vanilla Bean Brandy
• 1 pint of brandy
• 1 tablespoon roasted cacao nibs
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Smoked Peppercorn Vodka
• 1 pint of vodka
• 2 tablespoons smoked black peppercorns
• 1 pint gin
• 1 teaspoon lavender flowers