I am so excited to finally share this post with you! Ever since I made a strawberry vodka two years ago, I’ve been drawn to the idea of infusing all sorts of simple syrups, extracts, and alcohol with fun flavors, both herbal and fruity. But aside from making my own vanilla extract (insanely easy!), I haven’t really gotten into the infusion game. Until now. It’s amazing that with just a little effort and some time, you can jazz up and even transform your everyday alcohol.
One of my New Year’s “intentions” for 2013 was to give homemade gifts over store-bought gifts as much as possible. Nothing like a little extra elbow grease to show that I care, right? These infused liquors are perfect for the alcohol aficionado in your life, especially when funneled into swing-top glass bottles with pretty labels. The best part is that they’re highly customizable to the specific tastes of the recipient. There’s an infusion for everyone, and I think you’ll find that once you start brainstorming flavor combinations, the possibilities are endless!
I made an orange & clove-infused bourbon for my bourbon-loving friend and a grapefruit & lime-infused gin for – you guessed it – my gin-loving friend for their respective birthdays. Both infusions took all of 20 minutes active time (and a few weeks of waiting time). No special tools or skills necessary, except some way to zest the citrus, which you probably already have, and the know-how to supreme, or segment, the citrus, which I am about to show you!
Orange & Clove-Infused Bourbon
What you’ll need:
- 2 oranges, unsprayed
- 1 T whole cloves
- 375-ml bottle of bourbon (can be any brand, but try to pick one that is good quality and middle-of-the-road – you want a bourbon that is good enough to drink on its own but not so top-shelf that it would be a waste to infuse with other flavors)
- 1-pint mason jar with lid
- Citrus zester, microplane, or grater
- Fine-mesh sieve
- Funnel (optional)
- 500-ml glass bottle
Grapefruit & Lime-Infused Gin
What you’ll need:
- 2 grapefruits, unsprayed
- 1 lime, unsprayed
- 1-L bottle of gin (again, this should be of decent quality)
- Same tools as above except use a 2-quart mason jar with lid and a 1-L glass bottle.
Putting it all together:
Zest citrus separately. Place the orange zest with the cloves in the small mason jar. Place the grapefruit and lime zests in the large mason jar.
Then supreme the citrus as follows. You’ll only need to supreme one of the two oranges with the quantities I’ve specified – set aside the other orange for another use. (*It may seem like you’re going to a lot of trouble by zesting and supreming, but the reason for taking these steps as opposed to just slicing the citrus is to get rid of all the bitter parts – the skin, membranes, pith, and seeds. I promise it’ll go quickly once you get the hang of it!) First, slice the tops and bottoms off the citrus. Then place the citrus down on one of its now-flat ends and slice the peel off in strips – take a knife and place it where the fruit meets the peel at the top and run the knife along the curve of the citrus until you reach the bottom and the peel comes off.
Once you’ve removed all the peel, continue to run your knife along the citrus until all the pith is gone. In the picture below, I have a few more sections of pith to clean off.
Now to segment! Pick up the citrus with your non-dominant hand. Take the knife in your dominant hand and slice into the citrus alongside one of the membranes (the thin white strips) until you hit the center. If you’re right-handed, you’ll slice along the right side of the membrane, and if you’re left-handed, the left side. Then turn the citrus (to the left if you’re right-handed, and to the right if you’re left-handed). Locate the next membrane and slice into the citrus alongside the inside of it (the left side if you’re right-handed, and the right side if you’re left-handed) until you hit the center again. You should have your first segment, pith and membrane-free. Remove any seeds and place the segment into the corresponding jar – orange segments into the jar with the orange zest and cloves, and grapefruit and lime segments into the other jar. Continue turning the citrus and the membranes like little pages until you’ve segmented the whole citrus.
Place all the seed-free segments into their correct jars. Squeeze any excess juice from the citrus membranes into their corresponding jars; discard the membranes. Pour the bourbon into the small jar and close the lid tightly. Pour the gin into the large jar and close the lid tightly. Shake the jars gently and place them in the fridge or a cool, dark place.
You’ll want to let the spirits infuse for anywhere from one week to one month, depending on how strong you want the citrus flavors to be. Shake the jars gently every few days. Once the desired level of infusion has been reached (if the liquor you’ve chosen is clear, the color will have changed slightly), slowly pour the contents of one jar into a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl or pot. Push the contents of the sieve down with a wooden spoon and squeeze out any juice from the citrus. Then discard the contents of the sieve (and repeat if you have a small sieve, like I do).
Once you’ve emptied the whole jar, pour the contents of the bowl into a glass bottle (the smaller one for the bourbon and the larger one for the gin), using a funnel if you have one. Then repeat the entire process with the other jar. Et voilà, a fitting drink (with or without mixers) for a summer BBQ. I’m thinking a jalapeño-infused tequila and a blackberry & basil-infused rum might be delicious too…