The infusion invasionBy Ashley Heihn
Infused liquors are becoming more popular every year. Most restaurants have the standard Smirnoff Vanilla, Absolut Peppar, and Captain Morgan on the rail.
In addition to these, many independent establishments offer specialty infusions. Bartenders and mixologists use their knowledge to create unique flavour combinations to tantalise our taste buds.
Recently I spoke with Justin Cardwell, bar manager at BC’s Kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri. Justin shared some of his favourite combinations as well as the benefits of drinking custom infused beverages.
Infused liquor is created when anything (herb, spice, fruit, etc.) is added to a spirit and the essential oils and flavours are extracted. Done naturally, it usually takes around 24 hours start to finish.
When Justin is creating his next combination, he looks to the season for inspiration. For example, if you go to BC’s Kitchen this month, you can enjoy a Blood Orange Cooler. Immediately, you notice the blood orange vodka tastes different from one purchased ‘pre-mixed’. The aroma and taste is natural. The first flavour to hit your tongue is orange instead sweet. Since the vodka was infused with fresh, ripe blood oranges, the fruit is the star and not sugar.
Not in the mood for a fruit-based beverage? Maybe a duck-fat scotch will tickle your fancy. Fat-washing is similar to infusion except the fat sits on top of the spirit and imparts its rich flavor. The timing to create is still one day. Bacon is also a common ingredient in fat-washing. Justin is currently using his duck-fat Scotch in his version of the classic Blood and Sand.
If your mouth is watering and you’re eyeing the clock; there is a big benefit to finding an infused cocktail tonight: natural ingredients. Since the liquor was infused by your neighbourhood bartender, there is an important component not found otherwise. The creator has control over what goes in, thus the flavours come through the way nature intended. Also, you won’t find HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) or other additives. Justin notes that many mixologists will use agave or homemade honey syrup to sweeten the liquor.
If you’ve never had an infused cocktail, I hope you try one this week. If you already love the flavour profile of a rosemary gin or spiced rum; why not try making your own at home?