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I look for one that has been distilled three to five times, one that is a little cleaner and made from corn.” If you are infusing fruits like apples or pineapples in vodka, you can go as long as two to three weeks, Ramsey says, but you have to be careful with citrus such as lemons and limes because of the acid. “Less than a week for those,” he adds. Ramsey also infuses bourbon with orange slices, vanilla and cinnamon sticks to make a tasty hot toddy. When it comes to choosing a spirit to infuse at home or professionally, Kupitz says, “Blanco tequila is another one that latches on to different flavors and is great with tropical ingredients.” At The Continental he infuses tequila with pineapple and vanilla bean. “The pineapple softens the bite of the agave, and the vanilla adds a bit of sweetness,” he explains. Bob Boye, chef/owner at Cru in Fort Myers, did extensive experiments infusing jalapeño peppers in tequila for his Hot and Skinny Martini. “My recipe was born out of failure,” he says. First he tried grilling the peppers and letting them soak in the tequila. His next attempt involved steeping the peppers in heated tequila as you would do with tea leaves. Then he went through a phase using nitrogen canisters. The canisters created pressure, forcing the tequila into the cell wall of the pepper for great color, but it was still lacking the flavor he wanted. Finally he hit the jackpot with the classic sous-vide cooking method. Once the peppers are grilled, Boye vacuum seals them in a bag of reposado tequila, and then puts the bag in a low-heat water bath. “It produces the maximum amount of aromatics and flavor,” he says. “I use reposado because I enjoy the oak elements in this type of tequila with the peppers.” For DIY infusions, the time it takes to achieve ideal flavor depends on the ingredients, according to Kupitz. For example, he says, “If you’re using cucumber and mint and you take it out and strain it after only one day, you might have the color but not the flavor. It will taste cheap.” On the flip side, when left too long, the ingredients will break down and the color will be off. He advises, “The rule of thumb for most is five to seven days, depending on the ingredient, of course, but you absolutely have to taste it every day.” If you are serious about creating your own infusions, Kupitz recommends consulting the website Crucial Detail (crucialdetail.com). Here you will find recipes and a striking device called the Porthole that is perfect for infusing spirits, oils and more. Regardless of the vessel or ingredients used, tasting is key to hitting the sweet spot when infusing your own spirits. Cheers.
When it comes to DIY infusions, vodka is a perfect place to start because it has a milder flavor profile that adapts well to other ingredients
Gina Birch is a regular contributor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.