Sometimes I find an ingredient so delicious or a concept so exciting that I feel like I’m holding onto a big secret. When I finally get the chance to share these big discoveries with you all, I feel like a giddy little kid on the inside (hands clapping, jumping up and down, rah rah rah!).
Today is one of those days. I’ve discovered the delights of infused liquors. They’re so good, you guys! And so easy! I was always put off by the waiting time for infusions, but after one sip of my first infused liquor, I realized that infusions are absolutely worth the wait. Infusions allow you to capture the essence of ripe fruit in its prime. Once you’ve made the infusion, you can enjoy it simply, over ice or mixed with club soda and a splash of citrus, or go a step further and make a traditional drink taste magical.
If you, too, have felt intimidated at the prospect of making your own infusions, hear me out: all I’m asking you to do is slice some strawberries, pour some liquor over them and screw on a lid. You can do this!
- Organic strawberries
- Rinse the strawberries, then chop off the leafy tops and discard them. Chop the strawberries into bite-sized pieces. Transfer the strawberries into a jar large enough to hold all the strawberries and leave a couple of inches of room at the top.
- Pour bourbon over the mixture, screw on the lid tightly and give it a shake. Store the jar in a dark place, like in a cupboard, for anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Try to give the jar a shake once a day (I kept the jar in a cabinet right next to my coffee so I remembered to shake it every morning).
- When you're ready to strain the mixture, place a mesh colander over an appropriately sized bowl. If you have one, you can use a nut milk bag, clean paint straining bag, cheese cloth or even a coffee filter in place of or in addition to the colander. Pour the mixture over the colander/bag/filter to catch the strawberries and any strawberry debris. Discard the strawberries. If you see any debris in the bowl, pour the vodka through your strainer once or twice more to remove it.
- Store the strawberry bourbon in the refrigerator for up to a month, or in the freezer to retain its fresh flavor even longer.
- Adapted from David Lebovitz and Tracy of Shutterbean.
- My recipe specifies organic strawberries because conventionally-grown strawberries are high in pesticides, and you definitely don't want to sip down extra chemicals, right? Use the tastiest organic berries you can find.
- There's no need to use high-end liquor here, though I wouldn't recommend any liquor that you wouldn't want to consume in its original state (e.g. McCormick's), either. I used Weller for this jar, but Jim Beam is another good choice.
Last summer’s cocktail series was all about muddled fruits, and I think I muddled all the fruit I could muddle, so this summer will the be the summer of infusions. I hope you all are as excited as I am. Since strawberries are starting to hit the markets (and my love for bourbon is no secret), I decided that my first infusion recipe would be a strawberry-infused mint julep.
Southern traditionalists make their mint juleps with mint, sugar, bourbon and ice (only!) and serve them in silver julep cups. I am no traditionalist, however! I took liberties with my recipe, tempering the strong bourbon flavor with the taste of fresh strawberries and a light drizzle of honey instead of sugar. I served the resulting cocktails in little glasses from the thrift store to show off their shockingly pink hue. Despite its girly color, I assure you that this twist still packs a punch and will appeal to both genders.
- 7 fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon honey (to taste)
- 2 1/2 ounces strawberry-infused bourbon (see recipe above)
- 1 strawberry, for garnish (optional)
- In a rocks glass, muddle mint with a little drizzle of honey (original recipe called for 1 teaspoon superfine sugar).
- Pour in the bourbon, fill the glass with ice (preferably crushed ice) and stir until the glass starts to sweat. Add a splash or two of water, if desired, and stir again. Garnish with additional mint leaves and/or the mid-section of a strawberry (as shown in photos).
Notes: Adapted from The Seasonal Cocktail Companion by Maggie Savarino.
P.s. I set up a facebook album with links to my recipes for Cinco de Mayo! Check it out!