A few years ago I got a jar of moonshine cherries for Christmas. I had a couple then put them in the fridge and immediately forgot about them. A few months later, when cleaning the fridge, I found them and had a couple.
It got me thinking about whether this was something I could make at home by just putting cherries in moonshine. As it turns out, it’s not only possible but almost just that easy to do.
So that got me interested in what kinds of things I could infuse with alcohol and in conjunction with that, what flavored alcohols I could get from it. From what I’ve found you can infuse almost anything into alcohol, though some things take more work than others. For example, while it is possible to infuse meat into alcohol, there is apparently a complicated process to do so.
There are also some advantages to infusing alcohol on your own.
Have you ever gotten a bottle of something because you were sure you would love it, only to pour a glass and find out you hate it? That’s how I am anytime I see anything peach flavored. I love the flavor of peaches but I hate the flavor of peach flavored products. It took me a few bottles before I finally realized I’m not going to find a peach flavored alcohol I like and stopped buying them.
I’ve noticed that in general, the mass produced flavored liquors tend to use artificial flavoring to get their end result. By infusing at home you can get some of the same great flavors without the gross fake flavor taste to it.
You can also get combinations that may not be sold in stores. If you want a Maple Mango Ghost Pepper Tequila, you can have one in just a couple of weeks.
Before you do anything else, figure out a good way to keep notes for yourself. This can be a note book or index cards, or something online. You’ll want to keep notes on everything you do so you don’t lose the perfect recipe when you find it. I intend to do some experimenting in the coming months and my plan is to have an index card for each ingredient I use, as well as each combination I try.
To get started, you’ll want to decide on the base alcohol you want to use. Different alcohols will have different flavors to them based on how they are made. They’ll also take additional flavors differently depending on the type. Vodka will take flavors more easily than bourbon will.
Try the alcohol by itself first and make a note of the flavors. You may find you like how certain things infuse in one brand as opposed to another so you’ll want to know which brands you like. You also don’t need to infuse something if the flavor is already there naturally.
Before you try an infusion, do a taste test of the liquor and whatever you plan on infusing it with. You don’t want to waste a large amount of either ingredient on something if you wouldn’t even like the result.
Once you have decided on your base and figured out which add-ins you want to try, start small with about 250ml of alcohol. That way if you end up not liking the end result you haven’t wasted a whole bottle. It will then be easy to increase the ingredients proportionately to 750ml or 1000ml to make a full bottle once you find a winning combination.
Starting out you’ll want to do individual test to see how long it takes for different things to infuse in different alcohols. That way you don’t try a combination only to find out one ingredient overpowered the others within the first day and not the other ingredients have no chance of being noticed.
Find a container that can be airtight when closed like a mason jar. You want as little extra space for air once everything is in as is possible. When you have your container, prepare your ingredients.
You can experiment with how you prepare things but I did find some recommendations online:
- Berries: Wash and remove any greens, leaving the berry whole. Strawberries can be cut in half and skins on harder berries such as cherries should be scored to let the juices flow better.
- Citrus: Wash and slice thin or just use the zest. The zest can add an accent flavor to more complex infusions.
- Fruit with soft skin: Leave the skin on, remove pits or seeds, and then coarsely chop.
- Fruit with tough skin: Remove skin, pits, and seeds, and then coarsely chop.
- Garlic: Remove the skin and use the whole clove.
- Herbs: Rinse and use the whole thing. This makes it easier to strain them out. Some dried herbs can be used but in general they should fresh.
- Peppers: Wash and either leave it whole or cut it in half. If you cut it, it’s suggested that you remove the white membrane reduce the spice. You should also remove the seeds to make it easier to strain. Peppers usually only take a couple of hours to infuse.
- Spices: Try to use whole spices when possible. It will be easier to strain than ground spices.
- Vanilla: Wash the bean and cut it lengthwise. It’s recommended that you only use one bean at a time since they are expensive.
- Vegetables: Wash, leave the skins on, and coarsely chop.
Mix and Wait
Once you have your add-ins ready, put them in the container then add the liquor. That way you don’t overflow trying to fit everything. If you have already determined how long it takes each thing to infuse and are using multiple ingredients, you’ll want to put the ones in that take the longest first. Then add the others in at a later time so they all end together.
After everything is in, give it a good shake and leave it somewhere dark and cool. You’ll want to check on it every day and shake it again to make sure everything is mixing together.
With things that tend to take longer to infuse, do a taste test every couple of days to see how it is doing. As it gets closer to the taste you want, start checking more often. Although there are recommended lengths of time to infuse different things the real way to tell if it’s done is when it tastes good.
Once it tastes good it’s time to strain things out. You’ll want to start with a fine mesh strainer for the larger chunks. Then use cheesecloth to get the smaller bits. Finally, if you would like, use a coffee filter to get the last bits of sediment. It’s fine if you don’t get it all but try to get as much as possible.
If at any point you see anything floating that looks cloudy or like mold, throw the whole thing out. That includes after you’ve finished straining. It’s not worth the risk of making yourself ill.
Disclaimer: Although I have done a significant amount of research before preparing this post, I am not an expert on this subject. My intent is to help people who may be interested find some more information. If you decide you would like to try this yourself, please do some additional research and use common sense.