Infusing Spirits at Home

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Infusing spirits at home isn’t rocket science, but it does require a good deal of patience. Recipes for lemon-flavored vodka or jalapeno-infused tequila usually call for letting the stuff sit around for a week before using it in a tasty cocktail. Luckily, anyone with an iSi cream whipper and five minutes can create a high quality infused spirit that, in many cases, is superior to a long-term infusion. The technique is known as rapid infusion, and here’s how it’s done:

  • Pour any spirit into the cream whipper (vodka, bourbon, rum)
  • Add your flavoring ingredients (spices, fruits, herbs)
  • Charge the whipper with an N2O cartridge
  • Swirl the container and let it sit for a few minutes
  • Strain and serve

rapid infused spirits with cream whipper

rapid infused spirits with cream whipper

The science behind this is fairly simple. Under high pressure, the alcohol is forced into the pores of the flavoring agent. A rapid release of pressure results in the alcohol escaping from the pores and infusing itself with the essence of the ingredient. For this reason, you’ll have to stick to flavoring ingredients that are porous. For example, chocolate chips wouldn’t work with this method, but cocoa nibs would. Check out our recipes for more examples of suitable ingredients.

Here’s a great video from Dave Arnold of iSi North America, who demonstrates the rapid infusion technique. If you plan on trying this at home, I would highly recommend watching Dave’s video in its entirety. He’s like a mad scientist bartender in the kitchen:

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Tools and Equipment for Rapid Infusion

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If you’re ready to take the plunge into infusing your own spirits and alcohol using the rapid infusion technique found here, here’s a list of essential equipment and you’ll need to have on hand:

  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O) cream whipper, such as this one made by iSi (available online or from most kitchen supply stores)
  • A supply of N2O chargers
  • All-purpose kitchen strainer
  • Permanent gold-tone style coffee filters
  • Paper coffee filters
  • A bar measure or jigger
  • Cocktail shakers & glasses
  • Unflavored spirits such as vodka, grain alcohol, whiskey, bourbon, or rum

Your flavoring ingredients can be almost any porous edible item. Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Fresh citrus zest, such as lemon, lime, or orange
  • Fruits, berries, or other botanicals such as ginger root
  • Fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, tarragon, or dill
  • Dried whole spices such as allspice, cloves, cinnamon sticks
  • Dried cranberries, raisins, apricots
  • Cocoa nibs for chocolate-flavored infusions
  • Dried herbs or herbal teas
  • Fresh vegetables like chili peppers or cucumbers
  • Roasted red peppers or roasted garlic

Christmas Bourbon

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Being a big fan of seasonal micro-brewed Christmas ales, I was inspired to make a rapid infused bourbon cocktail using the same warm spicy flavors. Even though the holiday season is over, you can still you can still enjoy this drink during the cold winter months.

christmas bourbon

Christmas Bourbon

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/8 cup dried blueberries, cranberries, or raisins
  • Zest of 1/2 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler (orange part of zest only)
  • 1 teaspoon molasses, or to taste

Preparation

  • Combine all ingredients except molasses in cream whipper
  • Charge with one N2O cartridge and swirl for 60 seconds
  • Infuse for 5 minutes, then quickly release pressure
  • Allow the bourbon to rest for another 5 minutes, then strain through a fine strainer into an ice filled cocktail shaker
  • Add molasses to taste, shake vigorously, and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass
  • Garnish with an orange wedge and maraschino cherry
  • Makes 2 servings

Lemon Rosemary Infused Cocktail

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Here’s a simple and refreshing martini that utilizes rapid infusion to create an intense lemon-rosemary flavor.

Lemon rosemary cocktail

Lemon Rosemary Infused Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. vodka
  • Zest of a half lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler (yellow part of zest only)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, removed from stem and rough chopped
  • 1 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz. club soda

Preparation

  • In your cream whipper, combine vodka with lemon zest and rosemary
  • Charge with one N2O cartridge and swirl for 30 seconds
  • Infuse for 2 minutes, then quickly release pressure
  • Allow vodka to rest until bubbling subsides, then strain into an ice-filled cocktail shaker
  • Add simple syrup, lemon juice, and club soda
  • Shake vigorously, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve with a lemon twist or slice
  • Makes 2 servings