Ranging from herbs and fruits to vegetables and spices, infused liquors are all the rage.
Infusing liquors with new, flavorful ingredients has become a popular way to incorporate depth and personality into both classic and contemporary cocktails.
“The benefit of creating an infusion [over using an ingredient in a simple syrup or muddling it] is that it’s consistent,” says Ben Yabrow, beverage director at Himitsu in Buckhead who works closely with the creative director to dream up unique cocktails that often entail creating new infusions. Their Toryufu cocktail, for instance, imparts flavors of honey, truffle, pears and grapefruit for a drink that’s both savory and sweet.
Infusions can be crafted in various ways, but at their most basic, they are created using a liquor of choice (typically vodka, whiskey or bourbon) and a fruit, herb, nut or spice. Though the aging time varies depending on the ingredient and how strong you want the drink to be, creating an infusion is a fairly hands-off process. Often, it just involves placing the liquor and ingredient in a clean jar, closing the lid and letting it sit a couple of days. If you own a sous vide machine (a device that allows you to vacuum-seal your ingredients in a bag and bring everything up to the same water temperature quickly), you can speed up the process exponentially, as Himitsu does.
“A general rule of thumb is to start small,” Yabrow advises. “You can always use more. For instance, if you want to infuse something with citrus, start with the zest of two lemons and one grapefruit to 1 liter of liquor. It will pick up the flavors right away.” Yabrow notes that you don’t need the whole piece of fruit, just the zest in order to capture the essential oils. Taste the liquor over the next couple of days, and when the flavors get to a place you like, filter out the zest, pour the vodka into your container of choice and go from there.
Mix it Up
INFUSIONS TO TRY AROUND TOWN (OR TO REPLICATE AT HOME)
INFUSION: Ginger-infused vodka
DRINK: Japanese Mule
LOCATION: Genki Noodles & Sushi
Genki Noodles & Sushi infuses Hangar One vodka with fresh ginger and a sprinkle of pickled ginger. The end result is a flavorful sip with added sizzle.
Genki Noodles and Sushi
Buckhead 3186 Roswell Road N.E.
INFUSION: Strawberry-infused vodka
LOCATION: The Southern Gentleman
DRINK: Scarlet Belle
Mimic a blend like The Southern Gentleman’s strawberry-infused vodka, made with strawberries, peaches and figs.
The Southern Gentleman
3035 Peachtree Road
INFUSION: White-truffle honey- infused vodka
DRINK: Toryufu cocktail
Go for a savory blend of flavors and look for ingredients of almonds, herbs or truffles. For this drink, Yabrow first adds diced, white truffle to honey, then infuses it with vodka. Next, he adds the concoction to a combination of Anjou-pear-infused vodkas.
Himitsu One Buckhead Plaza
3050 Peachtree Road
By reservation only: (Email email@example.com and include the word “love” in the subject line.)
Lately, you may have noticed vodka newbie, Elation, popping up on shelves and drink lists, such as Watershed on Peachtree’s. The first nationally legal hemp vodka (it’s THC-free), Elation is flavored with Swiss-grown, police-supervised hemp that is added to the vodka in syrup form. The end result: A smooth-sipping vodka with an herbal base perfect for blending.
STORY: Kelly Jordan
Photo: Tomas Espinoza