To Infuse, or Not To Infuse: That is the Question

Mar. 27, 2019


There’s one trend in the cocktail industry that some bar program managers are starting to get carried away with.

“People are trying to infuse everything,” said Mike Henderson, Breakthru Beverage Development Specialist.

Today’s consumer is increasingly interested in their favorite drinks being infused with another flavor of their liking, and Henderson often sees bars taking this idea in the wrong direction.

“There are good infusions, and there are pointless infusions,” Henderson said.

Infusions, Henderson explained, should be reserved for harder elements to mix, such as spices, ginger, turmeric or peppers. These are really difficult to get into cocktails without infusions. During these infusions, the alcohol will strip away the flavors perfectly, whereas just trying to grind up black pepper and putting it into a vodka drink won’t taste as good as vodka infused with black pepper.

Henderson has compiled a list of mistakes and tips that can help bring your infusion game to the next level.

4 Infusion Mistakes

1) Using Fresh Fruit

Mike Henderson: I see bars spend time and resources infusing a spirit with fresh fruit, which doesn’t make sense because fresh fruit already mixes great without infusions. If you have vodka and raspberries or vodka and watermelon, just do that. Don’t overthink it. Just toss the fruit into a shaker with the spirit and you’re good to go.

2) Set It and Forget It

People will make a big vat of vodka and strawberries and let it sit six months, which is entirely way too long. Obviously, I don’t think you need to infuse fresh fruit, but if you were going to, you’d only need to do so for about 24-48 hours.

3) Make It Bacon—The Wrong Way

Bacon-infused spirits have become quite popular, and while it can be delicious when done correctly, many bars are going about this infusion the wrong way. They’re just tossing cooked bacon into the spirit and letting it sit, which just warps the bacon, and the bacon doesn’t provide the intended flavor. You need to render bacon fat and wash the liquor.

4) Using Herbs

Herbs, like basil, are very problematic. People who love basil thinks it would make for an ideal infusion, but the alcohol kills the basil and you’re just left with a strong herbal flavor that’s unpleasant. The same thing happens with mint, so avoid this.

3 Infusion Tips

1) Great Ingredients

To get the most out of your infusions, use alcohol as a solvent to extract the flavors. Let one of these mixes sit for 24 hours, then strain for an incredible infusion.

• Black Peppercorns and vodka or gin
• Lemongrass and rum
• Chiles and tequila
• Tea and Japanese whisky

2) Use an iSi Whipper

If you’re short on time but want to incorporate an infused spirit into a drink, use an iSi Whipper. For instance, toss some chopped turmeric into the whipper along with some gin, let the iSi Whipper do its thing, strain into a bottle and enjoy.

3) Infuse Your Garnishes

Now we’re into next level infusions. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can make infused garnishes. I like tossing some cucumbers and gin into a bag, vacuum seal it, and the spirit will infuse perfectly into the cucumber.

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