Artisan gin is all the rave right now with small distilleries making gin infusions with all sorts of interesting botanical combinations - but they don't come cheap. For the same effect, you can infuse your own gin at home with the use of seasonal ingredients and a great base alcohol. What's great is that there aren't a lot of rules or complicated techniques, just add the flavors you like, let it soak as long as the intensity of flavors suits you, and enjoy!
Here are a couple of simple rules to follow for the perfect glass of infused gin. I've also included my favorite Spiced Gin recipe that I bring along for holiday parties. Just toss the right combination of spices in a jar with your preferred gin, and you've got yourself a real crowd pleaser - best enjoyed shared of course!
Rule 1 - Know Your Gin
Your base alcohol is where the magic begins. I'd recommend something mid-range with a neutral flavor such as Tangeuray, Gordon's or Bombay Sapphire. Top of the line gin isn't necessary here as we will be infusing in flavors, however, no combination of infusions will make terrible gin taste great - so find the middle ground of taste and quality.
Another thing to note is to know the botanical complexity of the gin you are using. For example, if you are using something already fragrant and citrusy like Hendricks gin, steer away from infusing it with spices and complement its natural flavors with fresh fruits and vegetables. A great mix for Hendricks gin is cucumber, lemon peels and lavender.
Rule 2 - Use The Right Infusion Ingredients
What's great about infusions is that you can layer on the flavors of just about anything with your base gin. Just like cooking, think about the flavors that you like, and that marries well with each other. This is always a good start when you begin experimenting with flavors. Below I've listed a couple of categories of infusion ingredients and how to prepare them for your infusion.
1. Fresh Fruits
Although alcohol is a solvent, residual pesticides on your fruits and vegetables will remain in your infusion. Therefore, I'd recommend using only the best, and organic if available.
- Small berries like raspberries, cherries, blueberries and strawberries are best left whole.
- Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits need only use the zest. Make sure to peel off the thick, white parts of the peel as that adds an unwanted bitterness to the overall taste.
- Firmer fruits like apples and pears should ideally be cut into smaller pieces, so that the flavors of the fruit can be absorbed by the base alcohol. Remove the seeds, pit and stem before slicing into smaller pieces - your choice if you'd like to keep the skin or not.
2. Herbs, Roots,Vegetables & Flowers
Vegetables are a little tricky for infusions, so I'd recommend using root vegetables and chilis to give your infusion a fresh depth of flavor. Herbs and edible flowers should be left whole, washed and patted dry before adding into your infusion.
- Cucumber peels are great with citrus flavors and provides a fresh and neutral taste to your gin. Remove the seeds and only use the peels.
- Root vegetables like ginger, lemongrass and chilis work best left whole or roughly chopped, and gives an added punch to the overall infusion. Be careful not to leave it in for too long as it can be too overpowering otherwise.
- Herbs like coriander, rosemary, mint and basil are perfect left whole and used in abundance. Make sure not to bruise the leaves or chop it up, leave it in whole and let it's magic do the work. Perfect for an interesting punch and known for its fresh flavors.
- Edible flowers have very distinctive flavors and should be used sparingly. Some flowers are heavy on the botanicals and can result in a soapy taste when too much is added. So less is more here, especially when you are not familiar with the strength of its flavors.
3. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are great to give flavors quickly, and are impossible to over-infuse, which makes this a fuss-free option for your gin infusions. Use natural, untreated dried fruits and you'll find the resulting fruit to be plump, juicy and so full of flavor.
4. Spices, Seeds & Dry Leaves
Spiced infusions are by far my favorite and the easiest of the lot. Just leave a bunch of spices in your jar and the longer you infuse, the more intense the flavors. So simple and straightforward, just be sure not to go for the kill and add your spices sparingly. Also always, always use whole spices instead of it's powdered counterpart.
- Vanilla beans should be split length wise, and 1 is plenty to flavor an entire bottle of gin.
- Cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamon and star anise are best left whole and are potent to say the least. Use sparingly and do not overuse or it will dominate your entire infusion.
- Whole pepper seeds, celery seeds and dill seeds pack a punch and should be used whole.
- Black or green teas should be left in a bag, and added to your base. Green teas work great with apples and celery seeds and black teas work best with a touch of spices.
Rule 3 - Bottle Up Right
Once you're set on your flavor combinations, add all your ingredients in a clean, dry jar. You can use a wide mouth mason jars, or even a repurposed glass bottle. Add in your gin, close it shut and keep in a cool dry place - a kitchen cabinet works just as well as your bedroom closet!
Rule 4 - Respect The Process
Patience is key here and in my opinion, makes these infusions even more special. The idea of having to wait for the finished product is both exciting and well worth the wait. So respect the process and follow these steps below:
Once a day or every other day, give your jar a little shake to help the flavors fuse. Depending on your ingredients, you can see the depth and complexity of the flavors in the color it slowly becomes.
There are a myriad different infusion times depending on the types of ingredients you have put in. Don't complicate the process and keep these simple rules in mind:
- For fresh ingredients like vegetables and herbs, a week's infusion is plenty, but can also be left for up to 2 weeks. Alcohol tends to extract the bitter notes of these ingredients so be careful not to over-infuse.
- For firmer fruits, a longer infusion period is allowed. Peaches for example can be left infused for weeks or even months and get better with time.
- For spices, seeds and teas, a week's infusion will already provide a depth of flavor, and can sometimes be left for up to 2 weeks at most.
- Dried fruits and root vegetables are more sturdy and can be left infused for longer periods of time.
3. Taste Along The Way
I can't reiterate the importance of tasting your gin along the infusion process. Just like cooking, infusing alcohol layers on the flavors the longer it is 'cooked'. Therefore, you should always give a taste to what you're brewing. This step also allows you to remove what's overpowering, and add in reinforcements wherever needed - ensuring a perfect infusion every time!
4. Strain & Filter
Once you're happy with your infusion, strain it through a kitchen strainer or through a coffee filter, depending on what's inside.
Rule 5 - Mix Up, Ice Up & Drink Up!
Infused gins can be left fresh in the fridge for months, just be sure to bottle it up in a clean container that has a lid. Depending on your infusion, you can drink it on the rocks, with soda water or with tonic. Experiment and find what suits its flavors!
Here's my favorite Aromatic Spiced Gin recipe!
750ml bottle of Tanqueray gin
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1. Add all dry ingredients in a clean jar/bottle with all of the gin.
2. Close with the cover tightly and leave in a. cool dry place.
3. Shake bottle gently every day or every other day.
4. The color of the gin will turn a golden brown in 1 week. That's when you know it's ready to use. Leave longer for a more intense flavor and color. I have left mine for up to a month for a deep and spicy flavor.
5. Serve on ice with 2 parts gin and 1 part tonic water. Enjoy!