Even with top shelf alcohol, a mixed drink is only as good as its mixer. A cheap, artificially flavored juice can totally ruin the taste; and the usual "soda, juice or energy drink" mixer options are limiting (and rather monotonous) for those who prefer fresh or non-traditional flavors.
You can buy the finest juice the grocery store has to offer, or squeeze it fresh yourself, but why not jut infuse some natural flavors into your favorite liquor? It's so easy a child could do it (but please don't add "Infuse Mommy's vodka" to the chore list).
You can infuse any liquor, but lighter-colored ones like vodka, gin and light rum are more versatile in terms of which flavors mix well. If you want to try a darker liquor like bourbon or brandy, cherry is a popular choice (along with bacon as of late).
It's also worth noting that while you can infuse even the cheapest liquor, you may want to filter out some of the impurities first by using a home liquor filter like Grey Kangaroo. It only costs $30, and if you're a notorious cheap-ass in the booze department this thing will pay for itself in no time.
The infusion procedure goes as follows:
1. Fill an airtight jar (preferably 1 quart or larger) with pre-washed ingredients. Further preparation varies by ingredient but generally you cut fruit, but leave herbs whole.
2. Fill the jar with the liquor of your choice.
3. Wait. Stronger ingredients like garlic, grapefruit and mint only require 3-4 days to infuse, but more subtle flavors like ginger or lemon grass may take up to two weeks. Taste your creation often; ultimately YOU decide when it's done.
4. After the infusion is complete, use a fine strainer or a coffee filter as you pour your liquor into a fresh container.
You can drink infused liquor straight up, on the rocks, or as the base for a more complex cocktail. Have fun and get creative! Mix several ingredients! Go nuts!
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If you're not sure where to begin, some common infusion foods are:
Strawberry, pineapple, vanilla beans, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, mint, garlic, acaí berries, tarragon, basil, oregano, dill, thyme, chili peppers, cantaloupes, peaches, mangoes, pitted cherries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, watermelon, cucumber, ginger, bacon and lemon grass.
Do you have a killer infused liquor recipe to share?