Real alcohol infused with the flavors of real ingredients can add an unexpected twist on any go-to summer cocktail.
Chow Bella introduced you to DIY infusion back in March, but if you don't want to veer down the path of mason jars, fermenting fruit and foiled flavor experiments, you can leave it to the professionals.
Pepper? Bacon? Prickly Pear? Take your pick. Click through for our bets on this season's best infused liquors.
Brinley Gold Coffee Rum Too hot for coffee? Try rum. Imported from St. Kitts, this is the "only coffee rum available in the US." We're intrigued. Iced coffee just got one-upped. Try a "Coffee on the Rocks" - 3 oz coffee rum and 3 ice cubes.
Mazama Infused Pepper Vodka Named after a volcanic eruption, this vodka packs some heat of its own. "A blend of no fewer than six hot and sweet peppers" mixed with the Bend, Oregon-based distillery's Crater Lake Vodka, promises "balanced flavor" along with the hot hot heat. Try it with mango juice and a dash of sugar.
This grape-based French gin is infused with the flowers from the Ungi Blanc grapes. Even though it's a flower-based infusion, it brings out the intense spiciness of the gin, aiming to capture the namesake stage of the grape's growth. Flowery gin without being floral? Dang, the French think of everything. Try it in a Tom Collins.
High Spirit's Prickly Pear Vodka One of Arizona's very own. Prickly pear apparently has the benefit of reducing hangover effects, although the cotton candy-infused frat party taste may leave you praying for morning and grinning and bearing the walk of shame. Try it in an "Artic Cactus" - 1.75 oz Prickly Pear Vodka, .75 oz blue curacao, 4 oz sour mix.
Mexico just got the go-ahead to infuse tequila in 2006, and Tanteo is off to a running start with three varieties: tropical, jalapeno and chocolate. The jalapeno would at a great kick to an ice cold marg, but chocolate, really? What the heck do you mix that with? Let's just hope Tequila, Mexico-based operation knows what it's doing. Try a signature summer cocktail from Tanteo's long list of ideas.
Dilute perfectly good vodka with Red Bull? No way. Cut to the chase and infuse the active ingredients straight into the liquor. This caffeine and guaraná-infused concoction will have you buzzin' all night. Nothing like mixing uppers and downers! Try it in one of the various incarnations thought up by the witty people at p.i.n.k. (p.i.n.k. flamingo, p.i.n.k. my ride, p.i.n.k. eye, etc.).
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Bakon Vodka The bacon fascination continues, finding its way not only into mints, chewing gum and beer but also into vodka. If you're feeling extra carnivorous, mix it with this Bacon Cheeseburger Bloody Mary Mix. Who needs to eat dinner when you can drink it? Mmmmmm, bacon. Try a "Swine Flu Shot" - equal parts Bakon vodka, Jaeger and Goldschlager. Check out more recipes here.
Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
The sweet taste of the South, in a bottle. 'Nuff. Forget lemonade. It's so freakin' hot, we're hoping for a John Daly stand on the corner. Try a, what else, John Daly. Just add lemonade.
Peach Tree Distillery's Jackelope Gin While they seem a little confused on the spelling, we're keen to embrace our own. A Colorado-based distillery fashioned a gin for the rabbit/antelope hybrid mixing in "several local varieties of juniper, coriander, angelica, oris root, licorice, lemon lime and cassia." Good luck making that at home. Try it in a Lime Rickey. The mainly juniper gin with "a piney essence, nutty undertones, and citrus throughout" should be a good base.
Know of any other intriguing infusions we should sip on this summer? Leave a comment and let us know.