Infusing spirits is nothing new. Many bartenders made their own bitters and tinctures out of necessity and pioneered these flavors as early as the 19th century, but the practice is still used today amongst contemporary barmen.
At Vitae Restaurant in midtown Manhattan, bartender Daniel Brancusi has programmed a menu introducing several original infusions, including one he’d dubbed the Temperance Society, a drink incorporating both a strawberry-infused vermouth and rosemary-infused Aperol. He also makes a mean peanut-infused Old Fashioned.
Using both modern techniques, such as a nitrous oxide iSi Cream Whipper, as well as the old-standby of letting time marry the ingredients and spirits together, Daniel finds that results can often vary. But infusions can help add a dynamic of seasonality and adventurous flavors to cocktails. (Note: having an iSi Whipper is a great tool to have, but not essential.)
Of course, though it may seem similar, I should mention that using mass-marketed flavored vodkas that are chemically produced will never carry the freshness that a natural infusion will provide, though some smaller brands like Charbay or Alchemia use much better ingredients. For your own home infusions try experimenting with complementary and contrasting flavors for spirits and cocktails you enjoy; whether it be a peppercorn vodka for a Bloody Mary, a coffee, tabacco, or bacon-fat infused bourbon for an Old Fashioned, or perhaps using herbs to spice up lighter, summer cocktails, like the Temperance.
- 2 oz strawberry-infused Dolin Blanc Vermuth
- 1 oz rosemary-infused Aperol
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 oz 1:1 simple syrup
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
For the cocktail:
- Combine ingredients and shake with ice.
- Strain into a chilled coupe and top with a light, dry Prosecco. No garnish.
For the strawberry-infused Dolin Blanc:
- Combine 375 ml of Dolin Blanc with 1 cup of quartered ripe strawberries in an iSi Cream Whipper. Make sure to remove the bottoms and tops, since they can make the infusion bitter. Ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Double charge with nitrous oxide canisters shaking a couple of times after each charge and let infuse for 5 minutes. Let out the gas by pressing gently on the trigger until you can no longer hear anything coming out.
- Strain off the strawberries, bottle and refrigerate. The infusion should keep for a couple of days.
For the rosemary-infused Aperol:
- Pour out about two ounces of Aperol from a fresh bottle to make room for the herbs.
- Take 5-6 fresh rosemary sprigs, slap them to release the oils, and place them in the bottle of Aperol.
- After 6 hours taste the infusion. There should just be a faint touch of rosemary on the Aperol; any more will overpower the cocktail. If you don't get any rosemary let the infusion sit for another two hours and taste again.
- Strain off the rosemary and bottle. The mixture will keep for about a month.