Liquor Infusion for Dummies, Plus How to Make Apple Pie Whiskey

Categories: Booze

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Photos by Joshua Justice
Apple Pie Whiskey along side two batches of Coffee Bourbon
This is the first in a two-part series on home whiskey infusions, which make excellent gifts year-round and are a fun way to stock your bar aside from making simple syrups and shrubs.

If you have ever been to El Gran Malo, you probably have an idea of just how awesome infused booze can be. In fact, Malo's infused tequilas are so good that you might think infusions are something too difficult to try at home. While the folks over at El Gran Malo have taken infusions to the level of artistry, even they will tell you it honestly can be as simple as placing a single ingredient into a sealed container of spirits.

Last Christmas, broke, as I tend to be around that time of year, I got the bright idea to try my hand at infusing my own whiskey to give as gifts. The results -- one a bacon whiskey and the other a vanilla infusion -- were simple enough to accomplish and were well-received. This year, I decided to take things up a step and make four or five different infusions using more complex recipes.

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A mesh strainer is your first step in removing particles and adding clarity to your infusion
One of the toughest parts about infusing your own liquor at home is knowing how much of an ingredient to use and how long to let the infusion sit. This is where borrowing experience and input from recipes and online advice comes in handy. As you start to become familiar with ingredients and your own taste preferences, you can begin to modify your infusions to suit your needs. For instance, I rarely infuse the called-for amount of cinnamon and tend to remove cinnamon sticks after only a few days where most recipes I have found can leave it in for upwards of a month.

Having read up last year, I had a pretty good idea what tools and tricks I needed but I did come across a great blog with notes on straining and filtering as well as excellent recipes at Boozed and Infused

In fact, two of Alicia's recipes served as the basis for a couple of the recipes I used this year. My Apple Pie Whiskey found below is simply a modified version of the one found here. For the coffee addict on my Christmas list, I used this recipe.

While basic infusing really isn't much more complex than picking ingredients and throwing them in a jar with your booze, straining has proved to be a process of trial and error and each infusion has presented unique challenges. For instance, both my bacon and peanut butter infusions have required the infusion to be frozen in order to extract the fat content. Straining also proves to be where I inevitably lose a small amount of my batch to the straining media and to the fact that despite being an [arguably] functional adult, I have the motor skills of a four year old while pouring liquids.

In an effort to help you avoid some of the problems I have come across, I've listed the tools that I've found handy in bottling my finished product. Having these on hand when you are ready to bottle your finished product will save you time, effort and hassle.

Tools

  • 1 case 32 oz canning jars
  • 1 case 10 oz canning jars
  • Funnel
  • Handled mesh strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • Paper cone-style coffee filters
  • Large spouted bowl

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A coffee filter will slowly remove any remaining sediment
The majority of the actual work involved in the infusion process is straining and removing your infusion ingredients from your finished liquor. I recommend setting up all three of your straining stations prior to beginning if space allows.

Beginning with the mesh strainer, you can remove any large ingredients or other sediment with a quick pour through the strainer over a large bowl.

Next, take a 10-inch square section of cheesecloth and fold it over on itself twice and place over the mouth of a clean empty 32-ounce canning jar and secure with a rubber band. Pour the infusion from your spouted bowl through the cheesecloth. At this point, most of the small, visible ingredients should be removed from your infusion.

The final and slowest step in filtering your infusion through the coffee filters. Placing a paper filter over a canning jar, slowly pour your infusion into the filter and allow the liquor to strain.

At this point you should have a finished product with a clarity similar to that of your original uninfused liquor.You may repeat straining steps as needed. Your infusion is now complete and ready for bottling.

For even more info on straining and clarifying your infusion, see this awesome entry from fellow Eating...Our Words blogger Nick Hall back in 2011.

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Photos by Joshua Justice
Granny Smith Apples infusing in Rebecca Creek Whiskey
The most popular infusion I made this year was a whiskey infusion that tasted a lot like vanilla-and-cinnamon-laced apple pie. The recipe is as follows.

Apple Pie Whiskey
Yield: 3 cups (24oz)

  • 750 ml Rebecca Creek Whiskey
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples
  • 1 vanilla bean (split)
  • 1 three-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried cloves

Total cost: $26.75

I use Texas-made Rebecca Creek whiskey because it is somewhat of a blank canvas flavor-wise, it's exceptionally smooth (making it perfect for sharing) and -- as an added bonus -- comes in at under $25 a bottle.

In a 32-ounce canning jar, add sliced unpeeled apples, the vanilla bean (split vertically) and brown sugar. Pour over whiskey and seal. Store in a cool, dark space for 10 days, shaking occasionally. Add cloves and cinnamon and return jar to storage for three more days, shaking occasionally. Strain and bottle.

Because the cloves and cinnamon add their flavor so quickly -- a lesson learned after experimentation with earlier batches -- we gave the other ingredients a head start. This leaves the final product with a complex, layered flavor that mimics homemade apple pie.

Be sure to sample your infusion along the way. This will allow you to modify the recipe to your taste. Don't be afraid to stop the infusion early or allow to sit longer based on your individual taste.



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8 comments
Wade Woodard
Wade Woodard

Rebecca Creek is spirit whiskey, not a bourbon.  IMHO, spirit whisky is an abomination.

1835 Texas Whiskey is not made in Texas, well except for maybe the water used to cut it to proof.  It's sourced whiskey from another state.  The same with Yellow Rose Rye whiskey.

If you want good products look for Straight Bourbon or Straight Rye.  Also if you want a product made in Texas  look to see that product is distilled in Texas on the label.  Don't be fooled by "produced and bottled" or "hand selected and blended" look for "distilled in xyz city, Texas".  There are a lot of Potemkin distillers out there.

Wade W. - Certified Spirit Specialist



Anse
Anse

Did you choose a Texas whiskey for any particular reason? I ask because over the holidays, my dad had a Texas bourbon (it wasn't Rebecca Creek; I don't remember what the name was). It was smooth enough, but I thought it was pretty thin and characterless. But perhaps it would have served well for an infusion? Why use really good whiskey for this, right? Or is a good quality whiskey better?

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Wade Woodard Interesting about Yellow Rose.  Their Bourbon is made here, I simply assumed they made their rye as well.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@Wade Woodard I honestly don't know the difference between spirit whiskey and bourbon. Would you elaborate? I'm intrigued!

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Anse I have been working my way through the Texas whiskey selection the past year so part of it was what I had on hand.  You will see me use 1835 and Yellow Rose and probably TX in future posts.  I did buy Rebecca Creek specifically for these infusions based on its open, thin body and smooth finish.

 Because I was giving them as gifts I wanted the infusion to shine.  I felt Rebecca Creek was a good choice.  It's the whiskey we keep around the house for guests because it's smooth and democratic and it's a fun talking point.  I can see how someone might call it weaker though.

As far as other whiskeys, I have used Makers Mark, Templeton and Jim Beam before.  The only one I wouldn't recommend is Jim Beam, because it is so distinct regardless of what you infuse with it, it still just tastes like Beam.

Wade Woodard
Wade Woodard

@J.A.Justice Yes, Yellow Rose  bourbon is made here locally.  I have meet the owners and love the fact their bourbon is made from scratch.  They ferment, distill and bottle on site - a true craft distiller.  I also think it's OK to be an independent bottler (bottle someone else whiskey).  There are many well known and respected Independent bottlers in the Scotch world.  These bottlers are typically very upfront about what they are selling.  In the US, the game has become deception.  Yellow Rose very much disappointed me in their Rye whiskey.  When they originally filed for their federal label approval on the Rye, they listed it was distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  They amended the label and now try to make it look like they made the product themselves.  FYI, the distillery in Lawrenceburg  IN supplies Rye whiskey that goes into many brands, the largest being the Bulleit Rye. 

Wade Woodard
Wade Woodard

@kshilcutt The TTB has a Beverage Alcohol Manual (BAM) that defines spirit types in Ch 4.  link is http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam.shtml.  Spirit Whiskey is defines as "Whisky produced by blending neutral spirits and not less than 5% on a proof gallon basis whisky, straight whisky or combination of whisky and straight whisky provided the straight whisky is used at less than 20% on a proof gallon basis".  Let me translate that into something more simple - it's vodka and cheap whiskey blended together.

Neutral Spirit, GNS, is Vodka at 190 proof.  All Vodkas are distilled to this proof then cut with water prior to bottling to desired proof, usually 80.  There are companies out there that bulk produce GNS, such as http://www.mgpingredients.com.  You can buy it in 55 gallon drums.  While I rant the most about fake whiskey producers, the Vodka world is even more rampant.  For a good time, call up Tito's as a reporter and ask to visit and see their fermenting tanks (hint they don't have any because they start with buying bulk GNS from out of state).


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