Just like cooking with food, the process of infusing your own alcohol always benefits from experimenting with more than one ingredient. In my experience, creating our own flavors here at The Table Creekside. I have found that herbs always seem to marry well with fresh fruit.
Start by gathering the freshest herbs and fruits at your local farmers market. When I first began infusing, I quickly learned that not all fruits are available at certain times of the year. In our summer months, I only use what fruits and vegetables are locally available. For instance, June and July are great months for plums, peaches, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, honeydew and cantaloupe. Sure, you might be able to find these ingredients year-round, but, based on my experience, when fruits and herbs are not in season, they are usually lacking in sweetness, flavor and consistency.
Then, decide whether you are infusing rum, vodka, bourbon, Tequila or gin.
Next, gather your Mason jars — which, by the way, also make a great serving dish for dips, side dishes and desserts.
This week I picked out luscious cantaloupes at the height of their ripeness to create a cantaloupe-infused vodka.
First, cut the cantaloupe in small cubes and fill the Mason jar a little more than half full. Pour the vodka on top to fill the jar. Store with a tight-fitting lid in a cooled, dark room. (Under your bed or in a closet — as long as the house is centrally air-conditioned.
Shake the infused Mason jar at least once a day and up to three times a day.
It is essential to taste your infusing liquor each day throughout the process. After all, you continuously taste soup as it cooks on the stove. The same philosophy applies to infusing.
Although the time does vary slightly depending on the ingredients, most fruits infuse fully in approximately four to six days. Add any fresh herbs on the last day; infusing for one more full day together.
On the final day, taste your infusion again, and if you feel as though the ingredients have reached their full potential, it’s time to filter and remove any stray particles. You might be surprised to learn that all of the “high tech” equipment used to complete this step at a restaurant can be found around your kitchen. All you need is a mesh strainer, pitcher and a few coffee filters.
Place the strainer on top of the open pitcher and the coffee filter into the strainer. Slowly pour your infusion into the strainer, and the infusion will strain into the pitcher clearly.
To store your new infusion, an expensive or fancy vessel is not necessary. I just save the empty liquor bottle and replace its former contents with my newest fusion.
Now, let’s shake it up! Our cantaloupe-infused vodka turns into what I have named “The salted melon.”
3 ounces fresh made cantaloupe vodka
1 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces aloe vera juice
Pour over ice and shake.
When you are creating special cocktails using your infused alcohol, remember: The small details matter! Using different salts and sugars mixed with other seasonings and spices blended together make for a perfect garnish we call "rimming the glass." It also adds a visually appealing touch.
To make this a true salted-melon martini, I crushed dried hibiscus flowers and mixed with Kosher salt to create the rim flavor. So, let’s salt the rim, shall we?
Rub a slice of lemon around half the glass. Now, dip the martini glass upside down and twist that side of the glass and gently roll into the fragrant salt.
Serve straight up with an edible orchid or a long slice of fresh melon.
Sip and enjoy the fruits of your labor!