Friday, April 6, 2012

Infusions: Black Pepper

Black Pepper is a classic home infusion in vodka. It was one of the first infusions I did, inspired by everyone's favorite quirky ridiculous cooking show, Good Eats. Unlike most of the other infusions I will be posting here it is not an ideal match for sugar syrup, though it can be an excellent accent to several liqueurs. Traditionally it was used as a flavor profile in Bloody Mary mix. It is also an amazing accent in a dirty martini, though I have to say I am a gin martini man I can easily put a few drops of this in one of mine and it's quite delightful.

Ratios: Alton Brown recommends 2 Tbsp of slightly cracked black peppercorns for a 750 ml bottle of vodka. I generally do double that because I really like my mix to kind of kick you in the fact so you only need a couple drops of it. That is mostly because I don't use it as a main flavor, so I want to be able to maximize the volume of my other flavors in whatever mix I'm making.

Flavor profile: PEPPER!!! With a lot of infusions the alcohol pulls out a specific set of flavor molecules from your source ingredient that are volatile and prone to dissolving in alcohol. Black Pepper's flavor is made up almost entirely of these volatile chemicals. It's why grinding pepper in advance is such a terrible idea and almost everyone has a pepper grinder at this point. In alcohol everything about the pepper that is sharp and spicy and intense is emphasized and made stronger. In terms of flavors that are good for pairing the sky is the limit. I had never paired it with fruit until my first liqueur workshop and a couple of the participants mixed it with peach and strawberry. Their finished liqueur was absolutely amazing. A splash is good for cooking, and it's amazing with any "harsh" style cocktails especially ones with herbal notes. A few drops are also pretty amazing with cocoa flavored items, much like black pepper brownies. Really the sky is the limit.

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