Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Infusion: Blueberry

Blueberry is a delightful berry to make liqueurs from.  It is not something you commonly find in liquor stores.  While it's easy enough to find blueberry vodka the color of crystal clear spring water, those products have more in common with a chemical factory than they have with a blueberry.  As with most fruit I recommend using frozen organic blueberries.  It is less expensive, and is generally a more consistent product year round.  That said if you find a ridiculous farmer's market sale at the height of the season and you buy so many blueberries you couldn't possibly find fresh applications for all of them (yeah I can't really imagine that scenario either) then fresh work quite delightfully.  Like most berries the infusion happens quickly, but time isn't really the enemy.  There is no bitter or tannin quality that will take over long term and the alcohol prevents any decomposition in the berries.

I recommend a clear liquor because the berries have a delicate flavor that is served very well by a neutral spirit.  The berry provides a deep rich flavor that takes very well to clear simple syrup and is very robust.  The one thing I will say about blueberry liqueur is that it tends towards the syrupy very easily.  Thankfully unlike most infusions there is very little in the berry that adds to the harsh alcohol bite of your final infusion so you can get away with less syrup when making your final liqueur.  I recommend that you use 1 third sugar syrup and 2 thirds blueberry infusion.  Like other berries I recommend just barely covering the berries with alcohol.  Though the flavor is stronger than raspberry or strawberry, so if you want a large batch you can stretch it a bit.  The blueberry is ever so slightly tart, and has a wonderful balance between delicate and robust.  It mixes well with other berry flavors and wonderfully with citrus.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'm guessing blueberries and cream would be a home run beyond compare.  Happy infusing everyone.

Second Class Cycle

So I had the second session of my liqueur class this past Saturday.  It was an excellent group of 6 people.  We had a slightly different round of infusions including Blueberry and Apple Brandy.  Though the most popular infusion was unquestionably fresh ginger.  I mean it seriously swept the popularity contest.  A couple of the interesting combinations that were created during the class included Apricot Tea, Ginger and Orange.  There was also a really delightful strawberry, lemon and black pepper mixture.  I was surprised at how delightfully bright and poppy the mixture of fruit and black pepper really was.

No one really did much with the habanero infusion, and I think I overwhelmed them with the cinnamon comparison taste test that I started the class with.  Definitely something to note for next time.

As this was the second session of the liqueur class it's probably going to be a while before I do another one.  That said I am hoping to continue to update this blog periodically with new infusion ideas and new drink mixtures.  I hope everyone has been enjoying the blog and keeps experimenting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Infusions: Fresh Ginger

This was one of the first infusions that I created.  I had some leftover ginger and I needed to use it before it went bad.  So I mashed it up and threw it in a bottle of vodka.  What resulted was absolutely fantastic.  This is an infusion that I have never seen anywhere in a liquor store, but it is light, aromatic, and mixes amazingly well with just about everything else.  The thing about ginger infusions is that it works much like the actual root.  I can be used in almost any type of application.

We tend to want to break foods down into limiting categories.  A food either tends towards sweet or savory applications.  It's good in either earthy, or light flavor combinations.  It's rich, or delicate.  Anyone who has experimented with food knows that these categories are often limiting.  Chocolate is as excellent in a mole as it is in a custard.  Coffee rubbed burgers are as rich and amazing as any mocha.  That said though ginger breaks these boundaries before we can even set them up.  Ginger ale is probably one of the lightest, sweetest and most classic uses of the root one can think of.  Ginger snap cookies however are deep and earthy, with the richness of molasses and the infusion of other spices.  Ginger in curries is deep and savory, but aromatic and excellent.

Ginger as an alcoholic infusion is similar.  Mixed with simple white syrup it produces an amazing delicate sweet product that will lighten any dessert drink.  It mixes well with certain fruit liqueurs such as apple, or even peach.  Mixed with turbinado syrup it becomes a deeper liqueur ideal for mixing with Amaretto, or coffee and cacao liqueurs.  Without any sugar it can provide an accent to gin drinks, and other herbal applications.  It is probably the most under appreciated, dynamic infusions available.

Ginger is impossible to over infuse much like fruit.  I have left the root in Rum for over a month with no negative side effects.  At the same time I have found most ginger infusions are useable after only a couple days.  You want to cut your ginger thin and break up the slices a bit in a mortar and pestle.  The mortar step isn't strictly necessary, but it will speed your infusion considerably.  I peeled my ginger before infusing it for a long time, then saw some ginger infusing in vodka at an Asian restaurant with its skin still on and decided to give that a try.  I didn't notice any adverse flavor effects from leaving the skin on the ginger.  So I recommend not skinning as it does add quite a bit of work to the process. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Cry for Help: Amaretto

Ok, so I give.  I've been trying to make amaretto and to be blunt it has been a horrific failure.  Everything I find online is about adding almond extract to booze, aaaaaannnnnddddd no.  I tried to make amaretto directly from almonds, following almond extract processes, and it was a pretty complete failure.  I'm not sure where the color generally comes from because all the extract directions I've found involve using blanched almonds.  Has anyone out there done home made amaretto directly from almonds?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Black Irish Godfather

So I haven't been posting much because I was in a marathon of a wedding, and then said marathon ran me down enough that I've been kicking off a cold for the past couple days.  Nothing huge, but it has sapped a bit of my writing motivation.

Thankfully said wedding saw the creation of something that I thought would be worth sharing.  A drink recipe with one of the home brew liqueur infusions I have listed on the blog.  I filled my travel flash with it and took it with me to the wedding.  My friend dubbed it the "Black Irish Godfather".  I know the name borders on the . . . socially questionable.  Really though what good alcoholic drink isn't a bit edgy.  Here are the ingredients.

2 parts Jamieson
1 part Disaronno (Really any Amaretto would work, but for this you want the best)
1 part cacao nib liqueur ideally made with turbinado syrup.

The resulting effect kind of goes in waves over your tongue.  It occasionally feels harsh and whiskey like, then moves into something much more like a rich chocolate candy.  It's warming and smooth and delightful.  The cacao nib liqueur should have had at least a month to rest after infusing to insure maximum smoothness.  A little tidbit to share.  Once I have confirmation that the article came out in Edible Chicago I will let everyone know about that here and post the two drinks my partner developed for the article here as well.  I hope everyone enjoys.