There is ”… more than one way to skin a cat.” While I’m not sure why Mark Twain took a Yankee fan from Connecticut to Medieval Times just to write a story about it, I do know this phrase plucked from its pages is an accurate portrayal of simple infusions as well. There are two major techniques for infusing liquids that are used in [home]bars across the globe for many years and a few newer ones, including one method making a big splash on the infusion scene as of late. First, let’s discuss the old techniques:
The Cold Method
Up until now, all the infusions [b]logged on this site have been done using this method. It consist of submerging the infusing element (fruit, herbs, spices, etc.) in the liquid to which it’s flavor is imparted upon and then simply letting that mixture sit in a cool dry place for some days, weeks or months. This is the most commonly used method for a few reasons, the biggest being it can infuse a lot of the solid fruits and vegetables that the other methods simply can’t due to various restrictions. Aside from that huge advantage, it also offers the benefit of making large batches at once, since the other methods are designed around small batch production of the infusions.
The name “cold” as given in this method is a bit misleading. It simply refers to the absence of a heat source, not necessarily the presence of a cold element; though a refrigerator may be used in some cases.
The Hot Method
Unlike the above, there is no confusion caused by the naming of this method. Infusions done by the heat method actually take place in the presence of a heating source. Most commonly, the liquid to be infused is boiled, then the infusing elements are added for a specified time. This greatly expedites the infusion process as molecules expand in heat, thus making it easier to penetrate their membranes/skin. The heat however also poses the risk of modifying or destroying some of the flavor elements of a compound. For this reason it is generally done in smaller, controlled batches. This is also the reason a lot of solids don’t fare well via hot infusion, as their flavor components are easily changed or destroyed in the presence of heat.
This method is most commonly used to infuse oils, dairy, or to make simple syrups (which in theory are a type of simple infusion) as the nature of these liquids makes it tougher to infuse them at room temperatures. DO NOT use this method with alcohol directly as not only is alcohol often volatile, but heat causes it to evaporate, leaving your finished product void of much of the kick that alcohol provides; and let’s be honest, no one infuses alcohol with the intentions of watering it down.
How do you prefer to infuse your spirits? Hit the comments!