I’ve been pretty hot for the idea of booze-infusions since hitting Rubi Bar in Barcelona last year, trying some of their 100 flavoured gins, and nagging the owner to tell me how it’s done.
It appeals to me on so many levels; I actually get chance to use some of the kilner jars I’ve accumulated; I feel like a 1920s bootlegger without the risk of a Still exploding in my basement (or syphillis exploding in my boy-basement); I get to quote the Beer Baron episode of The Simpsons in my head – specifically “You forgot one thing chief…I filled the balls with a funnel” – and then I get to turn up.
The mechanics of infusing is pretty straight-forward – you put something, anything in with some spirits and the high alcoholic content preserves it for long enough for the flavour to come out and taint the liquor. Think of it as reverse-pickling – you know when you finish a jar of pickled onions and the vinegar you’ve got left is the good shit? Imagine if the vinegar was liquor, and it had been pickling fruit or spices or charcuterie instead of old onions.
If you’re really going to get into it then Niki Segnet’s Flavour Thesaurus is a really useful resource for infusing – as it is for many other things – in that it lets you pick out individual notes and flavours from a drink (Juniper in Gin, for example) and then find ingredients which complement or contrast with it, letting you make educated experiments rather than expensive misfires.
First-timers could do a lot worse than Jalapeño Tequila, a face-palmingly simple combination of Mexican flavours which is good for sipping on its own, or versatile enough to be used in a few cocktails. (In true meat-head bootlegger spirit, make sure you spell Jalapeño completely wrong on the label…)
Spoiler alert: The secret ingredient is jalapeños…
A 70cl Bottle of decent Tequila – You won’t need Patron, but you can do better than Sierra. Go for a 100% Agave type like El Jimador (Just under £20 in Waitrose)
4 Jalapeño Chillies
A Kilner Jar and Sealable Bottle.
Slice the Jalapeños fairly thickly – about 6 slices per chilli – and take out the white centre and as many of the seeds as possible; over time the white pith would make it taste bitter and the seeds would blow your brains out.
Decant the tequila into the kilner jar and add the sliced jalapeños. Seal, shake, and sit somewhere cool and dark. Leave it there for 7-14 days, shaking every now and again.
Using a sieve and a funnel, decant the tequila back into a bottle and seal it.
BONUS: Chop up the jalapeños with some fresh de-seeded tomatoes, white onion, coriander leaves and lime juice for an amazing tequila salsa.