Infusing the Spirit

According to Father Paul Duffner, supernatural virtues that come with sanctifying grace are known as infused which distinguishes them from natural virtues that are acquired. Acquired virtues are good habits achieved over time through our own repeated effort such as the habit of telling the truth (veracity),  the habit of dealing with trying situations (patience), and the habit of moderation in eating and drinking (temperance).

Many spiritual writers compare these two types of virtues to boats; the natural virtues being row boats which progress forward in a slow laborious manner and the supernatural, being sailboats which given favorable wind show progress with less effort and greater speed.

Let’s blur the lines (or the boats) and consider both an acquired moderation in drinking and a good infusion. Infused spirits are a fun way to experiment with your own handcrafted cocktails. The basic idea is to flavor a base liquor such as vodka, light rum or gin with some type of fruit or spice. Making your own is not an elaborate process. It simply involves putting something flavorful in a jar, adding the spirits and waiting. In fact, one article that I read said that the only thing we have to lose is counter space. As you begin to experiment, conduct small trials with one or two cups of spirits so that you don’t end up with a gallon of something unusable.

For my first foray, I kept it simple. Infusions shouldn’t be created with top shelf liquors as any subtle (and expensive) flavors will likely be lost. I had a partial bottle of local rum that hadn’t been terribly well received so infusing it seemed like the only way it might be used. I began with local concord grapes gently squeezing each one in order to break the skin and bruise the fruit just slightly. This allows the infusion to occur more quickly.

The second infusion is more delicate. Being absolutely overrun with Armenian cucumbers, I peeled and chopped them and poured vodka on top. Vodka doesn’t have much flavor on it’s own and pairs well with both sweet and savory such as cherries or peppers.

Here’s the process:

  1. Place your flavoring agent in a glass jar with a screw-on lid. Pour your spirits over the ingredients. Put the lid on tightly and shake gently. Label with ingredients and date.
  2. Keep the jar room temperature, away from direct sunlight or extreme cold. Usually a kitchen countertop or cupboard is a fine storage space. Shake once a day. Taste periodically to see if you’ve achieved the desired result. For my grape rum, 7 days. For the cucumber vodka, a bit more because it is so subtle.
  3. Strain out all solids and then run them through some type of filter such as a cheese cloth or coffee filter. Store in the refrigerator.

In addition, there are some very helpful tips that I’ve gathered from Edible Phoenix and other food publications:

  • Always use spirits that are at least 80 proof in order to avoid creating a fermentation.
  • Use fresh herbs whole and include the stems, 1 part ingredient to 2 parts spirit
  • If using dried spices, break them up with a mortar and pestle: 1 part ingredient to 3 parts spirit
  • For melons, cucumbers, sweet peppers, stone fruits, apples, or pears, remove any textured or coarse skin, pits and seeds and chop. Leave berries whole but remove stems and squeeze slightly in order to bruise the fruit.: 1 part ingredient to 1 part spirit
  • Other popular ideas are citrus or ginger sliced thinly, seeded and chopped hot peppers and vanilla beans split lengthwise.

Enjoy infusions in classic cocktails or sip them over ice and topped with sparkling water. When you hit on a good combination, these can make lovely Christmas or holiday gifts. So put a bit of acquired effort into creating these new concoctions and undoubtedly you’ll enjoy the spiritual infusion!

How else do you infuse the spirit into your holidays?

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53 Comments

  1. Lemon peels and vodka. Our holiday favorite. Also, vodka with green chilli and a dash of Tabasco. Add tabasco when drinking :)

    Reply
    • How long do you soak the lemon peels or the green chilies Rukmini? Do you put the chili in whole or cut it up?

      Reply
      • lemon peels for about a month. Chilies- whole, for about 15-20 days. A 750 ml bottle should have about 5 chilies. The green hot ones. :) Oh and you can also cut a couple of vanilla beans and soak it in vodka for about 20 days. Tried all 3 and loved it.

        Reply
  2. Oh, very nice suggestions, Tammy! I love the idea of the taste of cucumber in a summer beverage…very cooling! Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Love the new look of your blog, Tammy! And I love this post. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of homemade infusions and such for a while, and have done a few with herbs, but your cucumber idea sounds delicious! I have a Pinterest board with a collection of great recipes, in case you are looking for some additional inspiration http://pinterest.com/herbanlifestyle/diy-cocktail-fixn-s/. I recently made my own homemade tonic water from one of the recipes.

    Reply
  4. Terrific post, Tammy. Way to infuse spirit into the holidays.

    I’ve made “kahlua” with coffee, sugar, and vanilla beans . . . and patience while waiting for the vanilla to infuse..

    Reply
    • I remember someone doing that once. I wonder if you come out ahead on price. Kahlua is something we like to have on hand during the holidays and I try to pick it up whenever I am in Mexico.

      Reply
  5. Lisa H

     /  November 25, 2012

    Oh yummy! Love your idea of using the Armenian cucumbers. I will have to do that next year (I was giving those darn things away we couldn’t eat them fast enough!). Like nrhatch, I have also made my own kahlua. Easy, except for the wait!

    Reply
    • Lisa, if you have a good blender, the cucumbers can be a good summer beverage with a bit of mint and stevia. It’s hard to use them up I know.

      Reply
  6. Vodka and cucumbers. Very interesting.

    Tim

    Reply
  7. I love the new look of your blog, Tammy. I’m quite partial to cocktails – they always remind me of being away on a holiday xx

    Reply
    • Thanks for the compliment. I’m very happy with it also. I actually never drink cocktails so the notion of hand-crafting them is fun and new.

      Reply
  8. Those look great. I love raspberry the most, although blueberry is pretty great, too. I do cranberry with a bit of lime this time of year. I’ve never tried cucumber….

    Reply
    • Hmmm, I have some raspberries in the fridge and some cranberries although neither are local. Do you put sweetener with cranberries or just infuse the sour stuff?

      Reply
  9. I haven’t tried any infusions but you definitely make me want to try. Cranberry anything sounds great, but scuppernongs would be an interesting experiment for next summer.

    Love the new look! A++++.

    Reply
  10. Another excellent post! I want to try some cranberry something…cranberry vanilla vodka, maybe?

    Reply
  11. I also like your new look! I just changed mine, too. Change must be in the air. Who designed your logo? I really like it.

    Reply
  12. Whenever we see some interesting organic fruit or fresh leaf spice some gets nestled in a tiny mason jar with some alcohol. We’ve tried a pretty big variety of stuff; our favorite so far has been some really flavorful green grapes that we soaked in gin. It sounded like a weird combination and it worked out really well! Oddly, mango and rum did not. Nor did blackberries and whisky.

    I can hear the Frugal Gourmet in my head (don’t worry, doesn’t happen often) peacefully saying “the better your ingredients, the better your food’s going to taste.” I’ve found this with our booze experiments too. For example, I’ve used cheap vodka that might have actually been a cleverly disguised bottle of Russian window cleaner, and also Tito’s – smooth, clean, and not harsh at all. Adding fruit wasn’t able to disguise the fact that the first vodka was Russian window cleaner, but fruit added to Tito’s is like icing on a cake. It’s especially helpful to have a smoother vodka when adding subtler flavored items like cukes. Same with gin; we use Junipero or No. 209 normally. To be honest, we definitely use cheap stuff though when recipes call for added sugar, milks of any kind, or other ingredients that will blow away that Windex Extract flavor.

    If we lived closer to Baja we could grow Damiana and make our own liqueur. Wonder if something could be made from cactus fruit? Hmm…

    Reply
    • I see an opuntia cocktail in your future! Yes, I agree that you can’t use the bottom shelf either and I should’ve put that in the post.

      Reply
  13. This sounds like fun, Tammy! Leave it to you to teach us something great to do, to infuse more flavor into our lives! Thanks!

    Reply
  14. thank you for these great tips – I have some ideas that need making and this will help a lot :)

    Reply
  15. I started a vodka blueberry infusion two years ago, just days before I swore off alcohol for health reasons. It’s been sitting in my fridge since. The blueberries look as fresh as the day I filled the jar. I wonder if it’s still good? I’ll have to convince a friend that it’s time for a blueberry martini experiment.

    Reply
  16. Wow, sounds like fun! Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  17. Who would have ever thought to put cucumbers in an infusion, Tammy? Brilliant! If Nourishing Words (comment up above) is reading comments, please send that blueberry infusion. I will try not to swear off alcohol until after it’s properly appreciated. :)

    Reply
    • Most commenters seem attracted to that but I tell you, the grape rum is where it’s at. Try making the blueberry infusion – bruise them a little and I’ll be it won’t take more than a week.

      Reply
  18. Brilliant post. I had forgotten that I used to infuse cheap white wine with rosemary – an old, old recipe, and a great way to drink yummy wine on a budget (when you can’t afford the really good stuff). I can’t wait to try some of your ideas!

    Reply
  19. What great ideas, Tammy!
    I’m not much of a drinker (wine, champagne or the occasional Pina Colada or Coconut Mojito are the only things I rarely drink), but I’ll pass the ideas along to the Chef. I think he’ll like them.

    Reply
  20. Oh, and PS: I really like the new look of the website :)

    Reply
  21. Very lovely ideas, Tammy! I am making my home-made spirits too, like cranberry vodka, etc! Every year, I make my own limoncello & alos present them in little festive decorated bottles. Here si the link, if you are interested: http://sophiesfoodiefiles.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/home-made-limoncello-a-recipe-using-it-marinated-limoncello-chicken-with-rice-limoncello-courgettes/ Enjoy!! xxx

    Reply
  22. Spiritual, physical and practical, Tammy :-) What a lovely post. I must think more on the idea of infusion. I might put it on the shelf next to the idea of osmosis, I think: how substances live alongside each other.

    Reply
    • You can also do a good kid experiment with vinegars Kate. And you do literally just put it on the shelf.

      Reply
  23. Gorgeous post, Tammy! Thank you for this evocative suggestion for summer, infused with beautiful photo’s :-)

    Reply
    • Great to see you Naomi! Love the video that you’ve finished up – seems like you need a hand crafted cocktail to celebrate.

      Reply
  24. I am trying so hard to increase my water intake but it is just so boring! I’ll definitely have to try infusing with berries, cucumbers, or citrus. Thanks for the great ideas! I also gave you a shout out today on my blog and awarded you the Liebster award. Thanks for being such a great blog buddy!

    Reply
  25. I tried to make mint extract this year by soaking mint leaves in vodka this fall. Turned rather brown and nasty–I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me.

    Reply

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