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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?