In her debut column with Lifestyle Asia KL, Amanda Wan the first female bartender to represent Malaysia at the Diageo Global World Class Bartender of the Year Competition shares her secrets on how to infuse gin at home.
Gin is a great classic spirit and ever so versatile when it comes to cocktails. With so many flavoured gins popping up on supermarket shelves these days, you may find yourself thinking about creating your own gin infusions. Well, here’s your chance. All you need are several glass containers and an adventurous spirit.
You may not want to take a risk with a whole bottle of gin, and why should you? Always start with a smaller amount to infuse before you scale up the amounts for a bigger batch. I like to start with 150-200ml test batches because it is just enough for a couple of hearty G&Ts, or a handful of cocktail recipes.
Try a scale of 30 to 1 when it comes to portion testing. So, let’s say you would like to make a ‘coriander gin infusion’, using 150ml of gin and 5g of coriander should be a good amount to start with, and then increase or decrease the amount based on your personal preference.
When you’re happy with how it tastes, go ahead and infuse an entire bathtub’s worth.
Much like cooking, the quality of ingredients in your stew definitely affects its ultimate flavour. A good base gin to start with is a classic London Dry Gin, which doesn’t have to be expensive, just don’t reach for the cheapest bottle. A reputable brand like Tanqueray/Gordon’s is a good start.
When it comes to the ingredients you will infuse your gin with, think dry. Using orange peels instead of orange pulp gives you more complex flavours and aromas with the essential oils released from its peel – just remember to remove as much of the pith (the spongy white tissue lining) as possible to avoid extracting bitterness out of it. Other dry ingredients that infuse well are tea, spices, dried fruits, etc.
How to infuse gin at home using fresh ingredients? Ideally, fresh fruits or herbs should be washed and patted dry immediately before use, to avoid added contaminants to your infusion. Cut/chop them up into smaller pieces to expose more surface areas for greater flavour extraction. I generally avoid dairy, like chocolate, as it can turn the infusion cloudy. Unless you’re prepared to run a fat-washing process to clarify your infusion (which is a topic for another discussion).
Now’s the fun part – how would you know when the infusion is ready? By tasting it, of course.
Infusions can take anywhere from 3 hours (in room temperature) to 3 days (in the chiller) to be ready, and you can really only tell if it has reached the right amount of flavour by tasting. Use a teaspoon (not a shot glass) when tasting, and space out your tastings every few hours. Take note of the flavours emerging from your infusion, as well as the appearance of your ingredients.
If you intend to infuse your fresh ingredients for longer than a few hours or a day, transfer the container into the chiller. This will keep your ingredients fresh, although it may also make your infusion time longer. Luckily as the saying goes, good things are worth the wait.
Write it down!
I cannot stress this enough, hence the exclamation mark! Either as a label on the container, or in a little black book in the back pocket, write it down. That means the ingredients you’ve used, the amounts you’ve used, and also the time (and date) you’ve started your infusion.
This makes for easy reference for a second (or third, and more) batch(es) in the future, where you take the guesswork out of your favourite infusion when it’s down to its last drop. Also, you can avoid the tragedy of accidentally throwing out an infusion in the making, or if you’ve forgotten it in the back of the fridge and re-discover it one day, you will know exactly what it is.
Drink or keep?
Some of us drink up our infusions quickly, while others may prefer some slow-sipping. Usually, infusions taste their best within the first to third week, after which the flavours may begin to oxidise. Keep your infusions in an airtight glass bottle (properly labelled) in the chiller for optimum flavour. Simply retrieve and pour into your next G&T or cocktail for some flavourful refreshers with any happy hour.
Hope these 5 simple tips on how to infuse gin at home were helpful and useful, and most importantly, remember to have fun. The best drink is the one you enjoy, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Cheers!
Hero and feature image: iStock