We love the holidays! Tis the season for parties! We have multiple parties every weekend and some during the week, and that doesn’t count the luncheons and happy hours. Because parties are a big part of the holiday season, we thought we would do a three-part party series on how we play the “hostesses with the mostesses” during this, our favorite season.
Our first holiday party post is about what helps keep us in the holiday spirit: booze! Every good party needs good libations. Our dear friend, Trey, always brings the best to holiday parties, and so we asked him to share his recipes for infused bourbon. Here’s what Trey had to say…
Infused spirits are a great way to spread some cheer this holiday season. For a small amount of effort, you can offer a special, festive gift to a friend or add a unique twist to your own bar. Since I’m a good Southern boy, these two recipes make use of bourbon, but with the resurgence of cocktail culture in the U.S., now you can find online recipes for infusing any spirit with pretty much anything.
Choosing your brand of spirit will make a big difference in the final product. Stay away from the ultra-cheap stuff, because the hair-raising kick they usually have will just hide the flavors you’re trying to put in it. At the same time, there’s no sense in doctoring a high-end spirit either. For bourbon, I use Bulleit–smooth and delicious on its own, but not so special that it will scoff at the infusion. And with that, here we go…
(Recipe adapted from Cooking for Geeks, by Jeff Potter)
The notion of putting pork fat in your bourbon seems wrong in all the right ways, and indeed it is. The main thing you’ll get from the bacon fat is smokiness, so make sure you choose a bacon that has a lot of that to offer. And yes, you MUST use real bacon. Don’t try to do this with turkey bacon; don’t throw Bacos into your bourbon. If you just considered those alternatives, please just skip down to the vanilla bourbon recipe.
1 750mL bottle Bulleit bourbon
1/4 cup bacon fat (or 1/2 lb good-quality bacon, such as Benton’s)
If you aren’t starting with rendered fat, throw the bacon in a skillet and start cooking. Since we’re after the fat, you’re better off cooking it on medium-low. That will give more time for the fat to render before the bacon starts to burn. In the end, you need about a 1/4 cup of fat; if you don’t get quite that much, don’t worry about it.
While the bacon is cooking, pour the entire bottle of bourbon into a large-mouthed glass container. (I use a big glass measuring cup.) This vessel is important, for a couple reasons. First, the glass will not leach any part of itself into your bourbon; plastic sometimes does. The large mouth is also important, as you’ll see in just a second.
Pour the rendered fat into the bourbon. To ensure the bacon fat really has a chance to infuse, mix it in with either a whisk or immersion blender. Then, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it on the counter.
After an hour or two, dip a spoon into the bourbon and taste it. It’ll feel a little greasy in your mouth, but ignore that–focus on the taste. Specifically, do you like the level of smoke in the bourbon? If you like it, it’s time to move on. If not, let it sit longer. If your bacon is especially smoky, you probably won’t want it to go much longer than that, but it’s a matter of taste. If it’s weaker bacon, you may want to let it go for 12 hours, maybe more.
When the bourbon is to your liking, throw it in the freezer for a couple hours, until all the fat has solidified at the top of the container. (And THAT is why the container needs a wide mouth.) Simply scoop out the solid fat and you’re almost done. For good measure, strain the bourbon through a coffee filter; that will help get out any fat that was left behind. And that’s it! Funnel it back into the original container, and start making those bacon-infused old-fashioneds.
If you want an even easier recipe, this is the one for you. No cooking, no freezing. Plus, vanilla naturally pairs with bourbon; it lends a sweet aroma to the bourbon without actually imparting any sugar.
1 750mL bottle Bulleit bourbon
2 fresh vanilla beans
–A “fresh” vanilla bean is one that is shiny on the outside and is still moist/pliable. If your beans are purchased in a sealed jar, as they’re often sold, you should be good to go.
Start this infusion by once again pouring all the bourbon into a glass container. Then, with a paring knife, split the vanilla beans all the way down the middle, exposing all the vanilla seeds. After that, simply toss the opened vanilla beans into the bourbon, giving the bourbon a stir to agitate some of the seeds loose. Cover the container, and let it sit on the counter for 4-5 days, giving it a stir once or twice each day.
After that time, the bourbon will smell absolutely amazing. All that’s left is to remove the pods and funnel the bourbon back into the original container. If you want to remove all the seeds, which is optional, simply pour the bourbon through a coffee filter before rebottling it. Because of the sweet aroma, I like to drink this bourbon after dinner, on its own with just a single cube of ice.
Like Trey said, these infused bourbons would make great gifts! If you don’t want to use the bottle the bourbon came in, mason (canning) jars are a great alternative. Most grocery or craft stores carry mason jars — and purchasing a flat means you can split a batch among multiple people or give friends a variety of flavors. All you need to do add a handwritten label identifying your blend and tie a ribbon around the center!
If you really want to take the gift over the top, pair your moonshine with a vintage decanter, a pair of vintage old fashioned glasses, a vintage cocktail book, or go big and do all of the above with a silver cocktail tray (very Mad Men-esque)!