Finishing our Vodka Infusion

by | Sep 2, 2013 | Mixology | 2 comments

Welcome back for the second half of our infusion video.  A couple weeks ago we started an infusion with Vodka and lemons (you can check it out here ).

Now we’re going to talk a little more about the detailed infusion process and see if it is done!

The Infusion is Complete!

Free Infusions Worksheet

Get a free infusion worksheet that will help you plan, track and replicate your infusions:

From the Video:

Why should you always stir your Infusions?

If you do not stir, the liquor that is touching the lemon zest will get the most of the lemon “essence”, while there will be other liquor farther away that isn’t infused enough. Daily stirring promotes consistent flavor infusion throughout all of the liquor.

Why should you keep infusions in a cool, dark place?

Light can expedite the process of ingredients breaking down and deteriorating – and we don’t want that. We want our infusion to stay as fresh and vibrant as possible. For short infusions, this factor won’t be very important, but keeping an infusion in a sunny window for several weeks could certainly impact the final product.

How to know when your infusion is complete:

This part is very subjective! There is no “perfect” infusion time, since different ingredients infuse at different rates and everyone’s tastes and preferences are different. Keep an eye on the infusion and stop the process when you achieve the color and taste that you like. With lemon, you’ll want a nice strong aroma of lemon zest, and you should see some lemon oils starting to coalesce across the top of the surface as well. When I tasted this infusion, I was happy with the results and knew it was time to film this video!

Take Notes!

It’s really important to take notes when you’re creating infusions, as with any recipe. If you don’t carefully record how you created it, the infusion will be impossible to replicate when you run out. We included our Infusion worksheet above, which is an easy way to keep track of all of the various factors you can “play” with when designing your infusions. If you share this post, you can have access to the worksheet immediately. If you’d rather not – that’s cool! Just send me an email and I’ll send it over.

What’s Next?

We’ll be making Limoncello with this batch next – check it out!  Until then, let us know what you think! We’re always looking for suggestions for new videos.  If you have questions about Infusions (or anything else), leave a comment and we’ll reply and / or answer in a future video!

Click Here to view the Transcript

Hi, everyone! This is Chris from ABarAbove.com and today we’re going to check back on an infusion we started a couple of weeks ago.
So for those of you that missed the first episode, I’m just going to recap what we’ve done so far. So in this jar we have about 1.75 liters of vodka, the skins of 15 lemons, and essentially, that’s about it. I’ve stirred it every day for the last two weeks, I’ve kept it in a nice dark environment, and you know there’s kind of a lot of hangouts. Today we’re going to strain all this out and we’re also going to talk about some of the theories and the general technique behind infusions.

So now that we’re going to put everything in the glass container, let’s take a look of what’s going to happen to once it gets in there. On the left you have the fruits that you’re going to be utilizing and on the right you have the alcohol in a container. So we’re going to add all these ingredients to get in into the glass container. And now that it’s keeping in the alcohol, all the essence of the fruit is going to escape the fruit and go into the alcohol, so all the oils, all the sugars, and any of the juices that are left over, they’re going to try to make their way into the alcohol. And when that happens, the alcohol is going to rush in and fill up the rest of the fruit with the alcohol. So this process will continue to happen until what you’re left with is Boozy Fruit and Fruity Booze. And like I said, it’s going to go to a point of equilibrium, so that way the fruit that’s left over will have the same alcohol as the alcohol that you want to use, and the alcohol will have the same amount of fruit essence (the oils and the sugars and the juice) as left over fruit as well. So they’ll reach that level of equilibrium.

Now on the previous video on infusions, we mentioned that you should stir your infusion daily and also keep it in a dark place. Now the reason why you’re going to want to stir this is because, if you don’t, one of the things that I noticed in the past is that if I leave the infusion for a few days and come back to stir it, it actually creates a swirl of sugars and juices around it. So what’s happening there is, around the perimeter of this lemon zest here, the materials on both sides of the lemon zest are exactly the same. So the lemon essence inside the lemon is the same as the essence of the lemon on the outside of it within a very small area. And once you stir it, it introduces vodka into that localized area and now the extraction can happen again. Now the reason why you want to keep it in a dark place is you don’t want these chemicals that you’re extracting to start to break down. You have a lot of oils in there, a lot of sugar, a lot of other compounds, and if they hit some light they’re going to start to deteriorate. So you want to preserve the freshness and vibrancy of your infusion.

So now let’s examine something else that’s going to have an impact on the rate of infusion for you and that just general surface area. So to make this easier to explain, let’s take out this simple cube of fruit that we have here. And the way you’re going to calculate surface area is just measure up all the sides, add them all up, and essentially that’s going to be your surface area. So for this we have 2 in. wide by 2 in. long, and 2 in. high, and your total surface area for this for each side is going to be 24 sq. in. Now to increase the amount of surface area that we have, a simple way to do that is just to cut it right down the center. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to expose that center that was previously still together and increase the amount of surface area that we are infusing. So the new surface area that we have is 32 sq. in. Now if you look at the two pieces, the 32 sq. in. gives us a lot more surface area for alcohol to interact with the infused the material. And what’s going to happen is that extractions will be a lot faster. So the amount of surface area that we have increased just by that one simple cut is 33%.

So let’s take a better look at our example here. So we’re infusing lemon peels into vodka. And the thickness of the lemon peels is not very thick at all. So can’t really cut it in half lengthwise, and even if you did it on the width, it doesn’t really expose a lot of more of the surface area here. Now we could also do even smaller cuts, like a julienne or small dice but it’s not really going to add a lot to the overall essence of the infusion. They will start to add up after time, but the easier thing to go about this is simply to just add more material. So in this case, adding more lemon zest will make the infusion happen faster. So here’s an example: just by adding more material to it, it cuts down the time from three (3) days with one (1) lemon to one (1) day with three (3) lemon skins, and it achieves the same goal. Now, let’s take a look at if we hold all the other things constant. So let’s say we have the one (1) lemon for five (5) days or the three (3) lemons for (5) days. The overall lemon quality and the lemon flavor is going to be much more pronounced after the end of five days. Now just to make it simple: the amount of flavor that you can extract from a material is going to be much higher the higher the mass of the product is. So very simply, the more lemons you can put in this, the higher the extraction, the more lemon-ification is going to happen.

Now a few things to keep in mind while you’re monitoring you infusion. The first thing is the color. On the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see the infusion that we served a couple of weeks ago. And on the right hand side, you will see the infusion where it is now. It’s only been a matter of two weeks or so but the color has finally reached the point where I want: a nice rich golden color and it’s definitely extracted the flavor and the color that I want. Now one of the other things to consider while you’re monitoring your infusion is the overall aroma of it. So you should be able to smell the essence of what you’re infusing pretty immediately. And it definitely smells like lemon oil and lemon zest right away. One of the other things that you should keep in mind and be monitoring daily is just the overall viscosity of it. When I look inside this infusion jar, I can see the lemon oils kind of coalescing on top of the surface area and I know it’s extracting a lot of the lemon oil from the peels, so I know that it’s doing its job and it’s doing its work. The last thing obviously that you’re going to want to do is to taste your infusion. You’re going to want to taste this daily because some of these infusions can go pretty quick. So every time you stir, you should be tasting it and kind of get a general idea of where it’s headed. So we’re going to taste this final batch right now and make sure that it’s kind of where we want it to be. So right away I’m smelling the lemon before me even tasting it, which is going to be great when it comes to the final cocktail. And now the lemon is bouncing off the vodka and running it out nicely. And the flavor don’t go out for quite some time; I’m actually still tasting the lemon and it’s kind of still hanging on, so it’s definitely nice and rich and kind of where I want the extraction to be. So I’m going to go call this one finished.

Now that we’re doing infusions, I highly recommend that you take detailed notes. This is one of the things that I wish I had done earlier in my bartending career – take better notes on infusions. Some of the information that I would write down is:

 

  • When did I start the infusion and when did I end it? (For example, January 1 – January 15th.
  • What type of alcohol did I use? What brand? How much of it? What was the Proof on it? You want to get as specific as possible.
  • I have 15 lemons in this jar. I would actually write down the weight of the lemon zest that I put in there. 15 lemons can be very different sizes so I would actually write down the weight of the lemon skins that I put into the infusion.

The idea is that you want to be able to replicate this recipe over and over again. So the more information you have, the better. If you are infusing in an environment with drastic temperature changes, I’d write down the average temperature in your notes as well.
If you’re on ABarAbove.com, you’ll see under this video I’ve included a link to some notes I like to use when I’m using Infusions. If you’re on YouTube, I’ll put a link at the bottom of this video. If you look in those notes, you’ll see an area dedicated to “what would I do differently”. The reasoning behind it is, once you filter this infusion out – that’s it. That’s all you get to do with it. You’ll start to create cocktails with this infusion, and this is where those notes will be valuable.

Let’s say you start making cocktails with the infusion and the lemon essence is 25% too much. You’re tasting way too much lemon. In your notes, you’d say “decrease lemon by 25%” (or increase by 25% if that’s what you’re going for.)

Some of the other things I’d put in there might be – how can I modify it? If you want an herbal note to it, maybe you add lemongrass or lemon thyme to your infusion. The idea is that every time you make these notes and every time you make an infusion, it becomes better and better and more refined. So at the end of the day you have a really great infusion that you can take wherever you go.

So Infusions, as I said before in the first episode, are a building block to mixology. The concepts that we’re learning now are going to become very valuable as we move through our career and get more skilled at what we do. So for example, what I’m going to do now that I have this lemon infusion, is I’m going to drain this out, separate the solids, and I’m going to make a liqueur out of it – I’m going to actually turn this into Lemoncello. I’ll show you how to do that later, stay tuned for that.

A couple examples as we progress through our development here are that infusions can be used to create your own bitters, tinctures, your Amaros. These are all concepts that rely heavily on the knowledge we gain here in infusions. So it’s a really important concept to know. The details and notes we are taking now are a great habit to get into.

So like I said, I highly recommend you take as detailed notes as possible. So stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted and we’re going to learn as much as we can together.

I just have to say, I’m very thankful you guys are watching and I’m very happy to give you as much information as I can. So have a great shift, Cheers, and I’ll see you next time.