Dusting this off from late 2013…. I’d then returned home to Portland to a rather crisp fall, which led into chilly winter bike rides and many lovely hot toddies. Making homemade liqueurs and infusions, while already quite the hobby, was a worthwhile and delicious way to reconnect with the autumn season I’d spent elsewhere. Late stone fruits, amber squash and traditional autumn spices welcomed winter warmth in their own special ways.
I came across this draft of holiday-time infusions and reflected on my most recent, which really, were in the past few weeks. There was a seriously spiced whisky with cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom / Our requisite Bloody Mary supplies / Candy cane, cacao nib and vanilla bean vodka for hot cocoas / and nearly always on-hand was my go-to, a straight up infusion of mid-range whisky + Thai cardamom, ready to go. Those aside, with plenty to spare from my summer-before-last fruit liqueur collection and my bitters supply going strong, I haven’t found myself as feverishly infusing as years (and entertaining styles) gone by, but I’ve got plenty of suggestions if you’d like join the time warp. Or really put your own spin on your NYE Old-or-New-Fashioned’s, holiday martinis, morning-afters, or whatever you please.
Here’s a rule of thumb for infusing:
- When you’re dealing with fresh ingredients, such as fresh fruit, go for a 1-2 day infusion, and strain well.
- If you’re using dry ingredients, such as dried cinnamon and cloves, you can be a bit more generous, with 2-4 days of infusing time before straining.
- If you’re using a mix of dry AND fresh, 2 or 3 days is a fine amount of time.
This is a note: All of the following suggested infusion elements are for half a standard sized 750 ML bottle of alcohol. This is because it’s easier to infuse half a bottle and separate an amount ⸺ with a different infusion, while you’re at it ⸺ so, dudes, adjust accordingly if you want to flavor more or less.
Whisky or Bourbon Infusions for Holiday Cocktails
Holiday Spice: chunks of fresh ginger, whole cardamom pods, two cinnamon sticks, orange peel, a few whole cloves
Apple Pie: sliced tart apple (no need to peel), two or three cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves, lemon peel
Cranberry-Apple Pie: same as above, plus handful of fresh or frozen cranberries, pinch of grated nutmeg
Pumpkin Pie: You see where I’m going with this, right? Similar as above, with whole chunks of fresh pumpkin, peeled, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, if you like.
Sweet Potato Pie: Peeled, sliced yams, cinnamon sticks, cloves, toasted pecans, scored vanilla bean, orange peel
Thai Hot Toddy Blend: Peeled galangal OR ginger slices, bruised lemongrass stalk (inner part), cardamom pods, one or two fresh peppercorns, dried red chili (optional)
Sugar Cookie: Scored vanilla bean and lemon peel
Vodka Infusions for Holiday Cocktails:
Hazelnut Truffle: Generous handful of cacao nibs, spoonful of dried coconut, a few toasted hazelnuts, scored vanilla bean
Italian Bloody Mary: A few fresh or dried hot peppers (sliced or scored if fresh), spoonful of whole peppercorns, small sprig of fresh rosemary, one clove of sliced garlic
For Candy Cane Hot Cocoas: One or two broken candy canes, scored vanilla bean, spoonful of cacao nibs, fresh mint (optional)
Raspberry Rugelach: Handful of fresh or frozen raspberries and two cinnamon sticks
Afternoon Tea: Two black OR English Breakfast OR Earl Grey tea bags, lemon peel, fresh mint (optional)
Winter Tropics: Quartered persimmon, two chunks of fresh ginger, orange peel
Swap ingredients and boozes as you see fit, and pour yourself a glass of water while you’re at it. ❤❤❤