During our trip to the Seychelles in 2011-2012, we discovered an incredible spiced dark rum made by the local Takamaka Bay distillery. With its strong vanilla hit, this rum was something new to me, and got me thinking a bit about how alcohols are flavoured. When we got home—with a few bottles of that amazing rum, I might add—I was inspired to experiment with infusing some of the regular contents of our bar cabinet with some new flavours. Five years and plenty of goof-ups later, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve figured out some halfway-decent recipes.
Here, then, are four easy infusions that you can use to spice up your own bar.
#1 Christmas in a bottle
This one is my first, easiest and most loved recipe, and turns a run-of-the-mill bottle of dark rum into something really special.
- Dark rum (750 ml)
- Whole cinnamon (1 medium stick)
- Whole cloves (2)
Add the cinnamon and cloves to the rum, allow to infuse for a few days, and you’re all set! Shake well, and serve.
- Drinking this with apple juice makes the entire experience even more Christmasy
- Add a teaspoon of chopped orange rind to the rum with the cinnamon and cloves to take this infusion to a whole new level. More on the orange rind in the next recipe.
- Sri Lankan cinnamon has a sharper flavour than the Indian variety, so be careful to choose the taste you prefer.
#2 Hacienda whiskey
This recipe combines two flavours to create what I believe is a match made in heaven: whiskey and orange.
- Any not-too-smoky blended whiskey (750 ml)
- The rind from half a medium-sized Mediterranean orange
Peel the orange and cut as much of the white pith off the peel as possible (you can leave it on too, but it might give your infusion a slightly bitter aftertaste). Chop the resulting rind and add it to the whiskey. Leave to infuse for a few days, shake well, and allow the chopped rind to settle before serving.
- I like drinking this infusion on the rocks or with a dash of soda.
- Once you’re done with the whiskey, you can use the chopped rind as a boozy dessert garnish or as a naughty substitute for currants in your bakery.
- The orange flavour is suggestive of a liqueur, so if you prefer it sweet, a bit of brown sugar syrup will do the trick.
#3 The poor man’s absinthe
This one was actually inspired by Greek ouzo, but takes on a greenish-brown colour from the ingredients instead of being clear and colourless. Great to give your cocktails a hint of anise, or just to drink on its own.
- Vodka (750 ml)
- Aniseed (2 tbsp.)
- Star anise (1 ‘star’ or pod)
- White sugar – optional (4 tbsp.)
Add the aniseed, star anise and sugar to the vodka and allow to infuse for a week. Shake occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Allow the aniseed to settle, and serve.
- My favourite way of drinking this is with soda and lots of ice.
- You can lightly roast the aniseed before adding it to the vodka for a more intense, almost smoky flavour. Allow it to cool before putting it in, though!
- Again, like with the orange rind, you can use the infused aniseed in lots of ways once you’re done with the alcohol. There’s not much you can do with the star anise, though.
#4 Coco Havana
This recipe needs a bit of effort, but it’s all worth it in the end! It takes some of the classic flavours of a good mojito, mellows them out, and rounds them off with a bit of coconut.
- Unflavoured white rum (750 ml)
- Half a fresh coconut, chopped
- The zest from 6 limes
- Fresh mint leaves (1 large sprig)
In about 200 ml of the white rum, steep the mint leaves for two days (any longer and they’ll wilt, turning the rum brown). Meanwhile, add the lime zest and the chopped coconut to the remaining rum. Once the mint leaves have steeped, take them out and combine the two batches of rum. Allow to mingle for another day or two, and serve.
- Put the lime zest and the coconut in the fridge overnight, uncovered, to remove some of the moisture. Otherwise, you might end up with a cloudy infusion, and some scum on the surface.
- Keep the mint leaves on the twig while steeping. That makes them easier to fish out.
- The mint flavour doesn’t last longer than a couple of weeks for some reason, so the quicker you drink this, the better.
Bonus: Lemony twist
To be completely honest, this recipe isn’t mine; I got it from a friend who swears by it (yes, Shyam, I mean you). If you don’t mind the physical exertion, try it for something that tastes remarkably like Limoncello.
- Vodka (1 L)
- The zest from 10 lemons
- White sugar (1 cup)
Add the sugar and the zest to the vodka, and leave to infuse in the freezer for at least a week. Shake occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Allow the zest to settle before serving.
Before you try this…
Before you try out these recipes, remember that your local ingredients will probably be a little different in flavour and intensity from the ones I use, so you’ll probably need to do a little experimentation of your own. My recommendation: start with smaller quantities of everything and work your way up. And once you’ve got your easy infusions right, finish them up in a month or two. Mine don’t keep longer than that, so yours probably won’t either.
Also read: Six discoveries we made in the Seychelles
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