I will never forgot my first herb-infused cocktail. It was a lovely white wine sangria at Chef Jose Garces’s Philadelphia restaurant Amada. Long before he became an Iron Chef, he was a very well respected Philadelphia icon. I didn’t know this at the time, however. All I knew as I walked by it while strolling through the Old City neighborhood was that this was a Spanish restaurant that I had to try. As I sipped the sangria, I wondered what was giving it such a uniquely refreshing quality. It was rosemary. That blew my mind. And it forever changed how I think about cocktails and new cocktail recipes. Seven years later, it now serves as the inspiration for this blog – and ultimately a book – about using aromatics to infuse cocktails in new and delicious ways.
When talking about beverages, infusing just means that an aromatic – an herb, spice, fruit, tea, flower, etc. – is placed into a liquid and given time to impart its flavor. Heat speeds up the process, but is not always desirable or appropriate for beverages we may wish to make. Take sangria, for example. The fruit, as well as the rosemary that I always include, will lend their flavors nicely if left overnight in the refrigerator. On the other hand, if I wish to make an herb-infused simple syrup, I may want to take advantage of the heat, placing an herb into the mixture for awhile before straining and storing it for use in future cocktails. Whatever the method, it is generally preferable to bruise, crumple or crush the aromatic (if possible) in order to release its flavor-intensive oils before adding it to the liquid to be infused.
Infusing presents the cocktail creator with nearly endless possibilities. Some of the recipes in this section use refrigeration overnight, while others use a heated liquid for steeping. They may require a little planning ahead and additional time, but your patience will be rewarded. However, you also will find recipes in this section featuring aromatic liqueurs, which means that the infusion has already been done for you; all you need to do is add it to a few other ingredients. Enjoy!