Before you turn tail and run—with memories of appletinis past nipping at your heels—let’s get something straight: Flavored liquor and infusions are two very different animals. And while we’re with you on that abiding aversion to all manner of booze sullied by Dow Chemical’s finest “natural” flavorings, a properly infused drink is a truly great thing. From classic limoncello to bacon bourbon to jalapeño tequila, the combinations are pretty much endless. Luckily, the principle of preparation remains the same. Here, a quick guide to the ins and outs of each stop along the way.
1) Get liquor.
Because it’s clean and clear, vodka’s pretty much the go-to base for most infusions, but gin, sake, and light rum are all good bets, too. Darker drinks (bourbon, brandy) and more flavorful options (tequila) call for a more considered approach with the ingredients. For the sake of the next step, transfer from the original bottle into a mason jar or something similar.
2) Add stuff.
There’s a whole wealth of options on this front. Fruit’s always good. Herbs and spices are great, too. The aforementioned peppers and meats are trickier, but if you pull it off properly, you’re rewarded in kind for the extra effort.
3) Let sit.
Generally, you’re looking at 3-4 days for ingredients with stronger flavors (coffee) and up to 2 weeks for the less intense ones (mint). Shake a few times, and a word to the wise: Unless you’re looking to sear your insides, diced hot peppers only need a couple of hours.
4) Remove stuff.
Not exactly rocket science here, but this stops the infusion of flavor. If you want to let the ingredients sit, go for it, but the taste will get more intense the longer it sits.
5) Strain bits.
Unless you want your cocktail chunky-style (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
And enjoy. Cheers!