Cheap liquor and a wide variety of interesting fresh ingredients is the perfect recipe for experimenting with infusions. My first batch of infusions got made into cocktails over the last week and here I’ll document the results.
Christmas in Cambodia
1 Shot Absolut Orient Apple
½ Shot Tamarind Infused Vodka
½ Shot Citronge
5ml Cinnamon Tincture
Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a strip of orange peel.
This was a slightly tricky drink to get the balance right on. I assumed at the outset that I wanted it sweeter and used simple syrup and a cheaper triple sec. In my opinion the drink benefits greatly by moving away from this. It’s nice and complex with the initial apple and orange flavors hitting you first and the tamarind comes in on the finish. While I’m not usually a huge fan of pre-flavored vodka, the Orient Apple flavor from Absolut is quite a nice mix of apple with a bit of ginger. For the tamarind infused vodka I let about 4 whole tamarind pods seep for roughly 6 days. The tincture was made by toasting 4 whole cinnamon sticks and then crumbling them into 500ml of vodka for just about a week. The tamarind, and to a lesser extent the cinnamon, give this cocktail a really nice pale orange color.
2oz Kaffir Lime & Lemongrass Infused Tequila
1oz Triple Sec
1oz Lime Juice
1 Thai Chili, sliced
Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice, including a thinly sliced chili, and shake until chilled. Rim a margarita glass with a mixture of coarse sea salt and chili powder. Strain contents into glass and garnish with a sliced chili.
This is your classic margarita ratio and ingredients with a bit of a South East Asian twist. Getting the infusion right is a bit tricky. Most recipes call for the kaffir lime leaves, but I wanted a bit of the bitterness you get from the zest, so I sliced one whole kaffir lime and used a couple stalks of lemongrass. The trick is getting the lime out before the rind makes the tequila too bitter. I had it seep about two days and was happy with the result. I left the lemongrass in. The tequila has a very fresh, citrusy taste and I really like the contrast that you get by adding the heat from the chili. Like many Thai dishes, this cocktail is all about attaining balance of flavors, and in doing so getting more for the whole.
2oz Fresh Pepper Infused Gin
Fill a tumbler with ice and pour the gin in over the ice, then top up the glass with bloody mix. Stir until contents are well mixed. Garnish with a lime wedge, olives, pickle, and a sprig of fresh pepper.
The fresh pepper from Kampot is known as some of the best in the world. It’s excellent to cook with and it turns out it makes quite a nice cocktail too. You only need to seep the gin with the fresh pepper for a couple days. One of the interesting things with this is the color; the infusion originally takes on the greenish color of the peppers, but then it turns dark black. Black is actually a very rare color for liquor as I found out trying to do Halloween themed drinks one year. The extra peppery taste adds a lot to a Bloody Mary. The real trick in Asia to making a good bloody though has been finding all of the correct ingredients to the mix itself, with horseradish and celery seed being the tough components to collect. If really desperate you can always use some wasabi powder to substitute for the horseradish and sometimes the celery seed can be dropped all together- or you use celery salt or even mince a bit of the top of a celery plant if they are available. Luckily I was able to assemble the ingredients within a day or two of arrival (priorities)!
Other infusions I’ve worked on here are a basil infused Gin, which makes a nice gin & tonic, and I’m working on a tequila infused with roasted chilies that were smoked with bacon. Hopefully will follow up at some point with a recipe to go with that.
This week we get to fly to Phuket to meet up with some friends from Nepal for Christmas, and then it will be back to Phnom Penh overland via Bankgkok. Hopefully I’ll get up to enough fun to have something to post about!