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How to make Your Own Gin Infusions

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Food historian and professional cook, Seren Hollins prepares some tempting gin infusions.

Gin has a history. G&T may today seem perfectly civilised, but the idea of a ‘gin drinker’ sounds slightly seedy, and the term ‘mother’s ruin’ is still commonly used to describe this drink currently enjoying a huge and fashionable resurgence.

To say gin was popular is an understatement; in London there were more than 7,000 ‘dram shops’, and 10 million gallons were being distilled there annually. It became associated with deprivation and depravity; the favourite tipple of the poor, gin rendered men impotent, women sterile, and became a contributory factor in the Capital’s birth rate being exceeded by its death rate, hence the nickname ‘mother’s ruin’. Shocked, the government raised taxes on gin, but this merely created an immense black market and did nothing to stop the supply or demand.

In 1736, a Gin Act forbade anyone selling ‘distilled spirituous liquor’ without a licence costing £50 – a fortune at the time! In the following seven years only three licences were taken out, yet the gin kept on flowing. A halt to the excesses was eventually called, but the bad image lingered well beyond London’s crazed gin epidemic.

Almost 300 years later gin has cast off its dubious image and become the bartender’s darling. In common with craft beers the world of gin has expanded, changing dramatically over the last decade, and new-found popularity has resulted in around 200 different gins to choose from in the UK.

Gin must be made from alcohol of agricultural origin ‒ usually cereals ‒ flavoured with a noticeable amount of juniper, and have an ABV of at least 37.5%. As regards other ingredients, there’s immense scope for experimentation. Producers now flavour it with anything from citrus peels, coriander seeds, milk thistle and tarragon, to ginger, orris root, saffron and cinnamon.

When choosing a gin it’s worth checking out the botanicals, and knowing a little about styles. London Dry gin doesn’t have to be made in London, but botanicals can only be added during distillation, and it contains barely any sugar. Plymouth gin is similar, but can only be made in Plymouth. If a bottle doesn’t mention a style, botanicals may have been added after distillation along with sugar or sweeteners. This type of gin and ‘Old Tom’ style (historically made with liquorice) may suit you better if you have a sweet tooth.

I love a tipple of gin, and whilst I don’t have the ability to produce it from scratch, I enjoy making infusions such as cranberry gin or even Turkish delight gin. Let me guide you through the infusion process, but I take no responsibility for sore heads.

WHAT HAPPENS AS YOUR GIN INFUSES?

Two things happen: the flavour of the fruit/botanicals are infused into the gin, and the sugar dissolves into the gin, taking the edge off any tartness and making it sweeter. These processes can be played around with to make a variety of different infusions for any occasion. It takes less time for flavour to infuse from botanicals and herbs than from a blackberry, as the flavour is more intense ‒ this means the best rule is to use plenty of fruit and give it a generous amount of time to infuse, but be on red alert with strong botanicals such as star-anise, chillies and cinnamon.

I caught up with gin maker extraordinaire and award-winning bartender, Mark Barrett, who originally introduced me to saffron gin, and who can usually be found concocting and mixing drinks at Cringletie House, in Peebles. He kindly gave me his top tips for flavouring gin at home.

MARK’S TOP FLAVOURING TIPS
  • Make sure the container you use is clean and sterilised. Lower-sugar recipes and processes make it a perfect place for bacteria to grow. I recommend using something like Milton sterilising fluid.
  • Use a glass container ‒ it’s both see-through and easier to clean and maintain.
  • Make sure your container has an airtight lid and ample space to house your infusion, with room for stirring or shaking.
  • Use a neutral-flavoured gin.
  • When using fruit or veg, freeze it first. As it thaws out in the sprit the proteins that hold it together are weakened, allowing for a better, purer flavour with less sugar used.
  • Be sparing when adding sugar ‒ you can add more, but you can’t take it out.
  • Find somewhere with a constant temperature to store your gin infusions, and keep them away from direct light. Too much heat or light will spoil your brew before you even get a chance to enjoy it.
  • Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make any flavour you want; you never know what will work. I made an amazing Red Snapper with a smoked bacon gin.
SEREN’S TIP!

There is really no need to stick to gin. As long as the alcohol content is around 35% or above, then fruit can go in and you can make an infusion, so you could try quince vodka, Seville orange whisky or sloe rum.

HOW MUCH SUGAR SHOULD YOU USE?

Bear in mind the sugar content or sweet/tart nature of the fruit you are using. Blackberries have a high sugar content so add less sugar, whereas gooseberries and sloes are tart and require more. A 3:1 ratio of alcohol to sugar makes for a sweet end result that suits most palates. Use whichever sugar you like, but dark sugars need more time to mellow and will influence the colour of your infusion.

Use an airtight container to create infusions. I’ve used Kilner jars, old jam jars, large pickle jars and demijohns. You then simply put all the ingredients in it, give it a good shake and pop it in a cool, dark place. Check it after two or three days by tasting a small amount. Make any amendments needed to the alcohol to sugar ratio. Do this again after two weeks, one month, then three months, and if at any time you really like the taste, strain the contents through muslin into a sterilised bottle and the process is complete.

SEREN’S TOP THREE GIN INFUSIONS
TURKISH DELIGHT GIN

Ingredients

  • 750ml gin
  • 100g rose-flavoured Turkish delight, chopped
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 280g white sugar

Method

1              Place the rose water and Turkish delight in a Kilner-style jar together with the sugar and gin and give it a good stir.

2              Store it in a cool, dark place and shake it every day for 1 week.

3              Sample after 7 days, adding more sugar if necessary.

It should be ready to go after 2 weeks, and is delicious served on the rocks. I have also tried lemon and mint Turkish delight and both work well, but don’t take on the colour in quite the same way.

MARMALADE GIN

Ingredients

  • The peel of 4 Seville oranges
  • 225g granulated white sugar
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 star-anise
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 750ml gin

Method

1              Carefully pare the orange rind (avoiding the bitter pith) and place in a Kilner-style preserving jar.

2              Add the cloves, star-anise, cinnamon stick and the sugar, then pour in the gin and stir.

3              Leave in a prominent place for a few days and shake every morning and evening to dissolve the sugar.

4              After 1 week store in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks, then decant into a bottle.

I kept a bottle of this for 2 years and it improved greatly with age.

PEAR AND CARDAMOM GIN

Ingredients

  • 750ml gin
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 6 pears, cored and diced
  • 1 vanilla pod

Method

1              Place the pear flesh, cardamom, vanilla and sugar in a Kilner-style jar, then pour over the gin, stir vigorously and seal.

2              Place it in a cool, dark place, remembering to shake twice daily for 2 weeks.

3              After 2 weeks, leave it to infuse for 1 further month, before sampling and adjusting the sweetness.

SEREN’S TOP TIP

You really can use just about any fruit by repeating the above recipe. The kiwi fruit gin in this photo took just 2 weeks to become a deep vivid green.

The following may provide additional inspiration: www.cringletie.com, www.brightongin.com and www.thetroublewithhusbands.com – a cocktail blog. Visit Visit www.serenitykitchen.com to find out more.

Posted in: Home Brewing

1 Comment on "How to make Your Own Gin Infusions"

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  1. Joanna Kozlowski says:

    Hi
    I have a question if that is ok?

    Re the Marmalade gin – does it have to be Seville oranges? particularly as they are not available all year round.

    I am a ‘virgin infuser’ and am doing a lot of research – many recipes don’t use sugar and many do. What is the benefit of using sugar? I would be very interested to know! is it that they can be drunk ‘neat’ rather than with a mixer?

    my own ‘off piste’ infusions don’t use any sugar and they taste good – not bitter/sour.

    Loving the sound of the Turkish Delight gin!

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