Infuse your liquors like a pro with summer’s fresh produce

WASHINGTON – Headed to the farmers market this weekend? Sure, you can pick up some staples for dinner, but you can also find some ingredients for a refreshing summer cocktail.

Food lawyer and expert Mary Beth Albright says there’s no need to pay a ton of money at the bar for a fancy infused beverage. You can infuse your own liquor at home with produce from the market — and she swears it’s easy.

First, start with a “middle of the road” liquor.

“You don’t want to get anything too expensive because you’re going to be flavoring it, and you don’t want to get something too cheap because with cocktails, as with food, the fewer ingredients you use, the more important it is for the quality of the ingredients,” Albright says.

Next, chose your infusing ingredient of choice. Here are some items Albright recommends:

  • Cherries: Soak grilled cherries in brandy for a smooth and flavorful drink.
  • Black raspberries: For another seasonal drink, infuse vodka with black raspberries. “Vodka’s a clear choice for a liquor because it’s so clean tasting,” Albright says. “If you use black raspberries, it takes on this gorgeous purple color. You serve that on the rocks with some lime and you’re done.”
  • Peaches and fresh ginger: “Peaches and ginger are so good together,” says Albright, who recommends mixing the two ingredients with vodka. “That makes a fantastic cocktail.”
  • Watermelon: No, Albright is not recommending you relive your college days by sticking the bottle of vodka in the side of a watermelon. Instead, soak the watermelon in vodka for a refreshing summer beverage.
  • Jalapenos: The jalapenos you purchase at the market don’t just have to top your quesadillas. Next time you have some spare peppers, soak them with tequila for a spicy twist on a margarita. Another idea for a twist on your margarita is a mango-infused tequila.
  • Pineapple: Can’t make it to the tropics for the weekend? Bring the tropics to you. Soak pineapple in rum for a drink that begs for an umbrella. After it infuses, Albright says to add a splash of coconut water to make a low-calorie pina colada.
  • Fresh herbs: “One of my favorites is rosemary with vodka,” Albright says. To make this, take a couple sprigs of rosemary and soak it with vodka.

Here’s how you get started with the infusing process:

  • Prep the fruit or herbs: If the fruit of choice has a peel or needs to be chopped, do so, and then place the prepped fruit in a jar.
  • Pour the liquor of choice over the fruit and secure the lid. Let it sit in the fridge for a minimum of one day. Albright says the longer the fruit and liquor sits, the stronger the flavor becomes.

    “Taste it every day to see if it’s to your liking,” she says. “And when it’s to your liking, you strain the fruit out and there you’ve got a really delicious thing.”

  • When you’re done with the soaking process, don’t throw out the fruit. Albright says to use the alcohol-soaked fruit as a dessert. “You serve it with some ice cream and it’s delicious.”

Once the flavors are done infusing, Albright says you don’t need a whole lot to make the fruit-flavored liquors into a cocktail.

“The great thing about these cocktails is that it’s not 800 ingredients that you’re never going to again. It’s maybe the actual infused vodka, a little bit of bitters, rocks, some soda and a lime,” Albright says.

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