On a recent Friday afternoon, we were lucky enough to hang out at the local distillery of our neighbors Belle Isle Craft Spirits which is just a block from Ledbury headquarters. We met with Gregg Brooks, Belle Isle’s Director of Production who is the evil genius behind those flavors you can’t get enough of like Honey Habanero and Ruby Red Grapefruit. We took a peek in their tanks, sipped some 'shine, and let Gregg school us in infusing spirits with unexpected flavors like peanut, carrot, and fennel.
The real purpose behind these particular infusions was to show you just how easy it is change the flavor profile of a neutral spirit like our product. I love the mixology craze and how it's totally changed the game in the spirits industry, but at the same time not everyone understands the complicated ingredients, flavors and textures that go into a well-crafted cocktail. For a lot of people, especially those making drinks in their homes, the practice of measuring out four or five ingredients into a drink is a daunting task. These infusions and cocktails were created with those folks in mind, making the construction of the infusion and drink simple, yet still providing a very complex flavor profile in the end.
These are all infusions and drinks that any novice spirit enthusiast could create from the cozy confines of their kitchen counter, and all of the ingredients can easily be found at any liquor outlet or grocery store. The hardest part is being patient and giving the bottles time to infuse. All of these infusions used Belle Isle 100, mainly because I think the boozier the better. The standard 80 Proof will also work in all of these, as would any vodka. (But you didn’t hear that from us.)
Peanut Infused Belle Isle 100
16 oz of Belle Isle 100 in the bottle or in any other glass vessel
1/4 to 1/3 pound of unsalted peanuts in the shell
Remove peanuts from the shell and discard the skin completely. Heat the shelled nuts in a skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring regularly. This lets the oils seep out slowly. Remove quickly from pan and allow to cool completely. Once the nuts have cooled, place them in the vessel or bottle with the spirit. Place the bottle in a cool dark place for at least 2-3 days, with a maximum of 7 days. Remove nuts after that, spirit will be fine for many months. There may be a little peanut sediment in the bottle. Yes, the infused peanuts are edible.
Carrot and Candied Ginger Infused Belle Isle 100
8 oz of Belle isle 100
One small to medium sized carrot, freshly grated and peeled
3 to 4 one inch chunks of crystallized ginger
Place the spirit and the ingredients in a bottle or vessel and let sit in a darker room for 4-5 hours. Strain the spirit out and discard the ginger and most of the carrot. Save a few strands of carrot just for garnish for the cocktail. There will be sediment in the spirit.
Pear and Fennel Infused Belle Isle 100
12 oz of Belle Isle 100
1 fresh pear (We used the standard Bartlett varietal)
1 fresh fennel bulb
Slice and pit the pear. Chop the fennel down to the length of the vessel. Include the frond, stalk and part of the bulb. Place all of the ingredients in the bottle or vessel and store in a cool dark spot for 4-5 days, with a maximum of 7 days before removing the pear and fennel. There will be pieces of fennel in this unless you filter the spirit. I like having a few pieces of the frond remain just for the visual aspect, but feel free to filter completely.
Planters Old Fashioned
2 oz ounces of peanut infused 100
Bitters (Angostura, preferably)
1/2 oz of honey syrup (1 part honey, 1 part hot water stirred until the honey dissolves)
In a mixing glass combine spirit, 3 to 4 dashes of bitters and honey syrup with ice. Stir for 10-15 seconds. Strain and pour into a rocks glass over one big cube or 3 to 4 medium sized cube. Garnish with an orange peel. Tip: Good ice is your friend. Bad ice that is too small or too wet can melt quickly and ruin your drink. Invest in ice molds for your house. You'll thank me later.
The OG Mule
2 oz of Carrot and Ginger Infused 100
Your favorite ginger beer (We used Reed's Ginger Brew)
Pour 2 oz. of the infused spirit into a collins glass over ice. Top with Ginger Beer. Garnish with an orange peel. Optional garnish with the carrot strand. This infusion is also great on it's own, just on the rocks or with a splash of soda.
The Fennel Pearing
2 oz of Pear and Fennel infused 100
1/2 oz of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/4 oz of simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water boiled until the sugar has dissolved)
In a shaker place all of the ingredients with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Double train and pour into a Coupe. Optional garnish with a small piece of fennel frond.
Fun, simple and easy. There's nothing pretentious about any of these. The infusion recipes can all be adjusted to make larger or smaller batches.
Words and recipes c/o Gregg Brooks of Belle Isle Craft Spirits. Photography by Kate Magee.