Easy homemade spirits and cocktails

During the holidays, many people turn to homemade items to help personalize celebrations and gift-giving. If you enjoy holiday DIY, this year why not try making your own holiday spirits? Unique infusions and liqueurs are not only memorable gifts, but they also add a personalized flare to holiday parties.

The mixology pros at Everclear offer some tips for creating your own infusions this holiday season:

* First, realize there are no rules for DIY infusions. Virtually any flavor you love and associate with the holidays can work in an infusion — from cranberries and chocolate to pumpkin and apple pie. You’ll learn through trial and error what works and what you like.

* The basics of infusion are simple: Add the flavor element of your choice to the neutral spirit and allow it to steep (soak) in the alcohol in order to extract the flavor. Steeping may take days or weeks, depending on the flavor element and the intensity of flavor you’re seeking. Generally, the longer an infusion steeps the stronger the flavor will be. Want a subtler flavor? Reduce the steeping time. Once the steeping is done, you use a fine, mesh strainer or cheesecloth to filter the flavor ingredients out of the alcohol. The end result is a clean, flavored spirit.

* The higher the proof of the neutral spirit, the more powerful it is at extracting flavors. A high alcohol percentage makes Everclear perfect for infusions and allows you to extract even the subtlest of flavors from fruit, herbs and botanicals.

* Fruits and spices will infuse more quickly than nuts and roots. Generally, mixologists will steep ingredients separately and mix to taste after filtration.

* Typically, after filtering, mixologists will dilute the mixture with water or a similar liquid; it all depends on the proof you desire and how you’ll be using your infusion.

Once you’ve created your flavored spirit, you can incorporate your personalized infusion into your entertaining by serving up unique holiday cocktails. Kilgore offers some recipe ideas for every kind of holiday celebration:

The various liquors impart a neon and ethereal color, as well as an element of playfulness and great flavor. Pair this cocktail with butternut squash soup or butternut squash goat cheese crostini or bruschetta. Start by making Orange Spice Infusion.

Orange Spice Infusion ingredients:

10 ounces Everclear

10 ounces filtered water

4 ounces 1:1 simple syrup (mixture of water and sugar, you boil it down, or buy it ready at liquor store)

Zest of two oranges

4 cloves

4 allspice

2 cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla bean split

Directions: Steep cloves, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla and orange zest in 10 ounces of Everclear. Use a Microplane grater on oranges to get just the zest. Allow to steep for 24 hours. Strain. Add 10 ounces of water and 4 ounces of simple syrup. Bottle. Makes approximately 24 ounces of 80 proof infusion.

Otherworldly cocktail ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces Orange Spice Infusion

1/2 ounce Creme de Cacao

3/4 ounce Ginger Liqueur (Domain de Canton)

1/4 ounce lemon juice

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake hard. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with candied ginger and or candy corn.

Holiday Highball

This simple-to-make highball is packed with holiday flavors and goes great with a host of Thanksgiving treats, especially turkey and pork. Start by making a Fall Flavors Infusion.

Fall Flavors Infusion ingredients:

10 ounces Everclear

10 ounces filtered water

4 ounces 1:1 simple syrup

3/4 cup chopped Granny Smith Apples

3/4 cup chopped Red Delicious Apple

3/4 cup chopped cranberries

2 allspice

2 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

In food processor or with a knife, chop cranberries and apples. Add all the fruit to 10 ounces of Everclear. Add spices. Give a good shake. Let steep for 24 hours. Strain off and add water and simple syrup. Bottle. Makes approximately 24 ounces of 80 proof infusion.

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