Cocktail Infusions in a Minute, Not a Month

By Derek Brown
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Thomas Hawk/flickr


Infusing spirits is often a time-consuming affair. You grab your herb, fruit, or vegetable and grind it, funnel it into a bottle, and pick the spirit of your choice. Then you wait, and wait.

Sometimes those choices are more creative, such as when you use bacon or duck fat, where a more complicated process is called for, than stick it in a bottle and come back a week later. And some lucky folks have access to machinery that does the job in a few minutes.

But where is the microwave of infusions, the quick fix available to the masses? Who wants to wait three weeks? Come to think of it, who wants to wait two days? Well, no worries—your dreams have been answered.

But where is the microwave of infusions, the quick fix available to the masses? Who wants to wait three weeks?

While perusing Cookingissues.com, "The French Culinary Institute's Tech'N Stuff Blog," I came across a post by Dave Arnold titled "Infusion Profusion: Game-Changing Fast 'N Cheap Technique" about a process called cavitation, which involves disrupting the cells of the infusion ingredients with nitrogen bubbles. (Arnold has had quite an impact on craft cocktails with two seminars at Tales of the Cocktail on the science of shaking and stirring that he presented with Ebem Klemm and other notable bartenders.)

Arnold relates, "You can infuse flavors into liquor (and water-based things, too) almost instantly with nothing more than an iSi Cream Whipper." An iSi whipper is a siphon that uses nitrogen to create whipped cream and, more creatively, foams. The entire process to infuse a spirit takes a little over one minute. He explains:

When you charge your whipper with nitrous oxide, high pressure forces liquid and nitrous oxide into the pores of your flavorful food (your seeds or herbs or what-have-you.) When you suddenly release the pressure inside the whipper, the nitrous forms bubbles and escapes from the food quickly, bringing flavor and liquid out with it.

As Arnold relates in the comments, it's not that this method completely supplants all traditional infusions. Some of his results didn't work out, and a siphon can't mimic aging, so there are some flavors it can't add. But it seems to save a whole lot of time in most cases, and I replicated his experiment with cacao with great success. Others have tried more complicated processes such as Kaiser Penguin's 5-Minute Falernum. Try your own. Worse comes to worse, you've only really wasted a few minutes of your time.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/08/cocktail-infusions-in-a-minute-not-a-month/62116/