Friday, January 21, 2011

Infusion #3: Winter Rum

I talk quite a bit about infusions on this blog. If you're tired of it, you're welcome to leave, but if you're not, then you're in for a treat, because I'm "turning it up a notch" today.

Over a year ago I decided to see what would happen when I infused fresh cranberries into white rum. The result, obviously, was cranberry rum, and while it achieved a beautiful red hue on the order of Campari, very little flavor was added to the final product except for a nice acidic tartness. I concluded that fresh cranberries would make a great infusion if used along with other ingredients. Today I'm finally running with that idea.

What I'm doing is what you could call a compound infusion, not simply because of how many ingredients I'll be using, but because of how I will be doing it. When I talked about making bitters a while back, I spoke of a conservative method of infusion whereby one infuses alcohols separately and then combines them into a perfect blend via trial and error. Today, I'm using a different technique with the same soul: instead of infusing all the ingredients at once, I will be doing it in stages. With this method, I can halt each infusion handily at the moment when its flavor is perfect, and then continue with the next so as to best balance the combination of tastes in the final product.

I'm going with three infusions this time: dried berries, fresh cranberries, and cinnamon, and I'll be doing it with rum. Why rum again? Because it's what I know best and because it's so versatile. I promise to do a non-rum infusion soon.

I've used Cruzan Estate Light in several infusions, and I'm using Cruzan again this time, but I will be using their Cruzan Estate Dark product. It's really more of a gold rum than a "dark" rum, but its flavor is dry and peppery as opposed to fruity and sweet, which makes it a perfect candidate for the base of a "winter rum".

The first infusion was with the dried berries. I used all natural berries from Stoneridge Orchards, which is a combination of cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries. Infusing dried fruit into your liquor yields a very different result than fresh; the flavors are dark, earthy, and oxidized as opposed to bright and fruity. It also imparts more sweetness than usual. I put about a dozen berries in the bottle of rum, and less than 24 hours later, I decided it was already done, and strained them out.

Next up is the fresh cranberries. Like last time, I'll point out that you really need to rupture each berry so that the hollow inner surface area of the berry can add to the infusion.

About 15 crushed cranberries went in, and it was done about 36 hours later. Also like last time, the color of the rum has turned a beautiful red (pictured left), and there is now a tartness that balances out the sweetness imparted by the dried berries.

Lastly is the cinnamon (pictured right). Using a whole stick of cinnamon (and not the ground stuff) guarantees the cinnamon's quality and ease of extraction, and trust me when I say that shortly after being put into the rum, the stick unfurls and allows the liquor access to its whole surface area. As you can see, the berries so far have soaked up quite a bit of the rum that we won't get back. So sad!

The cinnamon only needed about 24 hours to impart what I wanted. The Winter Rum is complete (pictured left). The final result is interesting in that all of the infused components can be tasted individually in the rum. It has a very warming characteristic to it, which I suppose was what I was going for. The dried berries give an underlying sweetness, the cranberries lend a tartness that keeps the rum from being too boring, and the cinnamon applies an overall earthiness that really gives the rum its warmth. I'm satisfied with this experiment, though I would have wanted to infuse the dried berries for less time. For any of you trying something similar: go easy on the dried fruit.

You could use something like this in almost any application of spiced rum, or even in the stead of any gold rum to add a decidedly wintry spin on any cocktail. My application will be simpler.

Winter Rum & Ginger

2 oz Winter Rum
2.5 oz ginger ale or ginger beer
1 dash aromatic bitters

Combine ingredients over ice in a tumbler.

Next time you're at a bar where you don't trust the bartender, order a spiced rum and ginger ale; although cola is more traditional, I find that ginger ale better complements spiced rum, whereas I feel cola simply trounces it. Ginger ale is also well mixed with any old decent gold rum. Try it next time when you're out of ideas on what to make to drink.

This rum combines very well with ginger ale. The dried fruit flavors and cinnamon go especially well with the aromatic bitters. The concoction is pictured above in a beautiful gold-rimmed glass (of 4) that I found at an antique shop. The outsides (and insides) of the glasses are curiously adorned with miniature reproductions of pages and ads from old Montgomery Ward magazines.

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