Friday, July 17, 2020

Homemade Bathtub Gin

It's counter intuitive that a well-stocked spice cabinet can ensure that you have a well-stocked bar. Usually if the two stashes are related, they deplete each other in equal measure, but when it comes to spice and herbal infusions, you can sometimes expand your liquor selection by sacrificing a handful of items that are commonly found in the kitchen.

Bathtub gin or steeped gin is one of the most basic methods of flavoring spirits by infusing herbs and spices in neutral grain spirits like vodka. It is brownish in color and strong on flavor in was that mass-marketed gin is not. Today's gin, which is predominantly flavored with juniper berries, is a clear spirit with a clean dry taste. Modern distillation practices remove solids and impurities of the botanicals added to the mash or percolated in an infusion basket. This process takes a lot of precise equipment that is out of the range of most hobbyist bootleggers.

But a steeped gin, while it takes the color of the botanicals, is an easy, low-tech way to get a refreshing spirit. It's also a fun craft to experiment with and perfect. Outside of juniper berries, you are free to dabble with whatever flavors you want in your gin. Here are a few categories items to consider when making your own gin recipe.

Citrus: Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit are common gin flavors. For the most part you are going to use the peels of these fruits, not the juice, but adding slices of fresh fruit is a surefire way to punch up the acidity and citrus scent of your gin. Feel free to use as much as two to three fruits worth of citrus peels or zests.

Spice: A small but outsize component of gin comes from spices. Just a pinch of these dried flavors go a long way, so use them sparingly. Common gin ingredients include nutmeg, black pepper, allspice, clove, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, and anise seeds or pods. For your first batch, start small. One peppercorn in a whole bottle can have a noticeable presence. A whole stick of cinnamon will blow out your recipe; you won't taste anything else but cinnamon.

Herbs: Fresh and dried herbs add complexity of flavor and even alter the texture of the spirit. You can use more fresh ingredients than spices as they tend to be more forgiving in infusions. Depending on what herbs you use you can make your gin more floral or more savory. Obviously use edible flowers like roses, orchids or lavender if you want floral flavor. Cooking herbs like thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, dill, and basil are a wonderful choices and you can use a lot of them without harming the recipe. Seeds add flavor and texture. I like angelica for body. Angelica is a great unifier: It has a way of tying desperate flavors together. Corriander, fennel, cumin, and carraway, if used in moderation, can keep your homemade gin dry-tasting.

You can make any combination of these flavors and more to make your gin. The sky is the limit! Think outside the box: try a pinch of salt, an unusual spice like masthia or sumac, and play around with unusual berries and barks. Cubeb berries and birch bark, twigs and leaves are often found together in schnapps recipes. They will make your gin earthy.

Proportions: All these flavors above and more are easy to find and great for making gin, but don't go completely wild with your first batch. Overdoing it will only give you a bottle of undrinkable spirits. Start small: try four botanicals and keep your proportions small. Be patient and allow the flavors to infuse over time rather than overcompensating with too much of any ingredient. The recommended proportions below should keep your gin balanced.
  • 1 750-ml bottle of 100-proof vodka
  • 1/4 cup juniper berries (required)
  • any combination of botanicals including up to 1/4 cup of citrus peels or fruit, 1 tsp. total of all spices keeping in mind that anise and cinnamon are strong and should not be a majority of the spice category, 1-2 tbsp. herbs.

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