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I’m not sure how to feel about this. Angry, dismayed, or simply confused. I’m not angry about this lovely book. I’m angry that I remember just yesterday buying it brand new and loving it, and now I look and “yesterday” was 2006. Where did all the years go?

And why haven’t I used this book more. I did make Mango Tequila a couple of years ago, put it on a shelf and forgot about it. Forgot it. I dug it out last month when I was looking at Shrubs. And then I created the world’s best cocktail, a Mango Tequila Strawberry Pepper Shrub Wonder. Well, it is the world’s best strawberry cocktail, of that I am sure.

There is a little story here, but bear with me. It has a purpose. In Manhattan, liquor stores are small, a few hundred square feet, maybe a thousand. Rents are high and the shelves tend to be packed with small selections reflecting the owner’s particular preferences for wine and spirits. Go to, say, Knoxville, and you find stores the size of football fields. Hugh, gargantuan stores with long aisles and high shelves all packed.

Now the wine shelves are easy to fill. The world is awash with wine. Rather than insult their customers with only a couple of Malbecs from Australia, these stores will have twenty Malbecs from around the globe. Stocking wine is easy.

On the spirits side, things get more complicated. There is vodka, plain, simple vodka. But now you find a bazillion other ones, too: strawberry, pepper, grapefruit, … And the same holds for the rum section and even now you find “flavors” creeping into the bourbon aisle.

I don’t want to issue a blanket condemnation, but I will. Most of those flavored spirits are bad. The flavors are artificial, not refined, and not sophisticated. The one exception? The orange liqueurs like Mandarin Napoleon that have decades or centuries of refinement.

And that, at last, is where this important book Infused comes into play. Do you want a serious mango tequila or a smoothly punctuated vanilla bourbon or a refined watermelon tequila? Really lovely, balanced, intense delights?

Then you need to turn to Infused which has 100 + recipes both for these flavored spirits and for lovely cocktails using them. The flavoring recipes let you pick your base spirit, typically vodka, rum or tequila — although there are times when brandy or bourbon or other spirit options are suggested. Then to that base spirit, you have recipes for a wonderful, lifetime spectrum of flavors:

  • Berries: currants, black, blue, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry
  • Apricot, Peach, or Pear
  • Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, or Tangerine
  • Coffee, Tea or Peppercorn
  • Cucumber, Fennel, Anise or Rhubarb
  • Elderflower, Lavender, Rose, or Violet
  • Gazpacho or Onion [I haven’t had the courage yet but I’m getting there]
  • Basil, Mint or Rosemary
  • Mango
  • Pumpkin
  • Toasted Nut
  • Truffle
  • Vanilla
  • Watermelon
  • Kjmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Oh that last odd flavor? Cat on my keyboard.

It’s very hard to explain the difference here between homemade and store bought. The quality you can achieve at home is really exceptional, and all it takes is some slicing and pouring. It’s easy!

In some cases, like the Mango Tequila, you probably can’t even find one to buy. You have to make your own, but that’s just further incentive to get into the spirits business. Or spirits hobby. I don’t want to violate any state or federal regulations here.

Most of these recipes require a month or two of time for infusing and then further aging before you can enjoy them. But enjoy them you will. If you love cocktails and spirits, then Infused is a book you want to explore and experiment with.

Today’s recipe post is, in fact, one of the cocktails from this book: a Vanilla Julep made with Vanilla Bourbon. Yes, of course, the recipe includes the directions for making that flavored bourbon. You need to get started right away though because this bourbon takes two months to be ready to drink. You can have your Julep in August, and I hope you savor it.