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How to Make Infusions for Gifts

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The holidays are often a time of scrambling to find "more stuff" that people in your life will want. While we all love to get gifts, sometimes it's the handmade items that we can actually use that mean the most to us. There are many great food gift ideas that meet this criteria, but you can only stand to get so many fruit cakes each year!

As many of you know, I've had infusions on the brain this year, so I decided to make several infusions to give as gifts. I'm also helping one of my friends make infusions to give to all of her friends.

There are many benefits to making infusions as gifts:
  • Easy to make in large quantities
  • Can tailor them to specific people
  • Used over time, so they think of you often
  • Most will last for several weeks, if not months
  • Inexpensive compared to buying pre-made flavored oils and vinegars

When making the infusions, you can use any of the main infusing methods, including traditional infusions, sous vide infusions, whipping siphon infusions, or fat washing. Regardless of the method, or the types of infusions, the process is the same. Here are some step-by-step directions for giving infusions as gifts.

Pick the Types of Infusions

Infused bitters

You have many options on what kind of infusions to give to people, including oils, vinegars, bitters, alcohol, and syrups. I've found that most of the time giving 2 to 3 infusions is perfect. You can mix and match however you want, though to save time it can be nice to choose only a few types that you can make at once and give to all your friends. Also be aware that shipping alcohol can be tricky.

  • Gift Set Ideas
  • Mix Pack: 1 each of vinegar, oil, alcohol or bitters
  • Vinegar Pack: several vinegars of varying flavors
  • Alcohol Pack: a mix of infused alcohols, bitters, or liqueurs
  • Oil Pack: different types of infused oils, using various oils
  • Cocktail Pack: a combination of an infused alcohol, infused bitter, and infused syrup

Pick the Flavors of Infusions

Once you know the mix of infusion types you will be making, it's time to pick the flavors! You can flavor your infusions however you like, and there are a ton of great infusion recipes out there. I've also put a lot of the recipes from my book on this website so you can check them out. Some of my favorites are:

Note: You can make all of the listed infusions using any infusing method except for the Fat Washed Bourbon and Nitrous Oaked Manhattan Chile pepper infused vinegar Mint chocolate infused vodka2 Grapefruit bitters dropper top

Pick the Size of Infusions

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The size of the bottles you use will depend both on the type of infusion and on how much you feel like making. I've listed a pretty standard range of bottle sizes below. For my gifts, I went with the 8.5 ounce bottles for the majority of the oil, vinegar, alcohol, and liqueur infusions I made, with the smaller 2 ounces bottles for bitters. I also used differently shaped bottles for the various infusion types for variety.

  • Typical Bottle Sizes
  • Oil Infusions: 6 to 12 ounces (175 to 350 ml)
  • Alcohol Infusions: 8 to 17 ounces (250 to 500 ml)
  • Vinegar Infusions: 6 to 12 ounces (175 to 350 ml)
  • Bitters: 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 125 ml), preferably an eye dropper bottle
  • Liqueurs: 8 to 17 ounces (250 to 500 ml)
  • Infused Syrups: 4 to 8 ounces (125 to 250 ml)

There are many places you can order bottles from. Amazon.com has a wide range of them. I tend to get the majority of my bottles from Specialty Bottle, who sells both wholesale and to consumers. They have tons of bottle options in a variety of sizes and they usually ship out in a few days. Some people store the infusions in mason jars, which works ok but I always have trouble pouring out of a mason jar without spilling, so I generally spend the extra money for a bottle, even if it's just for myself.

Pick Your Infusion Methods

Infusion methods

As mentioned, you can use any of the main infusing methods to create your infusions. Most infusions can be made with any of the methods, and moving between recipes is easily and something I cover in my book. In general, you can just find a comparable recipe in your infusion method of choice and follow the directions for it, substituting the ingredients for the flavor you want.

When making larger batches, I tend lean towards sous vide infusions due to the increase in speed over traditional infusions, and the ease of making large batches compared to a whipping siphon. While "sous vide" can be a loaded term for many people, invoking images of $1,000 machines, using it for infusions is more similar to "cooking a liquid in a mason jar in hot water", because you don't need anywhere near the precision needed to sous vide food. It's easy to make "sous vide" infusions in a pot of water on the stove, heated to around 140°F to 170°F (60°C to 176°C) and monitored with a thermometer.

Make the Infusions

Cherry vanilla infused balsamic vinegar

Finally the fun part! Prepping and making the infusions is always enjoyable for me, especially when I'm making them for someone else. Just follow the recipe you are making and create the infusion. Once it's done, strain the infusion and bottle it and then it's ready to go!

I always have my wife make a nice label for the bottle. You can use any type of label, I but I usually just use Avery Printer Labels. They stick well and come in rectangular or round, which gives me options depending on the bottle shape I'm using. I also got a Sharpie Ultra-Fine marker set so she has lots of colors.

For oils and vinegars I like to include a pour spout in the package so they can easily get the infusions out.

If you are shipping the infusions, make sure you seal the bottle tightly and securely pack the bottles so they don't break if they are bumped around.

What are the favorite infusions that you have made? Let me know in the comments!