The Cocktail Club's Jasmine Beck is just one local bartender who's turned drink-making into an art form. Charleston's always been a drinking town, but in recent years we've seen a surge in respect for old-school mixing methods with a modern, artisanal twist. Beck approaches each drink like a chef creating a complex dish, blending subtle layers of flavor to achieve an effect that will knock your socks off. She often takes things to the next level by infusing liquors with fresh ingredients, from espresso to beets to habeñero. And although mixing her concoctions is no easy task, infusing liquor is something you can easily do at home.
"It's pretty simple, and you can pretty much do whatever you want as far as preferences," Beck says. "People can infuse whatever kind of liquor with whatever kind of herbs, vegetables, or spices that they want."
Although the options are really limitless, Beck recommends skipping the cheaper brands of alcohol and using at least medium-grade, mild liquor, unless your goal is to blend flavors. As for what to mix in, try to avoid anything too pulpy. Some solid combinations include bourbon with apple, cucumber with vodka, and coffee beans with rum. Working in small batches allows you to be creative with more experimental flavors like bacon, rosemary, or hot peppers.
"Don't be discouraged if you do something and it doesn't turn out perfect," Beck says, remembering a failed attempt at Kalamata olive-infused vodka. "It turned out so strong," Beck says. "I really had a hard time selling it."
• An airtight container (Mason jars work well)
• Herbs, spices, fruits, and/or vegetables
1. Wash and prepare your ingredients. For citrus fruits, use the zest for a stronger flavor and avoid using the pith. Slice larger fruits like beets or apples for faster infusion. Avoid using skins of fruits or vegetables that have bitter flavor.
2. Pour the liquor over the ingredients, making sure to cover them completely so as to avoid oxidation, which can ruin the flavor.
3. Store in a cool, dry place and agitate, a.k.a. shake, once a day.
4. Citrus or herb infusions should take no more than two days. More solid fruits and vegetables will take longer.
5. When you've achieved the desired flavor, remove the fruit and store the liquor in a cool, dark place.
Recipes: Cocktail Club Valentine's Day cocktails
The Jilted Lover
• 1.5 oz. cinnamon-infused chocolate 360 Vodka (two cinnamon sticks infused in one bottle of vodka for at least a week)
• 0.5 oz. Kahlua
• 2 oz. fresh espresso, chilled
• Pinch of ancho chili powder
Shake hard and strain over one large ice cube. Garnish with a cinnamon ancho chili dusting.
• 0.75 oz. white tea-infused vodka (three white tea bags infused in one bottle of vodka for two days)
• 0.75 oz. white Godiva liqueur
• 0.25 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
• 0.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
• 2 oz. Demerara-sweetened white tea
• 1 oz. cream
Serve hot, with a white chocolate shaving and a house brandied cherry.