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HOWTO: Infuse Gin In 36 Hours

Herein, I describe all my "secrets" of infusing off-the-shelf vodka to make gin in 36 hours… FOB Gin

Credits: Thanks to The Homemade Gin Kit, from which I obtained the original instructions. My process is essentially theirs, and I can highly recommend this kit both as a gift and as a great way to get started yourself. Thanks also to my loving wife who bought the kit for me for my birthday last April. Finally, thanks to the various websites (links long lost) that provided information, recipe tips, and general instructions.

Disclaimer: It is illegal to distill ethanol without a commercial license in the U.S., even for home use. Technically, it is probably illegal even to infuse commercial ethanol products without a commercial license, because this activity seems to fall under the overbroad legal description of "distilling". Thus, everything here is hypothetical. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

So. Here's how I currently make gin. This is essentially the same method that commercial distillers use to make gin: make some vodka, add some flavorings, and ship it.

Equipment needed:

Plastic funnel
Sieve with standard fine mesh
Extra containers for bottling

Alcohol:

1.75L Hood River Distilleries vodka (80 proof)

You may choose to use a 750mL bottle of vodka instead, in which case cut down the berries and botanicals, obviously. I used to use Portland 88 vodka: 88 proof vodka is arguably better for gin making because it extracts more efficiently. One could fortify an 80 proof vodka a bit with 190 proof grain neutral spirits if desired.

You do not want a particularly expensive vodka: they are often full of additives designed to make the vodka taste better straight, but which disturb the flavor of the gin. Ideally, you are just getting ethanol and water. In blind taste tests, my wife and I could not tell the difference between gin made with $6.50/750mL vodka and $15/750mL vodka.

One advantage to using a glass bottle of 750mL vodka is that you get the nice glass bottle to reuse. However, getting the label off the bottle is painful. I suggest soaking the botle in warm water overnight, removing the paper, and then using adhesive remover to get the residue. Keep the bottle corked while you're working with it, so that nothing bad gets inside. Alternatively, you can buy clean bottles at a brewery supply, as I currently do. Our local brewery supply has both 750mL glass wine bottles and 250mL glass square bottles.

Next you need juniper berries. Juniper berries are the only required ingredient in gin, and usually provide much of the flavor.

7.5g of juniper berries (about 4 tsp or 70 berries)

Put the berries in the bottle using the funnel. Reseal it and wait 24 hours.

Add botanicals using the funnel. Currently I use:

1 tsp dried rose hips
1 tsp dried orange peel
1 tsp dried lemon peel
1 3/4 tsp dried lavender
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
5 allspice berries (1/3 tsp)
1/6 tsp cardamom seeds
1 medium bay leaf

All of the botanicals are available at Penzeys except the rose hips, which are available at a brewery supply. Other botanicals I have on hand and am considering trying include bitter orange peel, grain of paradise and orris root. Most gins have a bunch of coriander seed, but I don't like it. My gin is a bit heavy on citrus-y things: rose hips, orange peel and lemon peel. The lavender is also fairly strong: I used to use even more.

Once you've added the botanicals, seal the bottle with the berries and botanicals in it and wait another 12 hours. Decant through the sieve and funnel into an empty container to remove solids. Try not to disturb the infusion too much when decanting, as the residue looks funny and colors the bottle more. Now sieve and funnel again into the final destination. If you are filling a couple of 750mL bottles, split the first half of the 1.75L bottle into separate bottles, then add the second half: this will give a uniform mix of the top and bottom gin, which are different in color. You will end up with a green or orange tinged beverage. Commercial distilleries would re-distill at this point to clarify, and there are games you can play at home with coffee filters and the like, but I think the color is fine.

Cork the bottles, and seal with black electrical tape; 30mm heat shrink tubing also works, but the only stuff I can find is quite heavy and requires a bit of care to use. See the gallery at the end of this post for an illustrated guide.

Now design a label with Inkscape and print it. Write information about the batch and bottling date by hand on the label for a personal touch. Adhere the label to the bottle with a glue stick. Printing on a laser printer is best, as the fused toner is resistant to water and ethanol. Make sure to give a bit of background color so that the whole label will be covered in toner.

Voila. Gin. Once you get used to it, this will take about an hour of actual work time per batch. Have fun, and let me know what I still have to learn! Fob

Edit 2016-08-03: Updated recipe and instructions a bit, attached images for bottle sealing.

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