How could I make rose-infused bourbon?
November 18, 2011 11:06 AM   Subscribe

What's a good way to make rose-infused bourbon? Other liquor infusion recipes also welcome.

I'm getting into liquor infusions and I'm really excited about it. Right now I have a bourbon infusing with tangerine and vanilla bean. I'm looking forward to serving it on Thanksgiving. I'm starting my first limoncello batch soon. I'm starting to think about complex flower and spice layering combinations. I have a feeling this will be my new obsession.

I want to infuse a bourbon with rose petals, but I'm a little stymied on the details. What kind of rose would be good for this and what is the best way to wash it first without losing the oils?

Any experiences with flower-infused liquor would be welcome.

I'm also looking for your general advice about liquor infusing.

I am a biochemistry student so technical explanations and recipes are welcome.

posted by sunnichka to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard that the best-tasting roses are hedgehog roses (Rosa rugosa alba), and I like the way dog roses taste (Rosa canina).

Make sure you collect them from someplace where you're guaranteed no one's been spraying with pesticides, or buy organic. Don't wash your petals; you'll lose a lot of the volatile oils if you wash 'em.

You may find that rose is just too delicate for burbon. I'd go with vodka instead. May I suggest adding cardamom?
posted by Specklet at 11:23 AM on November 18, 2011

I have done infusions of liquor... using cannabis. Not sure if this is up you alley but I assume the rules are the same. Here were my steps and following that tweaks and experiments.

1.) Take plant material, grind up
2.) Open up bottles and add material.
3.) Store bottle in dark, temperature @ 65 f
4.) Gently rotate bottles around once a day, stirring up contents gently
5.) Strain material out once every other week, add more material, or reuse materials. You can use a coffee filter, make sure to squeeze out all liquids from the material during straining.
6.) Depending on strength desired (works even in none cannabis infused liqurs) after 4 weeks strain and store, ready for use,

Now I experimented with different booze and time frames and found the longer you have the material in the booze, the stronger flavor /effects become. My best batch was a two month wait. It had a more complex flavor and very strong effects.

Best of luck
posted by handbanana at 11:30 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't recommend washing the roses first. I think these would work well.

I've done numerous vodka infusions and I always use dried fruit since the flavors are more concentrated. I use giant glass jars, like old-fashioned pickle jars, and just sit them on my kitchen counter. I've done cranberry (delish), blueberry (so-so), dried cherry (delish) and vanilla (also delish). I usually buy a large bottle of vodka (150 ml) and put in a couple cups of fruit. Then I let them sit for at least a week before starting to use. The vodka-infused fruit is delicious in drinks (having been reconstituted with alcohol). The cranberries blended with a splash of Cointreau, lime juice and ice made a very good kind of frozen Cosmopolitan (don't be a hater).

I only used my fruit once. I used the vodka first, ladled out and then when I got to the fruit level, I started using it in blended drinks.

I've never tried any kind of whiskey infusion but you've given me food for thought.
posted by shoesietart at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2011

This place, Spices Inc, came up when I googled edible dried rose petals. It has a little write-up. Since they are used in a lot of middle Eastern cooking, are there any specialty grocery stores close to you to check out? These would probably be a good start since they are grown for spicing foods anyway.

If you want to use fresh, there are places that provide edible flowers. If you want to use your own, that shouldn't be a problem. An old-fashioned variety probably has more aroma. As this article suggests, be sure to only use organically grown flowers.

I have a couple of books on cooking with edible flowers, and will check through them to see if I can find anything relevant.

I see shoesietart has beaten me to that first link.
posted by annsunny at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2011

Most fresh herbs have a much better scent than dried ones, so it might be better to try to use fresh rose petals if you can. Roses seem to me to be more like herbs than like fruit.

Different roses have different scents. I used to grow a wonderful Madame Isaac Perriere rose that smelled like a Damascus rose, so much more wonderful than the hybrid tea roses that are all you can usually find, though those are nice, too. Hybrid tea roses do smell a bit like tea.

Rose geraniums have leaves that are scented a lot like Damascus roses, and are used in most non-synthetic rose perfumes. It might be worth including a leaf or two of that.
posted by Ery at 12:06 PM on November 18, 2011

Below is a recipe for rose-infused gin from a bartender in NYC. His Desert Rose cocktail is excellent, BTW. The trick is that you don't want to overdo it -- it's easier to infuse for a little bit longer if you need to. Less so if you need to "undo" the infusion. So test it periodically to see how quickly it's infusing.

I've done infusions that were only 5 minutes long to get the desired effect (togarashi spice in sake). Ratio, time, temperature, surface area, etc. all play mayor factors in infusion. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Desert Rose
Mixologist Artemio Vasquez of Yerba Buena – New York, NY
Adapted by
February 2010
Yield: 1 Cocktail


Rose-Infused Gin:
1 liter London Dry Plymouth Gin
4 tablespoons dry bud roses

Assemble and Serve:
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce prickly pear puree*
2 ounces rose tea-infused Plymouth Gin


For the Infused Gin:
Steep the dry bud roses in the gin for two hours and strain to remove all solids. Reserve.

To Assemble and Serve:
Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an edible rose petal.

*Vasquez recommends Perfect Puree of Napa Valley.

Overall, to learn more about infusions, here's a very helpful eGullet thread with some pro-bartenders talking about infusions and home enthusiasts reporting results. Feel free to join the community and ask questions.

These slides by Don Lee (PDT, Cocktail Kingdom, Tales of the Cocktail, Manhattan Cocktail Classic) and Alex Day (Death & Co, Proprietors LLC, Chapter & Verse) may help frame your thinking of terms of what makes an infusion work.

Don Lee is better known for his bacon-infused bourbon Old Fashioned recipe. It's a method of infusion known as fat-washing. It's been around for a while in the perfumery business but only more recently applied to cocktails. Note that you DON'T PUT THE MEAT IN THE LIQUOR. Many people think it's literally putting the meat in the booze. Actually the smoky flavor gets infused into the bourbon via the rendered bacon fat.

Being a biochemistry student, you'll probably enjoy Dave Arnold's blog, Cooking Issues. Rapid Infusion (using an iSi whipped cream whipper!). Cocktail Science in General: Part 1 of 2. Cocktail Science in General: Part 2 of 2.
posted by kathryn at 12:23 PM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

A few more links:
On fat-washing
On nut infusions for bourbon

Imbibe Magazine also frequently features recipes with infusions; many of the recipes they print are not available online.
posted by kathryn at 12:32 PM on November 18, 2011

According to this book, "The flowers should be open from their buds but not full-blown." It suggests in a later paragraph that you remove any green parts and cut off thewhite sections at the base of the petals. Another book I have, Flower Cookery, says the white part can be bitter. It also says to wash "thoroughly and gently".
posted by annsunny at 12:32 PM on November 18, 2011

In general for using roses for their oils, there are a few that are specifically perfume roses. They tend to hold their scent better during the rough handling you describe.

Also, pick them first thing in the morning. The rose person I talked to said they lose something like 70% of their oils by 10 am, depending on how warm your day is.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:02 PM on November 18, 2011

Contrary to hardbanana's advice above to "...use a coffee filter, make sure to squeeze out all liquids from the material during straining", I would advise not squeezing any plant matter you're infusing, or squeezing it in a coarser strainer, but then running the liquid through a coffee filter. It may be different if you're trying to maximize the yield of active ingredients from cannabis, but for aesthetic purposes when making limoncello or spice-infused liquors, squeezing the coffee filter will result in particulates passing through, clouding your final product.

I do recommend a 2-step filtration, first removing large particles with a coarser strainer, because Straining limoncello through a coffee filter is slow enough as it is.
posted by JiBB at 1:11 PM on November 18, 2011

I've infused gin with rose petals. I didn't use a particular rose, I just collected a bunch of strongly scented types from the garden I care for. I used fully open blooms, pulled off the petals, and did not cut the white part off as some places suggest. I tasted them first and decided cutting off the white wouldn't make a difference with gin. I picked through them to make sure there were no bugs, and then stuck them in a jar with the alcohol. I think for about a quart of gin I filled the jar half full of petals.
I let it infuse for several months, and then strained it. It was quite powerfully rosy, and made wonderful gin and tonics.

If you have no way of knowing if they are organic, a quick rinse under cold water is not going to remove the oils.

I'm not sure bourbon is the best choice for roses though. I guess it really depends on the bourbon. Myself, I would go with gin, vodka, or brandy over bourbon. Maybe cachaca.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:46 PM on November 18, 2011

Oh, and I didn't have the luxury of picking them with the dew on or whatever: I cut them at work while deadheading roses, put them in a plastic bag, went home at some point and stuck them in the fridge, and then two days later made the infusion. Opening the jar after the infusion was like opening a giant bottle of rose perfume. I think if you're going to be distilling rose oil it probably really pays off to pick them in the morning, because less oil means dramatically less product. With cooking and infusion you don't need to be as hardcore unless you have very few roses to work with.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: These are all great answers and the links provided have given me a lot of research material. Thank you all!
posted by sunnichka at 7:42 PM on November 21, 2011

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