Making a fruit infused gin - what brand should I buy?
September 17, 2013 2:26 PM   Subscribe

My CSA has damsom plums in it this week and I decided to make damsom plum infused gin. Damsom Gin

I am unsure which gin I should buy however. I think it would be a waste to buy a very high end brand since I am going to throw a bunch of fruit and sugar into it, but I don't know if the super cheap stuff would be a good choice either.

If anyone has made this before or has infused fruit into alcohol at all I would love some suggestions.
posted by Julnyes to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You might be better off starting with grain alcohol (or vodka) and making your own gin, letting the plums and botanicals infuse at the same time. See Serious Eats' guide to DIY gin. They talk about some tweaks you can make.
posted by supercres at 2:30 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your instincts are correct; aim for low shelf, but maybe not bottom shelf gin. You're messing with the flavor quite a bit (in a delicious way), so you don't need to rely too much in the original flavor profile.

When I made damson gin earlier this summer, I used some bottom-ish shelf stuff and it worked great.

It's more work, but supercres' suggestion is lots of fun too.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2013

I made a number of fruit infusions last year and found some very helpful resources online. I used mid-range brands: Smirnoff for vodka, Jim Beam for bourbon, and Seagram's for gin.

However, I didn't use any sugar, just the fruit or spice or herb for the flavor. If you want to add sugar, I would recommend searching for "rum pot" (though of course you'd be using gin) and looking at recipes that involve sugar, fruit, and alcohol.

This resource may be useful: Boozed and Infused.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:54 PM on September 17, 2013

New Amsterdam gin is cheap-but-not-too-cheap and fairly neutral on the juniper end.

I'd use a bottle of that.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:54 PM on September 17, 2013

As a good-n-cheap gin suggestion: Gordon's. It's my Collins and porch-swing go-to.
posted by supercres at 3:07 PM on September 17, 2013

Yeah if you're going to infuse gin you might as well make the gin at the same time. Lower priced gins are not going to be a good starting place and higher end gins just waste money because you're covering up the flavor.

If you're going to use vodka, Sobieski, Monopolowa or Smirnoff. They're the best value/quality in vodka. Get whatever is cheapest/available.

For gin, I hear good things about Trader Joe's Rear Admiral Joseph, and I think Monopolowa has a gin now but I haven't tried it.
posted by danny the boy at 3:08 PM on September 17, 2013

I would get a good full bodied Plymouth gin. It has a stronger flavor than your Hendricks' of the world. I use it when making punch or a diluted cocktail but still want that delicious gin flavor. Plymouth brand is not expensive but packs a punch.

And you will need sugar. Plums are so sweet eaten off the vine but get very tart when cooked with.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:18 PM on September 17, 2013

I've made sloe gin a few times and the recipe I use recommends using the strongest gin you can, at least 40pc, or a bit higher if you can find it (usually labelled Export Strength in the UK). And go for cheap stuff - no point splashing out on fancy gin if the taste will be masked by fruit and sugar anyway. Has worked well for me.
posted by penguin pie at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2013

Welcome to the amazingly addictive world of home infusions :)

Cheap gin is nasty tasting and should be generally avoided in all circumstances. I would advise against using gin for this anyway, you'll get a nice clean essence of fruit infusion using a more neutral spirit, and you'll then be able to use this in a lot more circumstances - mix it with some good gin after the infusion if that floats your boat, try using it in mulled wine, sip it straight from the frosty bottle out the freezer, etc. etc.

Cheap vodka or other more neutral spirit (white rum, eau de vie) is absoutely fine for infusing fruit, and is probably your best bet if this is your first attempt.

I only ever move onto using more expensive spirits once I've tried a recipe at least once, and generally stick with cheap stuff for simple fruit infusions anyway. Having made them a few times, I now use more expensive dark rum for spiced rum infusions, and somewhat better brandy (Armagnac) for mock-amaretto style infusions.

If you do use gin I would suggest a mid-price brand such as Gordons; I wouldn't use anything expensive like Hendricks or Plymouth.

I was taught, by some friendly French farmers, no less, that to make a fruit infusion from any kind of soft fruit:

Wash your fruit scrupulously, dry it, stone it in the case of plums or other large stone fruit.

Put the fruit in a wide mouthed preserving jar (I use kilner jars with orange rubber seals), then add caster sugar - up to equal weight sugar to fruit, depending on your taste and the acidity of the fruit itself. Damsons can be pretty sweet so you might not need very much at all in this case.

Seal the jars (no booze yet) and shake them vigorously. The coarse sugar will help grind the fruit up before it dissolves. Leave in a dark place at room temperature for some days; the fruit will start to ferment to a greater or lesser degree. Open the jar once or twice a day to vent gas buildup, then give it another shake. Watch closely for how strong the fermentation is getting, I once left a batch of wild raspberries too long and was (luckily) woken up in the middle of the night by hissing from the cupboard, so only had to deal with some ooze rather than a full on explosion of fermenting berries...

When the fermentation is getting vigorous, add your spirit of choice to fill the jars. The alchohol will stop the fermentation right away.

You can cut out this step and infuse the fruit straight off, but the fermentation, I think, lifts the end product significantly.

Leave in a dark place, shaking once in a while if you remember, for 3 months, ideally.

Coarse strain through muslin / cheesecloth to extract the fruit; leave to settle for a few days and then fine strain very carefully through coffee filter papers. The more times you can be bothered to do this, the clearer and prettier the end product, and, anecdotally, the less of a sore head it will give you the morning after. At this point taste and if you feel it's needed, add more sugar. You can either dissolve sugar straight into the infusion, or if you want it to be a bit less hard-hitting than the 40% spirit you used, use 50 / 50 water / sugar syrup.

If you can resist, put it back in a dark place to mature for another 3 - 6 months (this is why making a different infusion every few months is a great habit to develop, when they're finally ready to drink the effort and time is forgotten and it just feels like a Christmas present to yourself).

The method above can also be used for citrus fruit (I've just finished maturing a bottle of Bergamotocello, which is waiting for an apt occasion to share with people). In this case you have to do a bit more prep on the fruit; if they're waxed, pour over boiling water and scrub them with a nail brush to get the wax off, then zest the fruit in wide strips with a potato peeler, add these and the cut out flesh to the jar. A small amount of pith isn't a problem, but too much can make the infusion overly bitter and quite cloudy.

If you enjoy it and want to try some other infusions, this is one of the best online resources I've found for principles and recipe ideas.

Have fun, and enjoy the fruits of your labour hugely once they're eventually broached!
posted by protorp at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2013 [15 favorites]

Seagrams or Gordons should work well.
posted by newpotato at 4:48 PM on September 17, 2013

Best answer: For damson gin I would recommend a high proof gin. Ideally this means something like Hayman's Royal Dock at around 57% abv. Seagram's Distiller's Cut at 101 proof is good too. Failing that, I would go with Tanqueray if a spice-forward profile sounds good, or Beefeater if a citrus-forward profile sounds good. All these brands are high quality and reasonably priced.

I would not listen to advice to use vodka or neutral spirits, as the whole point is that you are making damson gin. I also don't countenance the idea of using bottom shelf gin, as this will affect the quality of the final product. And for god's sake, don't infuse gin botanicals yourself. What you want is a high proof gin with a strong, traditional profile. Stay away from new-fanged brands, many of which don't taste of juniper (and thus of gin) at all. Also stay away from faintly-flavored "premium" formulations from traditional makers that dial way back on the botanicals to appeal to vodka drinkers (e.g., Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray Ten, etc.).
posted by slkinsey at 4:54 PM on September 17, 2013

Best answer: I see you are in NYC. Get Hayman's Royal Dock (available at Astor Wines and elsewhere). You won't be sorry. Make sure you don't get Hayman's Old Tom by mistake.

A good technique is to freeze the plums, as it cracks the skin for better infusing. Good luck! If you need tasters later, you know where to find me! :-)
posted by slkinsey at 4:59 PM on September 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks slkinsey - I'll pick up a bottle today and the plums are currently in the freezer. If there is any left over after Christmas I'll be sure to send some your way.

Protorp - I favorited your answer for future use. Thanks for the intro to infusion. Those tips may come in handy in the future.
posted by Julnyes at 7:22 AM on September 18, 2013

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