FALL INSPIRED SPIRIT INFUSIONS – BACON BOURBON

This is the first week of Autumn and I’m so ready to dive into the new flavors of the season. Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of bourbon so this recipe has become a personal favorite so I’m happy to share it as part of our Fall inspired infusion line up.

I’ve decided to start this Fall season with a series of infusions that will have you enjoying the season’s best flavors: warm vanilla, inviting pumpkin and even savory smoky bacon. If you like the creativity of cooking and combining flavors–and, like me, you mix a few cocktails now and again – then infusions are a great place to play around and have fun personalizing your home bar. So for the next few days we’re introducing a series of fall-inspired spirit infusions (and a few cocktails too!) for you to kick off the season.

Spirit infusions are very simple. You soak ingredients in a base alcohol until you like the taste. Sounds fun and easy, right? Infusions require a waiting time to properly yield the best results and most robust flavors. Get these infusions started now and your patience will pay off in a few weeks.

BACON INFUSED BOURBON

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This combination of flavors is just as delicious as it sounds and the infusion process is simpler than it sounds. With the recipe below and a bit of patience, you’ll be enjoying bacon in your beverage in no time.

TOOLS ::  Large glass container with sealed lid, skillet, mixing bowls (2), cheesecloth

INGREDIENTS :: 
4 slices of smoked bacon (get fresh-cut bacon from your butcher if possible)
750 ml Bourbon

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HOW TO MAKE IT ::

In a large skillet cook bacon until done. Remove bacon slices and set aside. Allow bacon fat to cool slightly. Using a small mixing bowl and cheesecloth, strain bacon fat through cheesecloth to remove all bacon or cooked bits. Once strained, measure out 1.5 oz of bacon fat and set aside. In a large glass bowl combine the bottle of bourbon, reserved bacon fat and 2 slices of bacon.

Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4-6 hours. After the 4-6 hour infusion, move bowl into the freezer and freeze for about 8 hours or until the fat has frozen solid. Carefully remove solidified fat and bacon slices from bowl and discard. Strain the bourbon through 2 layers of cheesecloth back into your original bottle or other storage container.

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The key to all infusions will be to choose a decent quality brand for your base spirit. There’s no need to break the bank for a premium variety, but avoid the cheapest ones because no amount of spice will take away the harshness of cheap alcohol. So get in your kitchen and have fun adding a twist to fall’s scrumptious flavors.

Check out our other Fall Inspired infusions – Spicy Pumpkin Vodka and Vanilla Bean Vodka for more infusing fun!

BUILD YOUR OWN BLOODY MARY BAR

We love a cocktail party and quite frankly Bloody Mary’s are one of our favorite classic cocktails. So why not marry the two? You see, not only do we love Bloody Mary’s because you get away with drinking an amazing cocktail during the daylight hours (no judging here), but we also love that you can add all kinds of delicious, savory and salty mini-appetizers right into your drink! Since Bloody Mary’s provide the perfect opportunity to host a brunch cocktail party, we thought it time to provide a DIY bar with all the key ingredients for you to enjoy this true classic and show off your hostess skills.  Behold: the Bloody Mary Bar.

The secret to a great Bloody Mary Bar is having a lot of options for your guests to choose from. We’ve compiled a list of ingredients we think are essential (and a lot of fun) to setting up the perfect bar. Since everyone likes their brunch cocktail a little differently, you can pick and choose your favorite ingredients to customize your bar to reflect your own personal style.

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Juice
A prepared tomato juice makes it simple to serve Bloody Mary’s to a crowd. We think it’s important to choose a quality juice with good ingredients like real tomatoes, horseradish and spices for the best flavor. If you’re feeling adventurous enough to mix the Bloody Mary juice from scratch, you’ll need a few essentials like lemon and lime juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together in a pitcher, and keep it simple; a basic mix makes an ideal starting point for guests, who can add their favorite flavorings from your bar. We provided one basic version and another pre-spiced version for that extra kick! Since juice is a major part of any Bloody Mary Bar, feel free to play around with V8, Clamato juice (using Clamato makes this a Bloody Caesar!) or other tomato-based concoctions.

Booze
BloodyMaryBoozeMost people instantly think Vodka when they order a Bloody Mary. While this traditional take on this cocktail is fine, don’t rule out other liquors to experiment with. First on the list: Tequila! This version is called a Bloody Maria and it’s delicious. The benefit of building your own bar is that you can put out any base spirit you’d like. Got Gin? Gin works great with Bloody Mary’s. Hot Pepper Vodka? Try it! Think of it as science with tomato juice! Bar set-up tip: be sure to put a shot glass next to each bottle you choose.

Glass Rimming Spices
Everyone knows you need ground pepper on hand for your Bloody Mary Bar, but there is a world of wonderful spices just waiting to perk up your cocktail. Many people love adding Celery Salt to their BM, and we’ve fallen in love with rimming our glass with Old Bay Seasoning which adds a spicy yet smoky touch to every sip. If you want to go classic, make sure to plate up some kosher salt so those salt crystals are nice and chunky.

Spice-It-Up Sauces
A group of delicious hot sauces at the end of your Bloody Mary Bar is a way to help guests enjoy adding that final personal accent on their creation. A group of sauces that range from mild to fiery hot gives everyone the chance to experiment and build a cocktail that meets their spicy preference. Tabasco is an all-time favorite and Worcestershire sauce is simply a must have. From there you can have fun adding any hot sauce that suits your fancy.

Fresh Veggies & Citrus
We’ve seen every vegetable under the sun in a Bloody Mary Bar, but we think Bloody Mary’s simply need a little citrus. It’s an essential element that adds the right balance to the drink. We think the more the merrier (pun intended!) so be sure to have lots of lovely lemon and lime wedges on hand for that essential zing! Another classic and essential Bloody Mary element is the celery stick. Not only do they look beautiful grouped together on your bar, but they provide each cocktail with a fresh swizzle stick! Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes and cucumber wheels are other great additions.

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Pickled Goodies
Take a peek at the photos above for a few ideas on how to stock your BMB with some fun pickled and marinated garnishes that will bring any cocktail to life. Classic items start with cocktail olives and onions, then expand into other varieties like pepperoncinis, roasted peppers, pickled asparagus or even pickled green beans. Let your imagination run free on items in this category because almost anything pickled – we love pickled ochre for example – will work with your Bloody Mary.

Meats & Fish
This is where you can get a little adventurous with your Bloody Mary Bar garnishes. Bacon swizzles are all the rage right now along with pepperoni sticks. We think any way to add bacon to a cocktail is worth trying, so we sprinkled ours with some brown sugar before grilling and highly recommend the combination. For the Bloody Maria, sliced chorizo sausage is a perfect compliment to the tequila. From there you can add in rolled proscuitto, boiled shrimp and steamed oysters to give your BMB the full gambit of protein and flavor.

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FINISHING TOUCHES – Now that you’ve got your shopping list of ingredients lined up, there are a few other things to consider to make your Bloody Mary Bar absolutely top notch fabulous!

Signage
Let’s face it – not everyone knows how to mix a good cocktail. Providing a little direction so guests can easily mix their own cocktail keeps the conversation entertaining and helps guide even a rookie mixologist. We used an old frame and a water-based paint marker to help our guests follow the Bloody Mary making process and the sign became the backdrop for our table so it doubled as decoration! 

Glassware
To serve your cocktails, you don’t need to set the bar up with fancy large glasses that require a lot of juice and ice to fill them. In fact, given how much people will enjoy making their Bloody Mary’s and adding all those custom garnishes, you might consider a glass that’s no bigger than an Old Fashioned. It’s the perfect size and everyone will want to come back for seconds so this controls portion sizes.

Gidget_BloodyMary_Garnish2Serving Containers
When it comes to providing vessels for your pickled goodies and veggies, think mid-size containers. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers for your Bloody Mary Bar, but unifying them with a color or shape helps to showcase the ingredients. Have some fun thinking outside the box and get creative with your containers. We hit up our local thrift store and found these glass containers for a dollar a piece and they worked great!

Ice
You’re going to need quite a bit of ice for all those cocktails your guests will be making! Set up a fancy ice bucket and ice scooper next to your glassware for a special touch. Be ready to keep an eye on the ice and keep it filled at all times. We recommend a few extra bags of ice in your freezer for quick and easy refills.

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Bloody Mary’s are a classic cocktail meant to be enjoyed at a brunch with friends, but who wants to worry about making cocktail after cocktail when each one requires a bit of tinkering to satisfy the flavor preference of each guest? Solve this conundrum without running yourself ragged and still make sure everyone gets a drink they’ll love! Follow the guidelines above and build a memorable Bloody Mary Bar. Your friends will have a blast mixing and customizing their cocktails and they’ll have you to thank!