The Other Infusion

Why is it we have seen countless vodka infusions, from lychee to green tea, and rarely any other spirit used as the base? Of course, vodka still remains America's favorite spirit, odorless, colorless, tasteless, and adaptable to any flavoring component you might care to throw in it, while other spirits, no matter what you put in them—well, they taste like what they were created to be (maybe not a bad thing). Still, a few fearless Seattle barkeeps have had the courage to infuse ABV (anything but vodka) with some interesting fruit and herbal flavors, and are seeing their handiwork well received with customers who like their spirits to taste like what they ordered. At Fu Kun Wu, the Chinese apothecary-themed bar in the back of Ballard's Thaiku Thai restaurant, bar manager Perryn Wright is infusing gin, rum, and tequila with unusual herbal flavors. Gin infused with the Chinese medicinal herb schisandra and white peony is served with lemon, sugar, and mint in the Radiant Flower ($7), which has "a vaguely grapefruity flavor," according to Wright. Rum gets a shot of yohimbe (reportedly an aphrodisiac and stimulant) and ginseng and poured into a Yohijo (the bar's spin on a Mojito) for $7. Wright said the choice to use herbs as opposed to fruit was a natural as the pharmacy theme tied in so well with the mix. Over at Mirá in Belltown, co-owner Eryn Paull infuses gin with lime in a logical progression from all the lime slices timelessly thrown in gin and tonics over time. The Liza, named after yours truly after I requested bitters in my gin and tonic, is a lime-jump-started G & T with a hint of bitters ($6) that is delightfully refreshing. Paull also wants to do a cherry-infused bourbon. Not everyone has had success with off-the-beaten-path infusions. Greg Conklin, bartender at Duke's Chowderhouse on Lake Union, tried a peppercorn tequila infusion. It was served with pomegranate juice and limes in a Pomegranita ($7.95), but never took off. "I think the flavor is too strong; pepper doesn't work with pomegranate juice," he told me. And over at The Hi-Life in Ballard, where four vodka infusions rotate on a regular basis, forays into other spirit bases have been debated. "We have considered other infusions, like mint for rum," says bartender Justin Mitchell. However, vodka remains "a really easy, very versatile spirit that makes it easy to make an infusion."

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