Flavor Added

Infusion embellishes beverages
Lemon infused water
Photo by iStock / Getty Images Plus: Inna Dodor

Infusions add new and exciting flavors to common household liquids without imparting any artificial additives.

If you’ve ever enjoyed flavored craft moonshine or vodka, savored the refreshing taste of water from a pitcher with sliced cucumbers floating in it or dipped bread in a spicy olive oil, you’ve experienced the results of infusing a liquid with herbs, spices or some other flavoring agent.

Infusions exude the essence of the item used, much the way an aroma fills the air; the air is still unchanged but now contains a sensational new scent.

“With an infusion, you take whatever ingredient you want to use — be it an herb, spice, fruit, vegetable or even something like coffee beans — and steep it in your chosen ‘solvent’ for a week or two,” said Audrey Hart, owner of Emerald Coast Olive Oil, which operates locations in Panama City and Destin.

“As it steeps,” Hart adds, “it releases its flavors into the liquid. At the end of this time, the flavoring agent is removed and the liquid is strained to remove all physical traces.”

Et voila! The liquid is unchanged save for the addition of flavor.

Water, alcohol, oil or vinegar are all fantastic starter liquids for infusion. They can be hot or cold, which is useful in the bar and restaurant industry as well as for home cooks.

As popular as it’s become with creatively obsessed mixologists and forward-thinking chefs, infusion is a process that has been in use for centuries.

Historically, infusion wasn’t used to create trendy drinks or elevate the flavor of a simple dish. Infusion was practical and used to preserve food to last through the winter months. Fruits, vegetables and berries were submerged and stored in alcohol or vinegar, which extended their use and prevented spoilage.

As people began to notice the change in taste of these preservative liquids, infusions became a method of flavoring liquids, as well.

And, of course, it works both ways — like how marinating meat in a liquid imparts flavor.

Infusion is being used in everything from making tea and French press coffee to craft beers and wines as well as flavored oils and vinegars — all of which have become incredibly  popular.

“For the process of making infused olive oils, the olives are harvested and crushed to make olive oil, and the infusions — which are all natural flavors — are added to it afterward,” explained Alicja Donlon, assistant retail manager at Bodacious Shops, which includes Bodacious Olive in Pensacola, a local hotspot for all things olive oil and vinegar.

“There are also fused olive oils,” Donlon continued, “which are created when olives and fruits, herbs or vegetables are crushed at the same time, resulting in a very strong and flavorful olive oil. In the case of vinegars, dark and white infused vinegars are also created by the addition of the natural flavor of fruit or herbs and allowed to steep before being strained from the vinegar.”

The traditional manner of infusion takes anywhere from a few hours to several months, depending on the liquid you’re infusing and the flavoring agent you’re using, as well as whether you’re using a hot or cold infusion process.

Cold infusions follow a simple process: Fill a container with herbs, spices, fruits or the flavoring agents of your choice and add enough alcohol, vinegar or oil to completely submerge them, then seal the container and store in a dark location for up to several weeks, shaking it every few days to help the flavors mix into the liquid. Once the liquid has fully infused, strain it into a new container.

Hot infusions, by contrast, are achieved much more quickly and can be done using two main methods.

The first involves boiling the liquid and then pouring it over the flavoring agents before allowing the liquid to steep for anywhere from several minutes to an hour before straining. Examples of this include tea and many vinegar-based infusions.

The second method requires simmering the liquid and flavoring agents together for up to an hour, then cooling them and straining. Syrups, most oil-based infusions and some vinegar-based infusions are created using this method.

Whether choosing hot or cold methods, infusions can add some unique flair to your home cooking experience. 

Flavor Added 3

Photos by iStock / Getty Images Plus: V_Zaitsev

Hot Infusions

» May take several minutes to an hour

» Steeping method: For tea and vinegar-based infusions.

» Simmering method: For syrups, most oil-based infusions and some vinegar-based infusions.


Cold Brew

Photo by iStock / Getty Images Plus: ArtRachen01

Cold Infusions

» May take up to several weeks

» Submerge herbs, spices, fruits or the flavoring agents of your choice in water, alcohol, vinegar or oil in a sealed container, shaking every few days.


Herb-Infused Olive Oil

Infused Olive Oil recipe

Photo by Stock / Getty Images Plus: Svetlana Monyakova


» ½ cup fresh herb leaves (rosemary, thyme, oregano), washed and dried

» Pinch of salt

» 1 cup extra virgin olive oil


Combine ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and warm until mixture bubbles, then cook until oil is very fragrant, about one to two minutes. Cool, then strain. Use a funnel to pour oil into a clean container. Refrigerate and use within a month.

Categories: Drinks, Recipes