Mixologist Report: Flavor infusion

Sous vide adds punch to Lewiston man’s cocktail recipes


Editor’s note:
The Mixologist Report started in November with a holiday-themed drink from Kris Maxey at Brock’s in Lewiston and continued last month with a sunny cocktail from John Leonardson of Pullman’s Etsi Bravo, to chase away the winter blues. Creations from bartenders at other north central Idaho and southeastern Washington establishments will be featured in coming issues of Inland 360, but this month, a departure. It turns out we have a mixologist closer to home, at the Lewiston Tribune office where Inland 360 is based. Adrian S. Miller is putting his own twist on crafting cocktails, with the help of his favorite kitchen gadget, a sous vide. Here are the details, and some recipes.


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You know Adrian S. Miller as the friendly face at the front desk, if you’ve come into the Lewiston Tribune office in the past three or so years.


Or, you might remember Miller from his previous job of seven or eight years as a clerk at Smokes & Suds in the Lewiston Orchards, where he helped customers select beer, wine and cigars, while he was earning a degree in English with a minor in Nez Perce language at Lewis-Clark State College.


“I still get customers who come in (to the Tribune) and are like ‘Beer Man!’ because they recognize me,” he said.


What those people might not know is his skills extend beyond choosing a stellar beverage to creating his own.



Miller knows his way around a liquor cabinet, but he’s not using spirits straight out of the bottle. Instead, he’s infusing the alcohol with flavors — from fruity, to spicy to herbaceous — using a sous vide, a device he bought on Amazon about two years ago for a little less than $200.


By gently heating, say, vodka with ingredients such as citrus zests, spices or sweeteners, he creates a flavorful base for classic and experimental cocktails — or a stand-alone drink, in the case of his Honey Apricot-Infused Bourbon recipe below.


He ordered the thermos-sized appliance with the intention of cooking meat, and has since prepared, with universal success, chuck roast, various steaks and chicken wings, as well as hard-cooked eggs.


His favorite?


“That’d be steaks, definitely.”


French for, roughly, “under vacuum,” the sous vide clamps to the inside of a pot, allowing food sealed in a plastic bag and immersed in water to be cooked gently and evenly.


“Essentially it is a machine that will circulate water to a precise temperature that effectively takes away all guesswork for the temperature of your proteins,” Miller explained. “So if you want a medium rare steak, it will be medium rare every time.”


The texture might suffer if meat is cooked too long, but it won’t go past the temperature it’s set for.


“That’s the thing about the sous vide. It’s cooked from edge to edge — there’s no gray band around the outside,” he said. “It’s perfect every single time. No guesswork.”


One of the first liquor recipes he tried was limoncello, from the website seriouseats.com.

“It’s probably the best resource I’ve found on the internet for sous vide,” Miller said.


The lemony Italian liqueur “turned out great,” in a snappy three hours.


“It was the prep that was the devil,” he said.


The recipe called for 10 lemon peels, which sounded easy enough. But it turns out including any of the pith incurs a bitter flavor, so peeling the lemons was tedious.


Still, the recipe was relatively simple, and more than that, it was quick.


“It definitely beats waiting weeks and weeks for something in a Mason jar that you have to shake occasionally,” Miller said.


While using the sous vide is faster than other methods for infusing alcohol (and for some other endeavors, such as quick pickling), it’s more time consuming than grilling a steak or roasting chicken.


“For food, I’d say it’s always a plan-ahead kind of thing,” Miller said.


He’s experimented with infusing vodka and bourbon so far and plans to fiddle with his bourbon recipes before he moves on to other liquors.


“I want to replicate bourbon being aged in wooden casks,” he said.


He’ll do that with wood chips intended for smoking foods like meats.


“My plan is to char them,” he said.


He shares three of his favorite infused-alcohol cocktails below.


From Miller: “I hope that these recipes are just starting points for our audience. Experiment, alter, sample, alter again, sample too much, call in sick for work the next day and graciously share your infusing ideas with me and the rest of the Inland 360 readers.”


Stone can be contacted at mstone@inland360.com.


Infused Vodka


750 milliliters vodka (Miller uses Skyy: “It’s a good just middle shelf. You wouldn’t want to use anything too fancy here.”)

2 celery sticks, halved

1 large jalapeño, halved

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

cilantro

pinch steak seasoning


Seal ingredients in a food-grade plastic bag, such as a freezer bag. Cook 3 hours at 135 degrees in the sous vide. Strain.


Clamdigger


Miller uses 1 part vodka to 1 part Clamato.

“My personal preference is to add just a little splash of dirty, which is the brine of whichever kind of pickled garnish you use — I like pepperoncini,” he said.

He also used a touch of Montreal Steak Seasoning in the version he made for Inland 360 staff to sample.

For garnish, he favors pickled asparagus, olives, pickled jalapeño and a dash of Tabasco.

“I really like how you can mix it up, maybe throw a habanero in there if you like it spicy,” he said.


Grapefruit-Infused Vodka

750 milliliters vodka

Zest of 4 Ruby Red grapefruits (avoid the pith)

Zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime

1/3 cup sugar

Immerse ingredients in sealed bag in sous vide for 3 hours at 135 degrees. Cool and strain.


Grapefruit-Pomegranate-Cilantro Martini


Ingredients

2 parts grapefruit-infused vodka

1 part pomegranate liqueur

About 10 sprigs fresh cilantro, muddled (plus more for garnish)

Optional: Top with tonic water (grapefruit flavored, if so desired)


Directions

Combine vodka and pomegranate liqueur in shaker with muddled cilantro, stir (or shake). Strain and pour into glass. Garnish with cilantro sprig and top with tonic water.



Honey Apricot-Infused Bourbon (Miller considers this one a “great stand-alone drink”)


750 milliliters bourbon (Miller uses Maker's Mark)

6 oz dried apricots, halved

contents of 1 head of a honey bear-style container (Miller figures that’s 3-4 tablespoons)

Immerse ingredients in sealed bag in sous vide for 3 hours at 135 degrees. Cool and strain.


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