Sous vide at home: cocktail masterclass

by Great British Chefs

Think sous vide is all about cooking fantastic food? Think again. Discover how the method works wonders when infusing spirits, transforming classic drinks into modern, innovative cocktails.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Perfect steaks, meltingly tender pork, vegetables bursting with flavour – there’s no end to the success stories of sous vide. But as more of us get our hands on the kit, we’re starting to see the methods work their way into every aspect of food and drink. Cocktails have always been the height of sophistication, but in the past few years the world’s best bartenders have been pushing the boundaries of what makes a great drink, putting as much thought and time into their creations as Michelin-starred chefs do with their menus. Vacuum sealers and water baths are two of the key pieces of equipment helping both professionals and home cooks use their cocktail cabinet in exciting new ways.

In the video above, world-class bartender Rich Woods shows us how to infuse spirits in just an hour using sous vide. With traditional methods such as steeping this can take months, as you can’t heat up the liquid – doing so would cause the alcohol and its flavours to evaporate. But in a vacuum-sealed bag, the mixture can be placed in a warm water bath without losing anything.

Once the alcohol has been left to infuse for forty-five minutes, it just needs straining through a coffee filter and you’re rewarded with a rich, velvety liquid that’s perfect for using in cocktails.

Rich uses beetroot and chocolate and pea and mint to flavour vodka and gin, but you can include whatever you like. Fresh fruit of all kinds works wonders, while herbs and spices can add an interesting, unique flavour. If you want to amplify certain botanicals in gin, such as juniper or cardamom, adding the berries or pods to the liquid and placing it in the sous vide lets you bend the flavour to your personal preferences. And because you can include as little or as much alcohol as you like, you’re free to experiment with smaller batches until you find one that suits your palate.

The final cocktail Rich demonstrates taps into a trend found in the best cocktails bars around the world – barrel-aged cocktails. These are pre-mixed drinks that are then stored in wooden barrels (like whisky), which helps meld the ingredients together and take on the flavours and tannins of the wood. This would normally take months (or even years) if done traditionally, but by cleverly using the infusion method with wood chips, the same result can be achieved in just twenty-four hours. There’s no need to even heat the cocktail – vacuum sealing it alone speeds up the process enormously.

Rich’s aged Manhattan is a great example of how sous vide ageing works, but again experiment with your favourite drinks. Aged negronis, martinis and sazeracs are all drinks you’d pay top prices for in cocktail bars, but you can make them at home using the sous vide with ease. Don’t be afraid to try different types of wood chip, either – they all impart their own unique flavours. If you’re looking to impress friends before a dinner party, you can’t do better than a home-infused or aged cocktail, and sous vide makes creating them simple, quick and foolproof.