Hibiscus Mezcal and the Art of a Perfect Infusion
Infusions, at first glance, seem so simple: put some ingredients in a jar, pour your liquor of choice over it, seal it up and let it hang out for a while. But there are so many different factors at play that producing a consistent, reliable result every single time requires some serious attention to detail. Each ingredient varies wildly depending on its water content, acidity, infusion time required and so on, and it can take quite a bit of trial and error to figure this out.
Yanni Kehagiaras, bar manager at San Francisco's Liholiho Yacht Club, gets this. Kehagiaras perfected his own hibiscus mezcal infusion after lots of research and development — as the star ingredient in the bar's Surfer Rosa cocktail, the infusion needed to be replicated with near-perfect consistency each time to minimize any variance from drink to drink. He shared not only the infusion process and drink recipe with us, but also his tips for achieving a balanced, flavorful infusion that you can recreate for guests with uniform results.
Use the right tools for the job.
"Using a digital scale to measure out whatever you choose to infuse will give you an unparalleled batch to batch consistency," says Kehigiaras. "This consistency can manifest itself in terms of flavor, color, and overall intensity of the finished product."
Timing is everything.
"The other very important aspect to a proper and consistent infusion is time, and knowing exactly how much time is required," he tells us. "When infusing something for the first batch, a bit more attention must be given. With that said, it's important to keep trying your infusion at intervals of hours, or days —depending, of course, on what is infusing. Certain ingredients such as tea, or in this case, hibiscus can yield aggressive qualities such as being too bitter or overly tannic, and can ruin your batch altogether if left for too long."
Dried ingredients can cut down on variables.
"Lastly, more often than not using dried ingredients in an infusion will produce ideal results. When ingredients are dehydrated, that absence of water will ultimately result in more concentrated sugars and intensity of flavor."
Read on to see how Yanni makes his bar's hibiscus mezcal, and for the smoky, bold drink recipe that it's showcased in:
The Surfer Rosa
- 1 1/2 oz. Hibiscus-infused Del Maguey Vida Mezcal (recipe below)
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. Benedictine
- 1/2 oz. Punt e Mes
- 2 oz. Fevertree Soda water
Combine hibiscus mezcal, fresh lemon juice, Benedictine and Punt e Mes in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain over soda water in a Collins glass.
The Hibiscus Mezcal
Add 25 grams of dried hibiscus flowers to 750mL of Del Maguey Vida Mezcal in glass canning jar. Steep for four hours. Strain through a china cap to remove the hibiscus flowers, and fine strain again through a coffee filter to clarify and remove any remaining unwanted sediment. Re-bottle using a funnel.