Seasonal Grapes in Cocktails

Grape season can peak depending on where you are in the world, and once they do they become a very economical ingredient that can add layers of flavor to your cocktails.

Cocktails that use grapes are usually muddled or shaken, but in this post I’ll show you how to infuse them so that they can be poured as an ingredient.

Grapes aren’t usually the main ingredient in a drink, and instead, serve more as a secondary flavor that brings all the other ingredients together.

In their fresh state, they typically add a refreshing flavor with a crisp aftertaste, like in the classic Enzoni which is basically a Negroni meets a Gin Sour.

Once you try this classic you’ll realize its potential, and once you try caramelizing or dehydrating them, you’ll see how far you can go with recipe creativity

Caramelized Grapes

Grapes are one of those fruits that don’t often get used in cocktails, but that’s because they’re not being used to their full potential behind the bar.

In culinary practices, grapes taste best when they are cooked. Their flavors are much more concentrated, sweeter, and they become easier to turn into jams, syrups, and infusions.

A grape that has been cooked carries much more complexity than a regular fresh grape, releasing caramel-like toffee notes into your cocktails.

This is a great way to add more umami and caramel flavors to a cocktail!

Dehydrated Grapes

There are pros and cons to dehydrating your grapes into raisins.

The PROS are that:

  • They’re cheaper to buy than raisins.
  • They have more flavor which means you don’t have to use as many for infusions.
  • They preserve your grapes for future seasons.
 
Their is only one CON to dehydrating grapes…but it’s a doozy, and that is that they take a long time to make.

 

Depending on the size and amount of water that your grapes hold, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.

When being infused with a spirit, the final result will taste strikingly similar to a caramelized grape infusion. This means that if you’re looking for an infused product, you might as well go with caramelized grapes since they’re faster to make.

Part 1:
Caramelize

To caramelize your grapes, all you’ll need is:

  • Oven

  • Parchment Paper (I’m using a non-bleached recycled one which is compostable)

  • Grapes

  • Aged Spirit of choice (for optionally infusing)

Set your oven at 350F or 180C. You could even go higher than that.

Get your grapes and poke them with a knife just to break their skin. Only 1 or 2 small pokes is enough (this will help them caramelize faster).

Wrap them up in the parchment paper until they are completely covered. This so that they retain all of their juices (you don’t want all that delicious flavor to escape)!

Once your oven is done preheating, stick them in and wait. The process of caramelizing them can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so just be sure to check on them every 5 minutes to make sure that they don’t burn.

I like to use my sense of smell to find out when they’re ready. You will start to smell a caramel-like flavor, just like when you brown sugar. That’s pretty much when they’re ready!

Take them out of the oven and unwrap them. They will be SUPER HOT so be sure to use gloves. Let them cool before using them.

Once they are cooled down, you can refrigerate them and use them in classic cocktails.

Having been caramelized into more concentrated flavors, you’ll only need to use 1 or 2 per drink (as opposed to 5 or 6 for fresh grapes).

For example, the classic cocktail known as the ‘Enzoni’ uses about 5 fresh grapes, but with your caramelized grapes, you’ll only need to use 2 or 3 because of their more pronounced flavors (which also means more bang for your buck)!

If you want to learn how to infuse them you can skip down to Part 3.

Part 2:
Dehydrate

To dehydrate your grapes, you’ll need:

  1. Grapes

  2. Dehydrator or Oven

  3. Pot of Boiling Water

Instructions:

The first thing you should do is to bring a pot of water to boil, and plunge your grapes into the water. Let them sit in boiling water for 1 minute, but keep a careful eye on them. As soon as you notice that their skins crack open, take them out and plunge them into some ice cold water to prevent further cooking. Once cooled down, dry them and place them in your oven or dehydrator at 160C or 320F for 12 hours.

Even after 12 hours they won’t be completely dry inside, but just enough that they will still preserve for a long time and even have the concentrated flavors that you’re looking for in a raisin.

Part 3:
Infuse

Whether you have your dried grapes (raisins) or caramelized ones, now you can infuse them with your favorite aged spirits like Cognac, Rum, or Whisky.

For every raisin or caramelized grape, I like to combine 2 ounces or 60ml of the spirit. Let that sit between 2 to 4 days before straining.

Once strained, you can use your infused spirit for just about anything.

I usually use my infusions for the stirred-down boozy drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.

The rich notes from the infusion can typically disappear if shaken vigorously with a bunch of citruses, so opted for more spirit-forward drinks.

Also, be sure to keep the leftover soaked raisins from the post-infusion. They will have absorbed all of the flavors from the booze and rehydrated themselves into perfect garnishes.

Drop them into your Manhattans, Amaretto, and Whisky Sours as opposed to using cherries!

As mentioned before, the final result that you will get from this infusion whether it be with caramelized or dehydrated grapes will be strikingly similar.

The only big advantage is that caramelized grapes are faster to make.

 

Conclusion
To Sum it Up

A caramelized grape is much different than a dehydrated grape, but they can both play different roles in cocktails.
 
Dehydrated grapes (a.k.a. raisins) work great when infused. Aged spirits like Cognac, Whisky, and Rum work really well with them.
 
Caramelized grapes can also be infused with these spirits, but can also be used directly in a cocktail like you would use a fresh grape.
 
What I found fascinating was that spirits infused with dehydrated grapes and caramelized grapes tasted almost exactly the same!
 
They both had rich notes of candied fruit, toffee, and sweetness, which lead me to the conclusion that caramelizing grapes are the easier and more efficient method.
 
So if you want the fast track to the same kind of flavor, go with caramelizing!

Cocktails

Enzoni v2

  • 2 Caramelized Raisins (Muddled)
  • 30ml Gin
  • 30ml Campari
  • 22ml Lemon Juice
  • 15ml Simple Syrup
 
Fresh or Caramelized, the choice is yours.
 
With regular grapes, the aftertaste is acidic and sharp. In a pleasant way. But it fades pretty quickly.
 
With caramelized raisins, the flavor is deeper, richer, more umami, and long-lasting, coating your whole palette.
 
Enzoni with regular grapes is fitting for springtime, while caramelized is more appropriate for fall weather.

Other Cocktails to Try

Old Fashioned
Manhattan
Sidecar

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