A few weeks ago I posted a blog about gin flavored waffles. I decided to submit it to PunkDomestics.com in their "Infusions and Liquors" section. I knew that it didn't really count as an infusion or liquor, but it seemed like such a unique way of using gin that they might like it anyway. Well, it wasn't much of a surprise that gin flavored waffles didn't fit the criteria for PunkDomestics. However, they did say that if it had been waffle flavored gin that would've been another story. Of course, waffle flavored gin is a ridiculous notion. Or is it? Waffle flavored gin? It was too much of a challenge to ignore. So I sat down with some waffles and a glass of gin and thought about what waffle flavored gin would be.
The biggest hurdle was that waffles themselves have a very subtle flavor. They are really much more about texture than taste. Making a waffle flavored liquid inherently eliminates that textural element. Perhaps Nathan Mhyrvold has some magic that will give a liquid the texture of a waffle. If so, I am not privy to it.
But what about the flavor of a plain waffle; assuming there are no berries, nuts, or other flavorings added, an unadorned waffle is slightly sweet and has nice elements of caramelized flour. That's about it. It is a "quick bread," so there is no yeast involved and none of those yeasty flavors that you get in bread that uses "biological leveners." The egg and milk in a waffle seem to contribute little or nothing to its flavor. There are subtleties to waffle flavor that can make one waffle better than another, but unless we're talking about a burnt waffle, they are all so delicate that alcohol obliterates them. I concluded that waffle flavored gin was about the experience of eating waffles and drinking gin, not about trying to actually make gin take on the flavor of a naked waffle.
Most of us in the USA use waffles as a substrate for butter and syrup. A quick survey of some of my waffle-loving friends confirmed that they prefer waffles to pancakes because the texture is crunchy and the holes hold onto the melting butter and maple syrup. Since crunchiness was already ruled out, it seemed to me that it was butter, maple syrup, and caramelized flour that would define the waffle eating experience in a liquor.
The next question was the gin. The most common type of gin in America, London dry gin, is a spirit with a fairly high alcohol content infused with herbs, principally juniper berries. The flavorings other than juniper in gin vary from maker to maker. Taken straight, gin is a very powerful flavor. There was no way that any component of the "waffle experience" would survive infusion into gin. I decided that for my waffle flavored gin I would start with relatively flavorless vodka and add elements of juniper and waffle in a way that would provide a pleasing balance.
What follows is my experiment creating waffle flavored gin. To be honest, when I started I did not expect to succeed. However, to my surprise I did indeed create an alcoholic beverage that I believe provides the experience of waffle flavored gin. Is it good? I think so. Would I want to drink it every day? No, not really, its a bit on the sweet side. Is waffle flavored gin a good idea? Well, that's for you to decide; all I can say is that waffle flavored gin turns out to be feasible, whether or not it is desirable.
I'm afraid there are no measurements here – I played it entirely by taste, you'll have to do the same.
For the "waffle experience" I started by coarsely shredding a waffle and putting it in a pint mason jar. To this I added a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and two or three tablespoons of ghee. I used ghee because I wanted that buttery flavor, but I was worried about butter going rancid. I figured ghee in alcohol in a closed container would last just fine at room temperature, and I was right.
For a mild gin flavor that wouldn't overpower the waffle, I added 4 or 5 juniper berries, a fresh bay leaf (true bay – Laurus nobilis,) some nutmeg, and a sliver of lemon zest. To me, gin always has a certain pine-like quality. I considered adding pine needles, but ruled that out as too unpredictable, so I tossed in a small piece of chios masticha (gum mastic) instead. [Note: all of these quantities are small. I didn't want to make a large batch because I really exected that in a few weeks I would simply be throwing out a jar full of disgusting mush.]
I filled the jar with Smirnoff vodka, sealed it, and let it sit, shaking it and tasting it from time to time. After two weeks I felt like the maple, butter, and mild-gin flavors were pretty much there, but the waffle was almost imperceptible. I strained out the ingredients and then poured the liquid over a fresh waffle in a new jar to double-down on that element. About a week later my palate said that all the elements were there, so I put it through a coffee filter and declared it ready to face a waiting world.
An alcoholic infusion that is reminiscent of gin and the "waffle experience?" Who knew?
One final thought – if I try this again, I might forego the gin infusion elements and simply infuse the waffle flavors then add gin to taste.