For years mixologists have enjoyed using infusion to spice up alcohol with everything from bay leaves to Skittles. The process, which involves letting an ingredient soak in alcohol so that the liquid picks up its flavor, was unfortunately also illegal in Iowa. At least until last month.
In May the Iowa House passed a bill allowing bars and restaurants to infuse their own alcohol, with the process officially becoming legal on July 1. Restaurants like Dos Rios, Americana, Centro and others were quick to start infusing alcohol for sangria, margaritas and other drinks.
“It will open the pathway to do some interesting things with mixology,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “The beauty is that bars used to have to dump the infused alcohol at the end of the business day. Now it can be kept for 72 hours.”
That 72-hour counter starts when an ingredient is added to the alcohol and at the end of that time frame it all must be discarded. Bars and restaurants have to keep paperwork on the creation process. It means that beverages that need a longer infusion time, like limoncello, aren’t really doable, but it’s the perfect time frame for small batch drinks like sangria.
Creme Cupcake’s new location, 543 28th St., has a dessert lounge, serving cocktails paired with desserts. The business is currently using infused simple syrups, and mixologist Blake Brown, 28, said concoctions like a coffee-infused sweet vermouth for use in Manhattans and a possible serrano pepper-infused grain alcohol are in the planning stages.
“It definitely lets you explore a wider menu, but there’s also the challenge of staying within the 72- hour window,” Brown said.
State Senator Rick Bertrand added the wording about infusion to a larger bill, helping it pass through the legislature quickly. And in his honor, Dos Rios added a special infused drink: The Bertrand Special.
Four new breweries
In the slightly longer shelf life department, Des Moines is in the middle of a surge of breweries. Exile Brewing Co. recently opened its doors in Western Gateway, and they’re just the foamy tip of the iceberg. The Number 7 Brewing Company is now open in Ankeny and The New American Brewing Company will also be opening there before too long. Confluence Brewing Company near Gray’s Lake is near completion and the Iowa Craft Beer Tent at the Iowa State Fair just wrapped up its second year of offering fair goers an alternative to Budweiser.