Ever thought about adding charcoal to gin? It’s not insane: Melbourne’s The Ugly Duckling infuses its Tanqueray No. TEN with “activated” charcoal and lemon myrtle to create a Black Negroni.

While popping charcoal in your newly purchased bottle of gin might be a bit further than you’re willing to go for your next dinner party, infusing gin with herbs or fruit is incredibly easy to do at home.

The Ugly Duckling head barman Nick Selvadurai says infusing gin is exactly the same concept as making tea. The longer you infuse, the more you are going to draw out the ingredients’ characteristics.

“If you infuse mint very quickly you’ll get all those light notes from the mint,” says Selvadurai. “But if you let it steep overnight you end up getting some very bitter notes. You don’t want that.”

The Ugly Duckling spends time researching and tasting the gin before working out if it wants to complement or contrast it with a different ingredient.

“If you have a gin with a cucumber taste in it, you could extend it with something like ginger or snow peas,” says Selvadurai. “Or you could contrast it by going with something directly against cucumber; things like chilli or maybe ginger.”

Nick Tesar, formerly of Melbourne’s Gin Palace and now bar manager at Lûmé in South Melbourne, says citrus works particularly well when it comes to infusing gin, “particularly things like lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime”.

Tesar says that 24-hour maceration (leaving the fruit in the gin) is the best way to infuse fruit. By breaking down the fruit you maximise surface area. For citrus, zest the skin first by washing and lightly grating the peel. “Then combine in a container with the gin overnight,” says Tesar. “This allows the alcohol in the gin to pull out the flavour of the fruits. After this, fine-strain out all the solids."

Try this easy gin-infused fruit recipe at home.

Black Cherry Gin, by Nick Tesar
One 700ml bottle of Tanqueray No. TEN has 26 standard drinks.

Ingredients:
1 700ml Tanqueray No. TEN
250gm fresh black cherries
200gm caster sugar
100ml water

Method:
Pit and halve the cherries. Dissolve the sugar in the water to make sugar syrup. Combine the sugar syrup, gin and fruit for a week in a sealed container. Strain through a superbag or fine strainer.

This article is presented in partnership with World Class.