Adventures in Infused Vodka Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
The first time I experienced infused vodka was about 4 years ago, right after I moved to Nashville, when a friend convinced me (no real convincing actually needed) to try a local bar’s house-made pineapple vodka. It was extremely tasty and the pineapple pieces were intoxicating. That was the beginning of my love affair with infused vodka, and lucky for me the trend is on the rise.
Being that it’s spring and some of my favorite fruits and veggies are making their appearance at the farmer’s market, I decided it might be time I made a batch or two of my own infused vodka. For research purposes, I decided to try out a place in town that specializes in the craft. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me out of the house on a beautiful spring day – especially if vodka is involved.
Past Perfect, a little gem off the Broadway strip, offers an alternative to the flashy neon signs and loud honky-tonks. Before I could even take a seat, the first things I noticed were the numerous jugs lining the counter behind the bar. While some ingredients were immediately recognizable, such as the lemon, orange and cucumber, there were plenty that left me a bit puzzled. What on earth is the stuff that looks like white wood shavings? Is that other jug holding some sort of non-buoyant marshmallow?
Daniel Cooper was the bartender that afternoon, and I would come to find out, the resident infuser extraordinaire. He was more than happy to tell me the contents of the jugs (horseradish and bubblegum were the answers), take my drink order, and offer up a shot of the habanera vodka. Not only did I survive the latter, but am also proud to say it was handled better than most men, according to the staff onlookers.
As my mouth cooled off with a light combo of cucumber vodka and house made lemonade, I learned about the process of liquor infusion. It couldn’t be simpler, and my results were pretty spectacular.
- As with most anything that comes out of a southern kitchen, everything is better made from scratch. Start with plain liquor – nothing already flavored.
- Pick a flavor – vanilla bean, citrus peels, fruit slices, hard candies, herbs, etc. My three concoctions were basil, cucumber and green apple. Generally, the infusion works best if you use one to three pieces of fruit/veggies; one to two fistfuls of herbs; two to four fistfuls of berries; and as many peppers as you can handle.
- Fill your container with the flavor of choice and vodka. You can use canning jars like I did, or recycle those old liquor bottles if you want a larger batch. If you are using peppers, you might want to add a little water to keep the burn to a minimum.
- Let the concoction sit at room temperature for four or five days. Give it a good shake at least once a day. If using peppers, the longer you infuse the more heat the final product will bring. Taste-test it after 24 hours to ensure you do not end up with something sinfully spicy.
- Ta-da! You now have naturally flavored vodka, which you can use in a variety of cocktail recipes.
Here are a few of my favorite homemade infused-vodka recipes…
Basil Vodka Gimlet
- Fill shaker with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, zest of half a lime and 2.5 ounces of basil infused vodka
- Top off the shaker with ice
- Shake for 30 seconds and strain
- Serve in glassware of choice
- Garnish with sprig of fresh basil
Cucumber Mint Cocktail
- Fill shaker with ice, fist full of mint, 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of lime juice
- Shake vigorously for 30 seconds
- Add 2 ounces of vodka and 1/2 ounce of Cointreau
- Shake again for another 30 seconds and strain
- Serve in glassware of choice
- Garnish with a cucumber slice or spear
- Fill shaker with 3 ounces of apple infused vodka (apple variety can be of your choice, but I used granny smith), 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, and squeeze of fresh lemon
- Shake for 30 seconds and strain into martini glass
- Add a splash of Mountain Valley Sparkling Water
- Garnish with apple spiral
*All recipes yield 2 servings
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