25 July 2005

infused vodkas

I first read about the idea of infused vodka in the Wine and Spirits magazine published by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control board, but the idea seems to be enjoying some popularity with the Cocktail Times website providing instructions for an infusion party and an entire Vodka-Infusion website selling (largely unnecessary) equipment.

The basic idea is simple enough: you take a good quality, triple-distilled (and thus essentially flavorless) vodka, pour it into a glass jar, drop in whatever flavor-giving ingredients you want, and let it sit until the vodka takes up the flavor to the degree that you like. Some things (such as vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks) infuse quickly, while others (such as ginger) take much longer. The vodka, where appropriate and desired, can be sweeted later with superfine sugar.

So far I've tried infusing rosemary, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, and a combination of cinnamon, bay leaf, citrus zest, star anise, and saffron. I like to make very small batches, using medium size glass spice jars and only about 5 ounces of vodka. The infusion time, it seems, is also shorter with such small amounts.

Here are some of the more successful cocktails I've tried mixing using the various infusions:

Rosemary-Peach Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
1/4 oz Vodka
1/4 oz Rosemary-infusion
a squeeze of lemon

Cinnamon-Apple Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Apple Pucker*
1/4 oz Cinnamon-infusion
1/4 oz Vanilla-infusion
(*or use whatever your favorite apple beverage is: apple juice, hard cider, Applejack, etc.)

Poached-Pear Cocktail
2 oz Woodchuck Pear Hard Cider
1/4 oz Saffron spice-infusion

This last one I adapted from the ingredients in a dessert recipe for poached pears. Cinnamon is also good with cherry brandy and the juniper is nice for kicking the juniper flavor of a gin up a couple notches.

In any case, I enjoy the experimentation and trying out flavors that are often wedded together in other recipes, but don't often make their way into a cocktail.