Vodka Aficionado, Tips, Recipes
Infused vodkas are very popular among today’s consumers for good reason. Because vodka is almost flavorless, it adapts well to an endless variety of added flavor profiles, and the cocktail possibilities using infused vodkas are almost endless. You can craft a tropical cocktail using mango flavored vodka and your choice of fruit juice, for instance, or if you’re in the mood for an adult version of an old fashioned orange creamsicle, simply mix whipped cream flavored vodka with orange juice over ice in a rocks glass, and voila — instant liquid creamsicle.
Flavored vodkas don’t have to be on the sweet side, however, which is great news if you’re one of those who likes your cocktails savory. Thyme, sage, oregano, and other culinary herbs can be used to infuse plain vodka, and all taste excellent when mixed with tonic water or club soda. A vodka distillery in Alaska even produces a smoked salmon flavored vodka that makes an exquisite Bloody Mary. Infused vodkas aren’t just for cocktails, however — good cooks know that vodka is invaluable in the kitchen. The classic pasta dish, penne with vodka sauce, takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when made with a herb-infused vodka.
Establishing a good collection of infused vodkas involves considerable expense. Instead of spending a fortune at the liquor store, consider making your own flavored vodkas. You’ll no tonly save money, but you’ll satisfy a creative itch and end up with a product that suits your personal tastes better than anything that’s mass produced in a commercial distillery. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a magician in the kitchen to create your own infused vodkas at home. Follow the easy steps listed below to begin your adventure with flavored vodkas.
Start with a bottle of good-quality plain vodka. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars — something in the middle range will do. The most important thing is to select a plain vodka that has as a little taste as possible, and many of the least expensive varieties have discernible flavors that may interfere with the desired outcome of do-it-yourself flavor infusion efforts. You’ll also need a strainer, a large, clear, clean jar, and the ingredient or combination of ingredients that you wish to use to infuse the vodka. For best results, use the freshest available ingredients.
Prep Your Ingredients
Cut fruits and vegetables up into large cubes. If you are using oranges or lemons, leave the skin on because these parts of the fruit contain abundant oils with big flavors, but be sure to remove the skin from other fruit and vegetable varieties such as melons. If you are using culinary herbs, chop them as finely as possible to release their essential oils. You can also use dried herbs, but you will need about twice as much as when using them fresh. You can also sprinkle in your choice of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice.
Combine Your Ingredients
The nest step is to combine your ingredients in the jar. How full you fill the jar will depend on the ingredients that you’re using as well as your personal tastes and preferences. If you’re using fruits and vegetables, you should fill the jar about halfway full before adding the vodka. If you’re using herbs and spices, you should use far less because their flavors are much more highly concentrated. You’ll only need a handful of thyme, sage, mint, or other culinary herbs, and if you’re using dried spices such as cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, you’ll only need a teaspoon or two depending on how strongly you want it flavored. After you’ve combined your ingredients and placed them in the jar, fill the jar with plain vodka, cover tightly, and place it in the refrigerator.
Some Ideas for Flavor Combinations
Single-note vodkas such as peach, mango, and blackberry are definitely luscious, but combining at least two flavors often has more interesting results — and it’s more fun that way. Following are several suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
- Blueberry and cinnamon vodka — use fresh or frozen blueberries and ground cinnamon
- Pumpkin pie vodka — use cubed pumpkin pieces and pumpkin pie spice
- Apple Pie Vodka — use cubed Granny Smith apple pieces and cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
- Mint and sage vodka — used finely chopped mint and sage fresh from the garden
- Smoked salmon and lemon vodka — used crumbled pieces of smoked salmon and lemon zest
- Rose and violet petal vodka — use crushed rose and violet petals for this ultra romantic indulgence
- Raspberry and ginger — use fresh or frozen raspberries and fresh, finely grated ginger
When using two or more ingredients, always let the first one be the dominant flavor — otherwise, you’ll end up with an unbalanced result that’s confusing to the palette. Keep in mind that until you get your vodka infusion recipes down pat, it’s better to use a light hand with ingredients. You can always add more ingredients to reach your desired flavor goal. Don’t despair if you end up with a mixture that’s too strong in spite of your efforts, though — you can always tame it down by adding more plain vodka.
Let the Mixture Settle
One of the best parts of making your own flavor-infused vodkas is that you don’t have to wait very long to taste the results. Of course, the individual ingredients and your own taste preferences will determine when the infusion is finished, but the process should never take longer than one week — and it’s often only just a matter of a day or two. Taste the mixture at least once a day until it tastes just right. Keep in mind that the more ingredients you use, the longer it may take for the flavors to properly settle. If it still tastes too weak after a week or so, add more ingredients.
Strain the Mixture Into a Beautiful Bottle
Using a fine-meshed culinary strainer, pour the mixture into a large bowl. If your mixture has a lot of fine pieces such as minced herbs, place of piece of cheesecloth inside the strainer. In a pinch, you can also use a coffee filter. You may have to filter more than once to remove all traces of pulps and other bits. Once it’s filtered to your satisfaction, you can either use the jar you used in the infusion process or pour the mixture back into the original bottle of plain vodka. However, if you want to do your new creation justice, pour it into a beautiful bottle instead. If you don’t already have an appropriate bottle, you can easily find one at your local thrift store that won’t be too expensive. Just make certain that it has a sturdy, tight lid.
Enjoy Your Efforts
Infused vodka can be enjoyed on the rocks or combined with a variety of mixers for an eclectic and delicious cocktail experience. A fun way to celebrate your newfound creativity is to invite friends and family over for an unveiling of your custom-crafted infused vodka. Perhaps you’ll start a tradition and your homemade vodkas will become well-loved among your family, friends, and acquaintances. Also, keep in mind that flavor-infused vodkas make excellent holiday and birthday gifts, particularly when poured into a gorgeous glass bottle.
You’ll gain confidence as you become more experienced in making your own flavor-infused vodkas instead of buying them at the liquor store. Before you know it, your home kitchen creations will be comparable to some of the best flavored vodkas being currently produced by the world’s finest distilleries.