Thursday, February 19, 2009

DIY infused vodka: update and recipes

A few weeks ago I wrote about making your own infused vodka. I'm pleased to report that all the flavors I tried turned out well.

For those of you who missed the first post, the basic formula is:
decent vodka + fruit/spices/tea/veggies/other delicious items + 1 hour to 3 weeks of patience = great drinks at home.

Lots of great flavor combinations are possible even with a limited produce selection. Try seasonal stuff, or raid the spice rack.


This time around, I made blood orange, cucumber, and blueberry-vanilla vodkas.

*****

Blood orange infused vodka


2 small blood oranges
1 pint vodka (I used Svedka)
orange zest (optional)

Instead of peeling the oranges, cut off the peel and underlying white layer of pith entirely. Pith can turn bitter in the vodka. Slice the oranges about 1/4 inch thick. Combine with vodka in an airtight container and let infuse for up to 2 weeks, testing every 1-3 days. I let mine go a little too long and it got a bitter aftertaste, but I removed the blood oranges and added about 1 tablespoon of orange zest and that fixed the problem.

Filtering the blood orange vodka.

Suggested drink:
2 oz. blood orange vodka
4 oz. ginger ale
dash of lime juice
ice
Combine and serve on the rocks.

*****

Cucumber infused vodka

1 cucumber
1 pint vodka

Peel and de-seed the cucumber. Combine with the vodka in an airtight container and leave for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or at room temp (but away from light). Shake occasionally and taste every 1-3 days. Once the infusion reaches the desired flavor level, strain it through cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Suggested drink: cucumber-lemon collins
2 oz. cucumber infused vodka
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons powdered sugar
club soda
lemon, orange, and/or cherry to garnish

Combine the vodka, sugar, lemon juice and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake, strain into a glass 1/3 full with ice, fill with soda and add garnish.

*****

Blueberry-vanilla infused vodka


1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 pint vodka

Cut the vanilla bean in half the long way to expose the flavorful seedy part. Wash and drain the blueberries. Combine with the vodka in an airtight container. Taste frequently until vanilla flavor reaches the desired level (approximately 2 days). Discard the vanilla bean and leave the berries to infuse for an additional 2 weeks. Strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.

Suggested drink: just have it on the rocks!

*****

A few additional flavors that have worked for me in the past:
  • jasmine pearls (1 tablespoon per pint, taste every 5-10 min)
  • ginger-cardamom (use cardamom pods and taste daily)
  • persimmon (3 weeks)
  • tamarind (2 weeks)
  • apple-cinnamon (1 apple, 3 sticks cinnamon, 2 weeks)
So what flavors will you be trying?

[Update 2/20/09: I forgot to mention that my friend Anna got me started with infused vodka. She made me a cocktail with the ginger-cardamom one and I was hooked!

A few additional infused vodka resources: 
Infusions of grandeur, where they take their infusion experiments very seriously.
Infused vodka article in the San Francisco Chronicle. They have the original ginger-cardamom recipe plus pomegranate-lime, which I also tried and loved.]

37 comments:

  1. this is terrific and just what I was looking for. Thanks.

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  2. This is great, very helpful! Do you have suggestions for places to find the secondary jars, especially if they are going to be gifts?

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  3. The next time around I'll probably check with my local brew-it-yourself supplier to see what kind of containers they have. For this batch I found some nice jars for not too much money at Cost Plus World Market. Other kitchen/household stores probably have similar stuff. Look for the oil & vinegar jars. You can always put in a different cork or stopper. Sometimes you'll also find jars at second-hand stores or dollar stores, but those might not work as well for gifts.

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  4. The ginger-cardamom sounds interesting. What would be the amounts of each and your cocktail suggestions?

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  5. I think I used about 10-12 crushed cardamom pods and 1-2 inches of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds. If I remember correctly, the cardamom was pretty strong, so I strained everything out after a few days, put new ginger in, and let it infuse longer to balance out the flavors. If you taste it daily you can make adjustments as you go. For a cocktail, all you need is vodka, ginger beer (like Reed's), and ice. It's delicious.

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  6. For a halloween flair, I infused 3 cups of vodka with one cup of candy corn for 4 hours. Then the vodka was drained and the candy corn removed. The color is quite orange and the taste is good. Perfect for halloween.

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  7. Ooh, good call there, Anonymous. I bet a lot of seasonal candies would work well.

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  8. this might be a silly question, but once made, does the infused vodka ever go "bad"? thanks.

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  9. Not a silly question at all. The vodka itself won't go bad, and I'm not too worried about mold or bacteria since alcohol is a pretty good disinfectant, but any little bits of organic material in the infusion can break down and impart additional unwanted flavors (like bitterness) to the liquid. So yes, older infusions sometimes get a little funky. Make sure to carefully strain out as much of the organic material as possible when you're infusing with something like fruit or cucumbers. Your infusion should have a shelf life of a few months to a year. Some last longer. You can store them in the freezer to extend the life -- depending on the water content of the infusion, this might turn the mixture into a slush (which I hear makes an excellent dessert).

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  10. great - thanks for the info! i made cucumber vodka a few weeks ago but haven't tried it yet (it's been in the fridge this whole time.)

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  11. I've been reading on different recipes, and they all seem to say to remove whatever ingredient you use to infuse the vodka. However, it's clearly more visually appealing if it remains in the jar, especially for a present. Can you leave the ingredients inside or will they disintegrate or something?

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  12. It depends. Leaving stuff in will cause the flavor to change over time as the ingredients keep infusing the vodka. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not. Some ingredients do break down over time. What looks good at the beginning may look terrible in two or six months, or even in a couple days (for example, strawberries turn a very unappealing shade of gray). I'd say keep an eye on it while it infuses, then decide from there based on what sort of shape the ingredients are in and how long you expect it'll sit around looking pretty before someone drinks it. You might get better results with whole fruit, like blueberries. Much of infusing is trial and error--try it out and report back!

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  13. Great suggestions which inspired me to split a liter of vodka three ways. Currently I have: Cardamom (minus the ginger, as I think I ate it all and have already made gingered vodka in the past), Lavender, and Rosehip.

    Though I'm still aging the Cardamom, I infused it for only 3 days and it retained much of the heady perfume without being overpowering. I will definitely pair it with the ginger beer and maybe a bit of orange and cinnamon, Moroccan style.

    The Lavender was infused for a mere 30 mins before straining, but has a lovely aroma and tastes exactly as you would hope a flower could taste. After aging for two weeks, it made a perfect cocktail when mixed with lemonade and a sprig of mint. Summer in a glass!

    Lastly, the Rosehip version (using a handful of dried rosehips) tasted like cough syrup when sampled after three days of infusion, so I strained it and added enough simple syrup to make a base for a liqueur. I hated to waste perfectly good vodka so after aging this mix for two weeks, I decided to mix it with a bit of lemonade, a splash of sparkling cranberry juice, and my trusty sprig of mint. Yummy! I may have that again tonight.

    Next up: Basil. Still looking for the perfect rose infusion. Any ideas?

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  14. Hi Elaine -- Have you tried rose petals instead of rose hips? They might be a little less intense. You might also limit the infusion time as you did with the lavender (which sounds divine, by the way). Here's a crazy idea: basil & raspberry. I had a basil-raspberry tart one time that was incredible. Might work in vodka, too.

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  15. Hi there, I just came across your blog. It sounds great! I'm planning to make a thai chili infused vodka and I also bought Svedka for it. I'm open to suggestions for adding in this!

    The ginger / cardamom sounds divine especially paired with lemonade.

    The lavender sounds delicious also.

    As for the Basil infusion, I have made a sorbet with basil cinnamon and peach. It was wonderful.

    Another one I want to try is something with black pepper. Any suggestions for pairings?

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  16. Basil and raspberry does sound good. We have a local bar here that has strawberry/cilantro and I just finished a strawberry/basil infusion with great success.

    I have also been trying to think of something to pair with black pepper.

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  17. Has anyone tried tomato? Black pepper and tomato sounds good. Lemon and pepper are known to go well together, too.

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  18. Hey! I was just wondering if you had any recipes for like shots perhaps?

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  19. Hello,

    Echoing Matt, I was wondering if you have any recipes for vodka shots? I was looking for something that can be enjoyed by itself, so nothing too sweet or too tart. Do you think vanilla vodka might be too sweet? Or perhaps a citrus option would be better, i.e. blood orange? Thank you for your help!

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  20. Matt and Anonymous--I highly recommend the blood orange on its own as a shot or for sipping. It's delicious. I don't think vanilla vodka would be sweet on its own, but the vanilla might become overpowering. Try pairing it with another fruit or berry.

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  21. Why aren't you infusing the vodka in it's own bottle??

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  22. Because it was a big bottle of vodka and I wanted to try several different infusions with it. Infusing in the original bottle would work great if you only wanted to do one flavor.

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  23. I have a couple of questions. Is it alright to use a bottle with a cork top for vodka? All of the bottles I seem to come across have cork tops and I just wasn't sure if that would work out ok. Also the basil/raspberry and basil/strawberry sound very intriguing, can you give me the amounts that you used for the recipe? Thanks ever so much!

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  24. I am currently infusing a garlic basil vodka, smells divine so far! Anyone have a clue about how long it should infuse for?

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  25. I'm actually trying my own cucumber vodka this week. Wish me luck and thanks for the tips...

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  26. How do you think a citrus lemon and lime vodka would turn out? Would it be okay to leave the peels on? I just think it is so much prettier that way--especially if I am giving it as a gift.

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  27. Also--any suggestions for directions on a gift tag?? Or is that too hard to do?

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  28. Lemon and lime should work great. I'd be concerned about it turning bitter if you left the whole peels on. Maybe try infusing it for a few days with peeled citrus, then removing the peeled fruit and adding in some zest (but no white pith attached) for color. I'm not sure what kind of directions you want to put on the gift tag. Maybe just a cocktail recipe?

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  29. Wendy here is one for you to try.Fruit Punch Vodka Infusion

    1 750 ml bottle of vodka
    1 orange (cut off the peel and white layer of pith.)
    1 lime (do same with lime peel as you did with orange.)1 apple,
    1 peach,1 lemon (peel also).1 banana, (peel the banana.)1 pear,1 kiwi,1 plum,1 cup fresh blueberries/strawberry or both what ever kind you like or have on hand
    Cut up the ingredients and add into the infusion jar with 750ml of vodka
    Let the ingredients infuse over 3 to 5 days but Taste Frequently and give it a shake or two helps the infusion. Once the infusion reaches the desired flavor level,strain it

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  30. Two words.... jalapeno bacon.

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  31. Hello all! I've been trying to find answers about the shelf life of infused alcohols and I'm hoping someone can answer my specific question.

    I infused bourbon with honey, cloves, orange peels, and vanilla beans about 7 months ago (which was amazing, I highly recommend it). However, I have just noticed that there is a substantial amount of build up (not sure what it is) that resembles mold sitting at the bottom of the decanter. I'm not sure if I should strain it out and keep it around or toss it or not be too worried. Does anyone have any experience with this or have any suggestions? Thanks!!

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  32. To anonymous from June 2012, the alcohol should kill any mold/bacteria that dared show it's face. I'd say strain it through a coffee filter and taste. If it tastes okay, you should be fine.

    Earlier someone asked about a rose infusion, I just finished aging out a rose petal, brandy and simple syrup combination that I got at guntheranderson.com, and it's amazing. it was amazing, in fact, even before the simple syrup, for those who really don't care for liqueurs.

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  33. Is it better to let these age at room temp or in the refrigerator?

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  34. I made several jars of blueberry vodka and now have lots of alcohol infused blueberries left over. Anybody have any usage suggestions for these. Seems wrong to put them out for the birds eat then get tipsy :-)

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  35. Has anyone tried doing this via hot process? Like Jam? I would think it would increase the shelf life??? (not hot processing the vodka, just what goes into it).

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  36. I've infused Vodka with Serrano peppers and garlic. It made for a most excellent Bloody Mary! SPICY!

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  37. Thank you for the help. My Earl Grey recipe was as follows: 2 opened teabags of Bigelow Earl Grey tea to 1 pint vodka. It started tasting good in 15 minutes. I let it go to 30 minutes and that may have been just a touch too long. I'm sure it will be just fine in a cocktail.

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