Flavored vodkas appear to be having a bit of a “moment.” Walk through the liquor section of a grocery market, and you’ll find vodka flavors like strawberry, lemon, whipped cream, cupcake… even bacon! (have mercy…) Whether or not you wish to experiment with the bounty of new vodka flavors, one thing is for certain – people are becoming more and more creative with their cocktails.
When it comes to any recipe, alcohol-related or not, I usually prefer to start from scratch. In terms of cocktails, rather than buying a flavored vodka, I thought it would be more fun to infuse the vodka with flavor myself. My friend Ashley walked me through the basics, and together we experimented with a few flavors. The process couldn’t be more simple. Just place your natural flavoring– citrus peels, strawberries, herbs, vanilla bean, or whatever you like from the list below– in a jar. Add the vodka and secure the lid. Give the mixture a good shake a few times a day. In 4-5 days, you’ll have naturally flavored vodka, which you can use in a variety of cocktail recipes.
For this post, we tried orange peel, basil and vanilla bean. They turned out fabulous, but don’t let those flavors limit your creativity. If berries are your thing, add at least a cup (or more) of whole, well-washed berries to your vodka. Same goes for pretty much any other fruit. Pineapple, melon and mango should be cut into chunks. And if you like spice, try adding some whole chili peppers to the jar – your bloody mary will never be the same.
I wanted to share this infusion method with you this week, so you have time to make some lovely infused vodkas for Purim. If you strain the flavored vodka into a pretty bottle, as we have here, they make a fun added “bonus” gift in a grownup Mishloach Manot basket. Flavored vodka is also a lovely “host gift” for any Purim parties you might be attending. In the coming days, I will share some cocktail recipes using these flavored vodkas, which you can print out and give along with the vodka. Stay tuned!
Note: To make this recipe gluten free, use a certified GF vodka made from potatoes.
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How to Infuse Vodka with Flavor
You will need:
- 3-4 cups vodka
- Mesh strainer
- Quart jar with lid
- 3-4 cup capacity glass bottle with lid or cork
Optional Infusion Ingredients:
- Choose one ingredient per 3-4 cups vodka:
- 2 oranges or lemons
- 1-2 large sprigs of basil, or another favoriteherb (rosemary, mint, etc.)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup clean berries
- 1 cup fruit, cleaned and cut into chunks (pineapple, apple, melon, mango, etc.)
- 4-5 chili peppers
First, prepare the flavoring/infusion ingredient you will be using in your infused vodka. Make sure any ingredient you plan on using is carefully rinsed clean. Citrus peels and waxy fruit should be thoroughly scrubbed clean with a mild natural detergent before proceeding.
If using oranges or lemons, use a peeler to peel the colorful part of the peel from the fruit, leaving the white part (the pith) behind. The pith can lead to bitterness, so you only want to use the thin outer layer of the citrus peel.
If using a vanilla bean, slice the bean from top to bottom in one long slit, keeping it attached at the upper stem, so that the bean looks like a large V-shape.
If using chili peppers, make a long thin slit into the skin of each pepper. Do not cut too deep or wide; the seeds need to remain in side the peppers. Just a simple slit will do it. Apples and other fruits with thin peels can be used, peeled or unpeeled, as long as they are clean with as little wax as possible on the exterior. Melons and other fruits with tough outer rinds should be sliced from their rinds prior to infusion.
Take a clean quart jar with a wide mouth and place your infusion ingredient inside. Pour 3-4 cups of vodka over the top of the infusion ingredient. You will want to measure the capacity of the bottle you’ll be using at the end of the infusion process for storing the vodka, so you know how much it will hold.
For the process photographed here, the bottles I’ll be using for storage hold about 3 cups each. That means I’ll be infusing 3 cups of vodka in the jar. You can use the original bottle that the vodka came in, if you wish, for storage– just set it aside during the infusion process. You can also use jars to store the vodka, if you wish, but bottles tend to be more user-friendly when making cocktails.
Seal the jar with a lid. Place in a cool, dark area for 4-5 days to infuse. Here, we’ve done three separate infusions– orange, vanilla, and basil.
Once daily, shake the vodka to speed infusion process. After 3 days, you can begin to test the flavor of your infusion. This is really a “to taste” kind of thing– if it tastes right and smells right, with the essence of the flavoring you have chosen, then you can move ahead to the straining process.
Our vanilla infusion was ready in 3 days; the other infusions took a bit longer. You want the vodka to have the flavor of the ingredient you’ve chosen, but you don’t want that flavor to overwhelm.
Once the vodka is infused, you will want to strain it into a bottle for storing and/or gift giving. I used these lovely decorative Italian bottles (link in the post above). Use a funnel and a wire mesh strainer, or multiple layers of cheesecloth, to strain the liquor into the bottle. This straining process will rid the vodka of the infusion ingredients, as well as any larger particles that might have accumulated during infusion.
If you’ve infused large or heavy ingredients, like chunks of fruit, you may want to fish them out before straining to avoid making a mess. And if you snack on a few of the fruit pieces, like infused pineapple, I won’t tell anybody… just make sure you have a designated driver on hand. 😉
Seal the bottles. If giving as gifts, you can use decorative tags and twine to label the type of vodka you’ve infused. Here we used lovely wooden tags with natural twine (links in the post above).
Voila! Lovely infused vodka for gifting or making your own homemade cocktails.