I came across this super easy how-to on the Bon Appétit blog this Spring and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with different flavor combinations. My very first batch was strawberry vodka that I made at the end of June when the strawberries were at their peak ripeness and I couldn’t get over how incredible the flavor was. Since then I have made blueberry, rhubarb, cherry and apricot. In the next week or two I plan to make some cucumber, pepper and basil infused vodkas (separately of course) with the lovely goodies growing my garden. I also want to play around with other liquors like rum and tequila. The sky is really the limit on what you can do.
I have yet to play with other liquors, since vodka tends to be my first pick. Since the vodka itself is fairly tasteless, it can really let the flavor of the ingredient that you are infusing with, shine. Also, FYI, no reason to buy Grey Goose or Ketel one, but don’t buy that cheap crap on the bottom shelf either. I have been buying a nice middle of the road vodka like Svedka or Smirnoff.
I tend to like the fruit infused vodkas with a bit of soda water, a wee bit of simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint or basil. I keep a jar of homemade raw sugar simple syrup in my fridge at all times which can be made very easily with 1 part sugar to 1 part water, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
The strawberry vodka was great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Tonight I plan to experiment with an apricot martini of sorts. I cannot wait to make the pepper vodka with the super spicy heirloom Korean peppers growing in our garden, it will be perfect to make delicious homemade bloody marys with. The beet infused vodka that BA suggests is also super intriguing, I think I will have to add that to the list, too.
This is a simple cocktail made with my cherry vodka, just a tad bit of my homemade simple syrup, soda water and a fresh sprig of mint. So refreshing!
Step 1: Choose your liquor
Vodka is an obvious choice, but why not use white rum or tequila, brandy or grappa? Don’t go for the really cheap stuff, but don’t splurge either. A middle-of-the-road, neutrally flavored liquor will produce the best infused spirits.
Step 2: Choose your produce
Use what’s in season. Go to your local farmers’ market or, better yet, pick berries from your own berry patch, and bring home the most beautiful produce you can find. The super-ripe peach that dribbles juice down your chin is a perfect candidate. Also try raspberries, strawberries, pears, figs, lemons, cherries, blueberries, even beets and chiles, as long as they are ripe, ripe, ripe.
Some of Bon Appétit’s favorite fruit-and-spirit combos are:
Apricots + Eau de Vie
Figs + Bourbon
Jalapenos + Tequila
Pineapple + Rum
Beets + Vodka
Step 3: Prep your fruit
Wash it well and cut it into pieces. Remove peels and skins plus any part of the fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat: Stems, pits, cores, and seeds should all be tossed into the compost pile. As the liquor infuses, bitter flavors from citrus pith and seeds can leech into the liquor, so you want to avoid that.
Step 4: Bottle & Wait
Fill a clean resealable glass jar or bottle with fresh, cleaned fruit. Top off with liquor and screw on the lid. Place in a cool, dark place (like a fridge) until the flavors infuse (anywhere from a week to a month, depending on your taste and the strength of the fruit). Shake the jar every few days. When you’re happy with the flavor of the hooch, strain out fruit* and pour infused spirits into a clean resealable glass jar or bottle; store in the fridge.
Step 5: Drink Up
Use your freshly infused spirits in place of plain spirits in your favorite cocktail or serve up on its own as a Martini.
One caveat: This process requires a little patience. I generally start one mason jar of infused spirits per week throughout the summer. Depending on the type and ripeness of the fruit, infusions can take 2 to 3 weeks, so plan accordingly if you’re making it for a party (or use a fresh batch as an excuse to party). A pretty jar of rosy strawberry vodka is the perfect hostess gift, and it’s a lot more appealing than neon-green Margarita mix.
* though eating the fruit may be tempting, don’t bother. After the infusing process, the fruit is merely a ghost of its former self. All of the flavor has been sucked out and infused into the liquor so the fruit is left bland, soggy and tasteless.