30 December 2011

infused liquors: making cheap booze classy

Infused liquor. It's so easy it's almost not worth mentioning, but here I am, buckling under a self-imposed sense of obligation to share this magic with you. I started infusing liquors this year and bringing them to food swaps. Wow, was I a popular swapper. Good lord, they love their booze. I had them fooled for a few months and then people started to catch on to how simple it is to infuse their own liquors. I've infused tequila with strawberries & lime and raspberries & honey. I've made peach-infused vodka with agave syrup. Most recently, I followed these instructions from Martha Stewart for a Cranberry-and-Orange Vodka and gave bottles of it away for Christmas. The best part is, you can just make up your own recipe once you get the basic formula.




To infuse liquor you need:

A) Liquor. The liquor doesn't need to be expensive. It really doesn't. You are dressing it up so nicely that you won't be able to taste that it came from a giant plastic bottle that you had to stoop down to get in the liquor store. This is a place where you can get away with being a bit cheap.

B) An "infusing agent" (I think I just made that term up) & an optional sweetener. The "infusing agent" can be fruit, herbs or something else I haven't thought of yet. I hear there garlic-infused vodkas out there, but that's not really my thing. In fact, it makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. I like to use fresh berries, when possible, but thawed out frozen ones work just fine too. Juicy fruits work best; I would be skeptical of a banana- or apple-infusion but if you try it, tell me about it, ok? Fresh herbs are key in herbal infusions; check out this post on Herbal Digestif for more info on that. The recipe I used for my Christmas vodka essentially calls for making a cranberry simple syrup, which allows the sugar to dissolve and the cranberries to split and release their juices. If you are using honey or agave as your sweetener, you can add it directly to the liquor without heating it, although warming it up a bit makes it easier to mix in. If you aren't heating your infusing agents, give them a light smash with a fork to break up some of the juicy bits. You don't want to make fruit puree of it, but a bit of a crush will help the infusion process.

A few ideas for infusions...
  • Raspberry & Lime Tequila
  • Peach & Vanilla Bean Vodka
  • Cranberry-Orange Vodka
  • Lemon & Lime Gin
  • SO MANY MORE...

I let my infusions sit for a minimum of three days and up to two weeks. After a few days, I usually move it to the fridge where it can be safely stored for months. If you keep it in the freezer, it will keep for a very very long time. In a pinch for New Year's Eve? Make it tonight, let it sit for 24 hours & then break it out for a midnight toast. Even though it will be a young infusion, the flavor will still be strong, especially if you heat up your berries and sweetener before adding them to the liquor.

Happy New Year, peeps! See you in 2012 :) I've got some resolutions to think about, a NYE party to finish planning and perhaps another Whole Living Action Plan to start. Even though I tend to do a lot of my annual goal-making and looking-back on my birthday, I still like taking the time each December/January to think about the past year and wrap it up neatly in my mind. 

Coming up in January: A very special blog anniversary, if you acknowledge such milestones. I do, so we'll be celebrating in style here on the ol' blog.

5 comments:

  1. This looks tasty! Thanks for the link-love. Steeping apple peels (and two cinnamon sticks - optional) in a white rum or a "mellow whiskey" (oxy-moron) is pretty tasty. For the rum, it works best if you heat it up slightly.

    Man, if I wasn't such a shitty blogger, you probably could have read about all this on my site. C'est la vie.

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  2. I got a bottle of cranberry-orange vodka for Christmas, and I think we're going to pop it open tomorrow night! I've been wanting to try this awesome limoncello recipe I found--very similar but with a crapton of lemon peels! Thanks!

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  3. Do you strain out the berries or does the alcohol preserve them? Also, do you always use a sweetener?

    Lovely post - looks like a fun project!

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  4. Valerae- I keep the vodka with the berries and refrigerate it, but strain the berries out before I serve it.

    I've skipped the sweetener and it works just fine! Just a preference thing :)

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  5. I'd probably skip the sweetener if it's not required. I love that the berries stay in good shape, I was afraid of moldy blobs, but I suppose that's a wonder of high alcohol content!

    I'm thinking strawberry, thyme and ginger gin...next June when strawberries are acceptable again...or maybe a tomato, basil vodka...yum...so many possibilities!!!

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