Making infused vodkas is easy and a great gift idea! I used to make them by the bucketload. There are a couple simple rules that you need to follow to make sure you end up with good booze, and not useless swill. Here are the basics:
- Use cheap vodka, but good vodka. Look for triple distilled off brands. Less than $10 for a 750ml
- Add simple syrup to the mix. About 1/4 cup per 750ml should be good. You can use more if you want to sweeten it up. Sugar helps the alcohol bond with the water in the fruit.
- Use the right parts of fruit, not just scraps. Lemon peels and flesh, but not the pith. No stems, no seeds, no sticks. And ripeness is also very important. An under-ripe mango will taste like turpentine.
- Keep the proportions proper for your ingredients. Weaker ingredients are used more, stronger are used less. You can fill up a bottle with pears, as many as you can pack in there. But for the same amount of vodka, you might only need to use 1 Jalapeno.
- Be careful with spices, they come through strong. One cinnamon stick will be powerful. Two or three cloves will be seriously clove-y. And 2 vanilla beans will make a bottle of vodka more vanilla than you can handle.
- Place ingredients into a large sealable container, mason jars or buckets work great. Leave them in a cool, dry, place for a few days to a few weeks. You can put them in the fridge, but it does slow things down. Fruits go less time so they don’t disintegrate and loose color. Spices go longer to fully develop and mellow out. Stir them up every few days until you think they are ready.
- Strain the ingredients out, or leave them in. Its up to you. Remember to leave fruits and veggies in larger even cuts if you aren’t going to strain. That way they look nice, and are big enough not to break down. Really red fruits will loose all their color, so plan on straining anything with skins or really dark color. If you strain it, try and get it nice and clean. Run it through an nice fine strainer, and then even a coffee filter if you have to.
- Bottle it up in a sealable container, and you’re good to go. I like old liquor bottles with the labels removed. Mason Jars sound great for gifts.
Here are some of my favorite combinations. Try some of your own.
* Pineapple habanero (awesome for Bloody’s)
* Fresh Horseradish and Black Pepper (Also awesome for Bloody’s)
* Limoncello (lots of lemons and a good amount of simple syrup)
* Orange Creamsicle (oranges and condensed milk)
* Blueberry Lemon (great with lemonade)
* Tropical (cherry, apple, pineapple, lemon, lime, orange, mango)
* Apple Pie (apples, cinnamon, clove, vanilla)
* Berries and Cream (strawberries with vanilla bean)
* BLT (Bacon, lettuce, tomato…yep!)
* Espresso (kinda boring, but way better than anything at the liquor store)
* Cherry Pie (lots of cherries, one lemon, one vanilla bean)