Spiced and Infused

This year’s Christmas present and party treat du jour? (No, not a urine sample.)

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I was thinking I wanted to make something myself, something that would keep, something I could package nicely… Ah, what the heck, booze. I got some nice bottles to fill and some vodka. Some spices (organic) and fruit (less organic than I would like). Don’t get cheap vodka. Get a decent one.

Batch 1:

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Cardamom and Vanilla Vodka – very classy – infusion time about 1 week (or a few days over, if you want strong flavour)

  • a few green cardamom pods, crushed gently with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 organic vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
  • 35ml vodka (half a bottle)

In 2007, I had a wonderful fruity cocktail at a gay bar in Amsterdam. (The things I remember, honestly.) They used cardamom vodka they’d infused themselves. A mix of fruit and fruitjuices plus cardamom vodka – gorgeous. So this is sort of in memory of that lovely drinkie. And also, Martha Stewart suggested mixing cardamom with vanilla. Pop your spices in the bottle. Keep the bottle in a cool, dark place for a few days or up to a week, shake it at least once a day and keep tasting until the spices feel infused enough for you. They really ought to cover the smell of alcohol.

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After a week, there’s a nice balance in the taste, cardamom’s slightly stronger. The colour is a creamy yellow. Cardamom and vanilla are both pretty subtle, so they’ll have to infuse a bit longer than, say, star anise… which brings me to:

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Apricot, Cinnamon, Clove, Cardamom & Star Anise Vodka – very christmassy – infusion time about 5 days

  • 8-10 dried apricots
  • a few star anise, or just one if anise scares you
  • a few cloves
  • a few crushed green cardamom pods
  • half a stick of cinnamon
  • 35ml vodka

I was planning to do an apricot, star anise and cardamom vodka. But I went a bit nuts with the anise. After a day, it was beginning to smell medicinal, so I took most of them out and added part of a stick of organic cinnamon and a few cloves. A huge improvement. I imagine this would be fantastic for spiking and spicing – in one fell swoop – white wine glogg or hot cider. Treat similarly to the previous vodka, except it may take a couple of days less to infuse because of the ingredients having so much character.

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So far, so Breaking Bad. I take my jar and bottle out each day, have a sniff and a sip, give a shake, check the colour… Breaking Xmas… But like I say to the kids in English class: “We don’t use the b-word here and we don’t say it to our friends.” I sieved it, through a coffee filter and a funnel, into a bottle after 5 days of infusion. I will be trying it with some store-bought non-alcoholic white glogg (or as we call it here, glögi). Or perhaps I will heat up some dry cider and spike it. Should work a treat!

Batch 2:

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Pear and Cinnamon Vodka – winter approriate, sophisticated and delicate – infusion time about 1 week

  • half a pear, peeled and thinly sliced (to fit into the bottle)
  • 1 stick of organic cinnamon, broken up
  • 50 ml vodka

Just a couple days into infusing, the colour is already going a beautiful coppery brown. It’s not done yet, so no photo. But I think it will be lovely.

And as a bonus, I decided to try if I could make a little vin chaud -style spiker. In stead of having to heat up your spices with the red wine and adding brandy and orange slices to the mix, I thought how about infusing brandy with all the spices and adding a touch of triple sec for that sweet citrus flavour. I’d still add fresh orange slices to the vin chaud, though. It’s required.

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Vin Chaud Brandy – infusion time 1 week

  • 25 ml French Brandy
  • tiny splash of triple sec or cointreau
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/3 cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, sliced open
  • 5 cloves

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