Help me step up my vodka infusing game!
September 23, 2017 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Based on a wonderful drink I had on vacation in Indianapolis, I've decided to take up infusing vodka with various flavors as a hobby. However, my process seems inefficient, and I've screwed up a recent batch badly. Please give me your advice // recipes // ideas!

I've so far done 3 batches of infused vodka, with mixed success:

Pineapple (2 pineapples, some chunked, some blended in food processor), left for 7 days: GREAT SUCCESS
Strawberry (about a box and a half, cut into small bits), left for 7 days: Tasty, slight bitter aftertasts
Peach (~6-7, skin removed, cut into slices), left for 7 days: FAILURE FAILURE FAILURE

My problems come down to the details of the process:

- I kind of want to squeeze out the fruit that remains after the vodka has been in there for a few days to claim more liquid (and cut the proof a bit), but it's a MASSIVE pain in the ass. I'm either doing it small bits at a time with cheesecloth, or alternately mashing and straining which seems to net me maybe a shot per pass. Is there a more efficient way to do this, or should I even be bothering in the first place?
- What's the sweet spot on time, or is this just a 'taste and see' process? The pineapple turned out great after a week (the recommendation given to me), but I feel like the strawberry could have come out sooner, maybe after 3-4 days.
- I have ZERO clue what went wrong with the peach batch - I followed the same procedure I did with the prior two batches, but the infusion turned brown and syrupy and just... off. I wound up tossing this batch.

Also, I'm running out of ideas on what -should- work well right now. Pineapple and strawberry went well, and I'm about to start an orange batch. But I'm drawing a blank on how I'd do something like a chocolate vodka or similar. Also, I'm lacking creativity on what new fruits or fruit combinations are good, so if you have a good recipe, please let me know!

P.S. - if you want a tasty drink, stop by the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis and have their Pineapple Martini. This is what started this thing.
posted by isauteikisa to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
All I can tell you is I left freshly picked blueberries, whole, in vodka for a year and the result is a midnight blue nectar of the gods that is so sweet and blueberryish that I can barely bring myself to drink it.

In order to make this not only a bragpost can I suggest leave your fruit more whole and for longer so you can just strain it and not be dealing with purees that you feel you need to remove solids from (I probably woudn't and would just use the sludge as it's own thing, say in a bellini).

I did chocolate with some sort of foam inside sweet and got a weird sort of alcohol-damaged-chocolate emulsion/scum. I could use a coffee filter to get out, as you mention, like a shot worth, but I reckon I lost half my booze. It tastes ok, mainly sweet. Toasted marshmallows yeilded a syrupy liqueur that looks like nothing more than a jar of piss on my sideboard. Can't wait to try pineapple!
posted by Iteki at 2:28 PM on September 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Good-quality looseleaf Earl Grey tea. About 1/4 cup per 26 oz. of vodka for 12 hours, then strained out.

Makes a lovely mix with Italian lemon soda (San Pellegrino Limonata or something similar - anything citrusy, really).

I've done this a couple of times and it's been great.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2017 [11 favorites]


I love, love, love instant infusions, because they're faster, more consistent, and cleaner-tasting than traditional infusion methods (also way less likely to end in sad bits of moldy fruit poking up over the level of the vodka). The basic technique is as follows: load the liquor and flavorings into a whipped cream charger, pressurize with N2O, swirl, release pressure, and then pour it out. It creates delicious, very clean/pure flavors in a matter of seconds. See the blog post I linked for lots of tips and flavor ideas, including cacao nibs, basil, bay leaves, ginger, star anise, carrot (!) and a combination of orange peel, Thai basil, and cilantro. I've had excellent luck with infusing cacao nibs, coffee, cucumbers, berries, fresh thyme, and lots of other things. Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it. It's so much fun and very satisfying!
posted by ourobouros at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2017 [8 favorites]


Vanilla beans (cut and scored) make for some incredibly delicious vodka. I forget the proportions right now (one or two per liter, I think) and a couple of weeks is best. I bought my beans at Penzey's and I preferred the Mexican.

Sweet cherries also are wonderful in vodka. You do need to take the pits out, though, so it's a bit laborious. I think that was also a week or two. Mostly, I just tried it until I thought it was at the point it was good.

I have not had a lot of luck with citrus fruits. Berries seem to work well. My brother did a banana one that was just ... weird (I mean, it tasted like banana but it was just weird.)

I haven't done peaches in vodka but I did do a peach-infused bourbon and that turned out just fine so I'm not sure what happened with your batch.

I've had OK luck with things like hot peppers and herbs (I did a basil batch and a lemongrass batch). I just find the finished product of those less versatile than fruits.
posted by darksong at 3:53 PM on September 23, 2017


My favorite infusion ingredient is cloves. Great mixed with soda water and a splash of lime or bitters.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 3:58 PM on September 23, 2017


I came here to post Dave Arnold's article about infusing with nitrous, but was beaten to the punch by ourobouros. Doing it this way will allow you to rapidly iterate on recipes. Plus all the empty canisters will have the bonus effect of making your neighbors think you have a drug problem
posted by danny the boy at 4:05 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Or I guess, the bonus of being able to make whipped cream whenever you want.
posted by danny the boy at 4:06 PM on September 23, 2017


Not vodka, but I put some fresh figs, vanilla bean, cinnamon and clove into a quart of Courvoisier for about six months. AMBROSIA.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Try spices and dried things.

Dried cherries are incredible (try to get them without oil coating). Black pepper is good. Mace is great. Star anise and cardamom are both great.
posted by so fucking future at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2017


Put messy fruits inside a cheesecloth bag before you immerse them in vodka. We strain our vodka slowly through a coffee filter when finished.

Try citrus peels! Also, depending on how you feel about a numb tongue, Sichuan peppercorns! My husband loved that batch, I hated it.
posted by Wavelet at 5:33 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Folks, this post has reminded me that I have had raisins infusing in bourbon for the past NINE YEARS. The lid is impossible to open. I bet it's...very sweet in there.
posted by lizifer at 6:50 PM on September 23, 2017 [9 favorites]


My favorites are plums, basil, and jalapeño. (Each separately. Though come to think of it they might be good together.) I think it really is trial and error figuring out how long to infuse - the plums I tasted every few days and there was definitely an inflection point when it went from still kind of harsh tasting to rounded and delicious. The jalapeño infusion I basically used as bitters and also as hot sauce when cooking - it was quite hot.
posted by yarrow at 7:04 PM on September 23, 2017


I did a batch with mulled wine spices (whole nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange peel and almonds) last Christmas. It was delicious. I put them in a little muslin bag inside the vodka so they just lifted out at the end.

If I were doing fruit and wanted to get the maximum juice out afterwards, I'd probably put the pieces through a juicer afterwards. You probably know someone who can loan you one if you don't already have one.
posted by lollusc at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


The best infused vodka I ever made was its lemon, mint and black tea. I stuffed everything into the bottle and closed it extra tight. Then I put that bad boy in the dishwasher. Done! Strain over ice with a splash of lemonade.
posted by floweredfish at 7:55 PM on September 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Peeled and finely sliced (like with a mandolin) ginger. I use wide-mouthed mason jars for the infusion process and then transfer back to the original container when it's done. Leave it for a minimum of three weeks, or as long as you like, shaking occasionally. Ginger vodka makes the BEST Moscow Mules.
posted by zebra at 4:55 AM on September 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


Bitters are very fun to make! They're fussy because it's generally advisable to infuse each ingredient separately, but it made me feel like a wizard to have a bunch of little jars full of mysterious bits of roots and stuff, so if that's up your alley, here are some recipes:
- A general overview of making bitters
- Citrus spiced dandelion bitters
- Orange and Elecampane Herbal Bitters

I've usually made them with orris root (which is the bittering ingredient), with fennel and licorice root as digestives. I generally infuse them individually, mix them together, then add honey and age it as long as I can-- some that I aged for a year was unbelievably tasty.
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


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