How to infuse your own vodka

Do you ever have one of those culinary experiences you can’t forget? Like, months and years later you’re still remembering a taste, smell, what the room looked like? I had one of those last summer, and it led me to my new obsession: infusing my own vodka.

The wife and I were on vacation with friends in Tofino, BC. First of all, I totally recommend Tofino if you haven’t been there. I tried and definitely failed at surfing, but the good food and the beauty of the surroundings was enough to sell me on the place for life. If you go in the off season, say Spring or Fall, or even Winter if you’re brave, you’ll also get great deals, as we did. It was chilly and Springtime, but the beach was still amazing, and the sun still shone most of our visit. Great stuff.

But most importantly, on the third day we visited a local restaurant whose name I forget—it’s a main one though, sorry guys!—and sampled my customary drink of choice, the Caesar. This time, though, when I ordered, the waitress asked me a life-changing question:

“Do you want it made with our infused vodka?”

Infused? What? Turns out, they house make and infuse vodka. I chose the cucumber infusion, but there are tons of choices out there. Cucumber flavour made my Caesar that much more refreshing, and when we got home I vowed to try it myself. After some researching and trial and error, here’s the recipe I settled on, courtesy of the awesome site Taste for Adventure:

1) Choose a Base

The first rule of home infusion? Avoid the cheap stuff. If you use a lower-level vodka, the spirit’s alcoholic bite won’t sit well with the flavors you are trying to create. Go with something mid-tier like Absolut or Stoli–the distillation process of these brands make for a smoother product that will let your flavors shine through. You can choose a higher-end brand like Grey Goose or Ketel, but unless you want to impress your guests with the brand name, there really is no reason to spend the extra money.

*2) Get an Appropriate Vessel *

Go with glass–you don’t want the taste of plastic to seep into your mix. The container should be airtight (if you think the taste of plastic is bad, then you really won’t like any bugs that wander into your drink if it’s not sealed). And it needs to be big enough to make a batch that’s the appropriate size. Since the process takes a few days, you might want to look for something on the larger end–if you like what you’ve done, you don’t want to go through it too quickly.

*3) Add the Ingredients *

You can use pretty much any fruit, herb or vegetable you can think of. Add a healthy amount of whatever it is you like, and keep in mind it’s all about surface area. Cutting a lemon into many small parts will go farther than plunking two halves into the mix. Lots of small berries work well, and if you’re going to go with spices (think vanilla), be sure to mash them up before dropping them in.

*4) Wait *

You should let the ingredients stew for at least three days, but you can keep them in there for a few weeks (thankfully, the alcohol keeps the grub from going bad). As it’s sitting there, open the vessel every couple days and give the ingredients a good stir. This will ensure the flavors are evenly distributed, and, more important, taking the cap off will provide an excellent excuse to sneak a taste of your concoction.

*5) Strain and Serve *

When you’re ready to serve your vodka, you’ll want to pour it through a fine wire strainer to eliminate any lasting bits of your ingredient. If you do want a little pulp to be present when you drink it, just use a strainer with larger holes. You can drink the infused vodka straight, or mix it into a cocktail. If you have anything extra, just pop it into an airtight jar or bottle and keep it in the fridge.

*So far I’ve tried cucumber, blueberry and vanilla, and they’ve all been great. What flavours would you try? *

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