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Infusions & Tinctures at Home: The Topic


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#1 herbacidal

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 01:46 PM

if i can get to one of these egullet shindigs around the country, i was thinking of what i wanted to bring. beverages, non-alcoholic and alcoholic seemed interesting to me, and I had spoke to someone about infusing vodka.

so, now I'm planning on infusing some vodkas.

was thinking of buying a cheap vodka and infusing it.

went out and bought 3 canners' jars today.

so i figure i'll do 3.

the questions are:

any recommendations on the vodka choice? been a while since i've had cheap plastic bottle type vodka but might go that route. but are they really non-odor and non-taste?
was also thinking of just getting a bottle of smirnoff 80 proof (red label?) and using that.

any recommendations on what to infuse it with? obviously flavors that I like would be good, but looking for other flavors that I might like that I might not think of otherwise. So, fire away.

any recommendations from people who've done it before? i was planning on just throwing the ingredient in the bottom of the jar, dumping the vodka on top, sealing the bottle until i feel like opening it for something. should i make it more complicated than that?
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#2 elyse

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 01:49 PM

I'm glad you posted this. I have some that I infused some years ago, and am afraid to drink it now. I used grapes from my grandmother's yard. Really perfumy. And Smirnoff.

#3 =Mark

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 01:56 PM

There is a local liquor and wine dealer that sells 1.75 litre bottles of Poland Spring vodka (The bottled spring water folks) for $9.99. It is extremely smooth and you won't beat the price anywhere.
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#4 bigbear

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 02:05 PM

This link might help.

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#5 herbacidal

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 02:18 PM

mark, what's the name of the place?

i called the 2 local liquor chains around here and they don't have it.

alternatively, is there any other one close to that price and smoothness? you didn't mention odor and taste, but i assume they're non existent with the poland spring?
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#6 memesuze

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 03:30 PM

I've made my own pepper vodka, using relatively cheap vodka with two cut-open habaneros per liter, infused for a couple of weeks. I'd remove the peppers then and store it in the freezer. I never compared it side-by-side with the commercial varieties, but in my etched shot glass also stored in the freezer, it was sufficient to light my fires....

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#7 Xanthippe

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 03:53 PM

If you've access to a Trader Joe's, pick up a fifth of Burnett's vodka; at $4.99 a bottle, I'd say it's a fine contender for infusion. Citrus vodkas are always pleasant in hot weather, and blood orange is a personal favorite.

#8 beans

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 09:03 PM

No matter the flavour you are infusing, you are still stuck with that cheap vodka hangover. Go with a moderate, neutral type, say like Skyy. Ginger-Lemongrass infusion is lovely, but keep in mind that like making jams and jellies, "fruit protector" is needed on occasion according to my Cordials from Your Kitchen, Easy, Elegant Liqueurs You Can Make and Give by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling.

I've made a Raspberry infused which I gave away and saved a bottle or two to enjoy and now wish to start with other flavours. Post your progress and results! Did you like what you did? Would you do it again? It is fun to make and enjoy, particularly after a rather hairied night at work.

#9 Jason Perlow

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 09:36 PM

I wouldn't infuse cheap Vodka. I'd use some really good stuff with character, like Belvedere or Chopin. Or something neutral but clean tasting like Absolut or Stolichnaya.
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#10 Chef/Writer Spencer

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 09:49 PM

I worked at a Russian restaurant as head chef for 5 years.
The best way to infuse vodka is with Jolly Rancher candies....green apple being the best. Some may scoff, but they have no idea. I agree with Jason though...cheap vodka sucks. Use Glacier brand--the best potato vodka I've ever tasted. Smoother than a baby's ass. Hey I'd take a frozen bottle of Glacier and a 2 dollar bag of Watermelon Jolly Ranchers over two degustations from the chef of my choice anyday.

#11 Jason Perlow

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 09:59 PM

Jolly Ranchers, Interesting.

The best infused vodka I have ever had was at Firebird Restaurant in NYC. They have a honey spice vodka that they make that is truly AMAZING stuff. I've tried to duplicate it on several occassions, but I always miss the mark. I've even gotten the ingredient list once or twice from the bartender there, but can never isolate the exact technique they use.

This infused vodka recipe site looks really cool:

http://www.bigosbar....dka_recipes.htm
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#12 Andrew Fenton

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 06:25 AM

The best way to infuse vodka is with Jolly Rancher candies...


A Danish friend of mine infuses vodka with Red Hots candy. Tastes surprisingly good.

#13 beans

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 09:58 AM

...cheap vodka sucks.  Use Glacier brand--the best potato vodka I've ever tasted.  Smoother than a baby's ass.  Hey I'd take a frozen bottle of Glacier and a 2 dollar bag of Watermelon Jolly Ranchers over two degustations from the chef of my choice anyday.

Mmmmmm. My fav vodka by far, especially for the price. Too bad they don't have a better distribution, at least in northeastern Ohio. Only one bar I know of stocks it regularlly and thankfully its in my neighbourhood. Never saw it in Alaska either.

#14 Blondie

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 10:41 AM

A zillion years ago (more like 10) I was living in Hoboken and my best friend was a bartender (now known as The Fisherman). An older Eastern European gentleman talked his ear off one afternoon about some grass they put in vodka and how he couldn’t get it in the US, but had it mailed from Poland.

A few weeks later he gave my friend an envelope with dozens of long strands of grass that he called bison grass (which led to the name “Buffalo Booze” for the finished product). He gave me some and we each put a few strands in bottles of Absolut and stuck them in our respective freezers. We just left the grass in the bottle. The result was a fresh, herbal taste that I loved. His ran out sooner than mine, so we were able to taste it over months and it continued to improve.

If you know any older Polish gentlemen, see if they can get you some bison grass.
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#15 KatieLoeb

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 12:52 PM

). He gave me some and we each put a few strands in bottles of Absolut and stuck them in our respective freezers. We just left the grass in the bottle. The result was a fresh, herbal taste that I loved. His ran out sooner than mine, so we were able to taste it over months and it continued to improve.


A friend of mine smuggled back a bottle of this stuff from Poland for me. You are correct - the herbacious flavor is indescribable and absolutely delicious.

Supposedly the "Buffalo Grass" has hallucinogenic properties, so it's classified as a drug and that's why it can't be imported. I never found that to be true, but I'm no chemist, so who knows what the make up of the actual grass is. Anyone here have any clues?

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#16 elyse

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 12:55 PM

I had a fantastic vodka from Poland once that had 2 Bison on the label. Wish I could get it here.

#17 Xanthippe

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 03:20 PM

I wouldn't infuse cheap Vodka. I'd use some really good stuff with character, like Belvedere or Chopin. Or something neutral but clean tasting like Absolut or Stolichnaya.

Okay, okay -- I retract my recommendation of the cheap vodka!! I stand humbly corrected, although I do suppose one could use Burnett's as a "practice" bottle.
Yes?

Blood orange is still a favorite . . .

#18 herbacidal

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Posted 01 June 2003 - 04:31 PM

I've made my own pepper vodka, using relatively cheap vodka with two cut-open habaneros per liter, infused for a couple of weeks. I'd remove the peppers then and store it in the freezer. I never compared it side-by-side with the commercial varieties, but in my etched shot glass also stored in the freezer, it was sufficient to light my fires....

memesuze

what kind of cheap vodka?

are any of them neutral and clean?

or might i have to go the route jason is suggesting?
in that case absolut i would guess.
although vodkaphiles.com lists smirnoff red label 80 as being relatively neutral and cheap. r
ight now, that's my leading contender as far as vodka choice.

as far as flavors, i'll test various options. the jolly ranchers one is probably
at least one of the three, just b/c it's so interesting.

i'm thinking anise might be another, although not sure i want it that sweet.

i'm also thinking about an asian fruit perhaps, just to see how it would come out.
one of my favorites is longan, although i'm not sure the flavor would come out.
might be worth doing a mini batch of that.

hmm, might hafta buy more canning jars.
Herb aka "herbacidal"

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#19 Poots

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Posted 02 June 2003 - 11:58 AM

Forget Smirnoff. Still somewhat inexpensive but good is the base-line Stolichnaya. I infused a bottle of Stoli with some Danish candy i brought back from Copenhagen called 'turkish pepper' or something like that. Like almost all candy from denmark, it's a black licorice derivative, but has a little heat to it as well. Tastes vaguely like jagermeister. good stuff straight from the freezer. i used 100 proof, but that's neither here nor there....just me :raz:
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#20 trillium

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Posted 02 June 2003 - 03:15 PM

how about pandan? it might make a nice infused vodka and look cool to boot.

regards,
trillium

#21 Schielke

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Posted 02 June 2003 - 03:37 PM

I agree with the jolly rancher rec. Some friends of mine used to do Watermellon vodka with them and had great success. I recall them using the base Stoli for the experiment.

I think a cherry infused vodka could make some bitchin' cocktails.

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#22 trillium

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 10:33 AM

Success defined as how? Turning a perfectly decent bottle of booze (ok, maybe not perfectly, it is vodka after all) into something that tastes like the very bottom of the barrel of what the IFF turns out? Blech. I'm of the opinion that sweetened candy flavored spirits are in the same catagory as jello shots. Alcohol for people that don't want to taste alcohol and still have the flavor palate of a nine year old. If you want to have something red and sticky sweet and redolent of fake watermelon flavor, why not just eat the Jolly Rancher? Or drink some kool-aid? And it's not infusing, it's dissolving sugar, flavor and color into a bottle. I suppose someone is going to suggest laffy taffy next, for it's improved mouth feel. Ok, rant over...mutter...mutter...mutter.

regards,
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#23 Priscilla

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 10:41 AM

Hey! I've got bison-grass-infused vodka in my freezer even as we speak, a gift from a Bulgarian.

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#24 Schielke

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 10:56 AM

Success defined as how?  Turning a perfectly decent bottle of booze (ok, maybe not perfectly, it is vodka after all)  into something that tastes like the very bottom of the barrel of what the IFF turns out?  Blech.  I'm of the opinion that sweetened candy flavored spirits are in the same catagory as jello shots.  Alcohol for people that don't want to taste alcohol and still have the flavor palate of a nine year old.  If you want to have something red and sticky sweet and redolent of fake watermelon flavor, why not just eat the Jolly Rancher?  Or drink some kool-aid? And it's not infusing, it's dissolving sugar, flavor and color into a bottle.  I suppose someone is going to suggest laffy taffy next, for it's improved mouth feel.  Ok, rant over...mutter...mutter...mutter.

regards,
trillium

I would liken it to drinking a cocktail that includes simple syrup and another kind of flavor.

All I know is that the drink I had tasted nice and everybody enjoyed them.

At the same time, it would be a waste to do that to a nice bottle of vodka.
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#25 herbacidal

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 10:59 AM

how about pandan?  it might make a nice infused vodka and look cool to boot.

regards,
trillium

sorry, what is pandan?
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#26 trillium

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 11:01 AM

I would liken it to drinking a cocktail that includes simple syrup and another kind of flavor.

All I know is that the drink I had tasted nice and everybody enjoyed them.

At the same time, it would be a waste to do that to a nice bottle of vodka.


Don't be mad, it's just a pet peeve of mine. I think the key word is flavor. It takes a really, really good flavor chemist to get close to what mother nature does. There are usually hundreds to thousands of compounds in what we think of as a single "flavor". Jolly Rancher flavors are bland and boring to me. It seems like a waste of booze even if it is only vodka!

regards,
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#27 beans

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 11:06 AM

I'm of the opinion that sweetened candy flavored spirits are in the same catagory as jello shots.  Alcohol for people that don't want to taste alcohol and still have the flavor palate of a nine year old.  If you want to have something red and sticky sweet and redolent of fake watermelon flavor, why not just eat the Jolly Rancher?  Or drink some kool-aid?

Because it's fun and candy flavours are a huge hit. I don't liken that in any way to jello shots when I make mine. Eeeegads. On the whole an entirely different sort of appreciation.

#28 Busboy

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 11:15 AM

I wrote an article on this a couple years back and did extensive home research. The first thing you should know is that it's hard to screw this up -- put your flavorings in, taste it in a week and either add more, adjust or dilute as you see fit. The second is that tasting your product to adjust flavoring can be hazardous to the quantity of your final product. The third is to use good vodka.

My favorite combination is lemon peel and honey. Make sure you don't get the pith in. I think I used the peel of two lemons and about 2 tsp of honey.

The fresh raspberries that may or may not be appearing any day make a great brew, too, with sugar. The stuff turns the most amazing color -- maybe even better than the Jolly Rancher-flavored vodka. Add a little citrus peel or fresh herb to add a little depth.

I also liked garlic and dill -- I started out putting it in bloody maries and ended up drinking the stuff straight, iced.

I usually find that the tastes pretty good after a week or two sitting at room temperature, but Chef Samuelsson at Aquavit -- who was kind enbough to spenf 30 minutes on the phone with a rookie free-lancer -- says it good aquavit needs six weeks to develop its flavor.
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#29 trillium

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 01:00 PM

Because it's fun and candy flavours are a huge hit.  I don't liken that in any way to jello shots when I make mine.  Eeeegads.  On the whole an entirely different sort of appreciation.

If you say so. I personally don't see the difference since they both have obviously fake flavor, vodka and sugar in common, but to each their own (just don't make me drink either).

regards,
trillium

#30 beans

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 01:22 PM

Hi trillium. I see, it's the flavour thing. I keep picturing all of the drunken touristas pub crawling all over the island resort, where I bartended, sucking down those jello shots from a large shaped syringe wearing mardi gras beads, bright Hawaiian shirts and wearing Round House red beer buckets on their heads. Yuk.

I myself haven't done any of the candy flavours, but I've done a lemongrass/ginger, a pineapple and a lovely, striking ruby coloured raspberry infusions. I want to try some sort of lavendar infusion this summer. And the fun part is taste testing the results!

Salud!