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Chris Amirault

Making Gin from Vodka

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I've got two unopened 1.75l bottles of Stoli sitting in the back of my liquor cabinet, where they've been for years. I don't even remember why I bought them -- perhaps at a two-for-one sale -- and whatever the reason was then, it's gone now. No one in my life wants Cape Codders, Bloody Marys, or V&Ts, least of all me, given my turn toward classic cocktails lately.

So I snooped around the topic on infusing vodkas in the hopes of finding something I'd like to have on hand. I wrote down a few ideas (ginger and lemon grass from our garden? rosemary?) but whenever I tried to figure out what the hell I'd do with them, I drew a blank. There's a reason that I don't have flavored vodkas on hand: I never use them. (I also find their names idiotic, but that's another topic.)

So I asked Janet what I should do, and she told me a penny-pinching tale from her past in which she sought to transform some cheap vodka and juniper berries into gin. And, well, that clinched it.

I'm gonna make me some gin. I have no idea how, but that's where y'all come in. From a quick perusal, I think I'm looking at small quantities of a couple dozen ingredients. Here's the most useful list I've found so far, from cocktail.com, on the subject:

Gin derives its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries. In addition to juniper berries, other botanicals may be used, including angelica root, anise, coriander, caraway seeds, lime, lemon and orange peel, licorice, calmus, cardamom, cassia bark, orris root, and bitter almonds

Right now, I've got the items in bold on hand and feel that I can probably get started without angelica, calmus, orris, and bitter almonds, right? So the question is the initial recipe: I obviously want an assertive juniper flavor and far more subtle nuances of the rest, but I've few ideas about how those nuances would best transfer to the vodka in terms of time and proportions. And, of course, what's missing from that list?

One last thing. I keep Tanqueray on hand for martinis and Plymouth on hand for mixing, and when I can I grab a bottle of Hendricks. It might be interesting to try to match one of those, but, frankly, if I can produce something that doesn't taste like swill I'll consider this a raving success.

Of course, if I can convince a few other people to try this out, I'll feel a little less insane. Any takers?

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I think the weeniecello proved that nothing is too crazy as far as infusions go but it doesn't seem so practical given that you can get gin just about everywhere. Why not make bitters? Or you could make a bunch of tinctures of various herbs to try adding a drop to different cocktails like they have at Pegu.

edit: whoops, pressed send before I reread your post and finished editing...


Edited by donbert (log)

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Take one bottle, divide it up into portions equal to the number of flavors you want to infuse. Infuse each flavor individually in those portions. Then pour the other whole bottle into a large container, then start seasoning it with the individual flavors.

When you get a mix that you like, stop.

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Why merely infuse when you can distill? There are several low tech and cheap and rudimentary distilling contraptions that you can cobble together. I've got a picture of mine around here in the archives somewhere--I'll try to find it. But there's a ridiculously low tech version that simply requires a stock pot with a lid, a steamer basket, a bowl and a lot of ice.

1 get your stock pot and put the steamer basket in the bottom.

2 rest your bowl on the basket

3 pour your vodka and herbs in the pot (not in the bowl)

4 cover your pot with the INVERTED lid, so that the lid makes a kind of bowl

5 put the heat on and let simmer

6 fill the lid with ice

What'll happen is that the vodka will vaporize at 170 degrees or so, hit the cold lid and condense and drip into the bowl.

Ingenious in its simplicity, and that's really all the complexity this operation needs. The heads and tails and non-alcohol stuff has already been removed by your vodka company, so all you have to do is cook and collect.

This same contraption can be used to make custom hydrosols, too.

myers

edited to add these pix of a more "traditional" stove top still:

http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/10999385..._1099938999.jpg

http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/10999385..._1099938636.jpg


Edited by fatdeko (log)

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Thanks for the responses. donbert, I am planning to take a crack at bitters a bit later, but this month's goofy experiment is making gin. FFR, thanks for the tips; I think that's an excellent idea!

fatdeko... (rubbing hands) I'm very intrigued. What are the benefits to distilling over infusing? I'm worried about my ability to control the flavoring agents and their proportions, which is why FFR's method is so appealing.

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Home Distillation of Gin

I think in most cases distillation of spirits leaves behind some of the harsher flavors which might be overwhelming in the case of liquors flavored with certain herbs or spices. This is definitely the case in the bitter component of the grand wormwood used to flavor absinthe and may be the case with juniper in gin.

I believe heat also allows you to more efficiently capture and preserve the essence of of alcohol soluble flavors and scents. Distilled flavored alcohols, like gin, absinthe, aquavit, and Arak have an indefinite shelf life and generally do not change (much) once they are in the bottle. Home infused flavored spirits and liqueurs, unless they are very well filtered, definitely have a shelf life of a few years. The flavor of infused liquors or liqueurs will continue to evolve or degrade with time.

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I admit to some trepidation when I read about home distilling. Heat, alcohol, and enclosed pots scare me. So, to start, I'm sticking with infusion:

gallery_19804_437_138007.jpg

I've decided on three 250 ml Stoli infusions. The first is the juniper (10g crushed a bit in a mortar); the second is the citrus rind (10g lemon, 5g lime, 5g orange, roughly minced); the third is the additional aromatics (5g cassia bark, 3g cardamom, 3g coriander, 3g anise, and 2 allspice berries for good measure, all crushed a bit as well).

As you can see, within a couple of hours, the vodka had picked up some color from the ingredients, especially the first and last. I think that my "gin" is not going to be crystal clear, eh?

One last thing. In an IM yesterday, Sam mentioned that this wasn't really the best way to make gin. He was right, of course -- but I'm hoping that it's a damned good way to use up vodka. :wink:

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As you can see, within a couple of hours, the vodka had picked up some color from the ingredients, especially the first and last. I think that my "gin" is not going to be crystal clear, eh?

Sweet. I am sure your homeowners policy covers in-house distilling. Mine does. :wink:

Seriously thought, distilling those after you infuse them should bring them back to a clear state I would assume.

Are you going to let them all infuse for the same amount of time? I would think the citrus one would give up all its flavors pretty quickly and then turn sharply towards a bitter oxidized taste with the rinds.

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gallery_19804_437_54067.jpg

After much tasting of different mixtures (insert joke about blurry photo here) I realized that I wanted equal amounts of the citrus and juniper but wanted to cut way back on the aromatic. Final proportions are 250ml citrus infusion, 250ml juniper infusion, 50ml aromatic infusion.

It's pretty interesting but definitely tastes somewhat raw. The clean, bright juniper flavor atop gin is missing, replaced by a muddier note that is absolutely juniper but more harsh than bright. It also has less of gin's oily mouthfeel. Finally, as predicted, it's more bitter than the Tanqueray.

Having said that, the jumble of flavors are more pronounced. It's not going to win any contests, but it might be an interesting "gin" for mixed drinks with several ingredients. To that end, I'm going to try it in a Corpse Reviver #2 once I get a lemon.

Side note: you'll notice that I had about 200ml of the aromatic infusion left over. It's not nearly as bitter as a bitters, but it's pleasantly complex. I can see adding 1/4 oz of that to, say, a Manhattan or a Negroni.

Are you going to let them all infuse for the same amount of time?  I would think the citrus one would give up all its flavors pretty quickly and then turn sharply towards a bitter oxidized taste with the rinds.

I infused all of them for the same time, only about 24 hours, much less than I thought I would. The citrus one infused very quickly, is nicely flavored and isn't bitter at all. (Thank you, bird's beak knife.) The aromatic one also infused quickly without much bitterness. However, the juniper infusion is by far the most bitter.

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A few notes a week down the road. The "gin" has been mellowing out, it seems; both my notes here and my memory suggest that it was far more bitter last week than now. Save for what Freud might call the "omnipotence of wishes" effect, I don't have any sense of why that would be. Anyone?

I was right about the CR#2: it's pretty great. The herbal complexity is quite lively in that drink. The stuff makes a woeful Aviation Cocktail though, as the brew lacks the subtlety needed to make the simple balance work.

I'm wondering what else might work, given this evidence. A fascinating G&T, for sure, but I'm trying to think of something more interesting than that.

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wow! i think you're lucky. my favorite vodka infusion is with vanilla beans. i buy vanilla beans wholesale, and so i use a jar with a flip-up lid (the one that has a clasp on the front) with vanilla beans, and then i pour vodka all over. you can use the vanilla beans for cooking, and the vanilla extract that's made is, in my opinion, the most pure vanilla i've ever used, as far as flavor goes. you can also use the vodka as a good substitute for eau de vie to make some good old fashioned 44.

-honorspianist

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So, I know that I'm replying to an ancient thread, but, I found one online amateur source online that suggests running the final product through a Brita pitcher filter. I'm thinking of giving this a try.

I'm mostly interested in G&Ts, and maybe the Martinez from a final product. And, my expectations are pretty low here. I know that I won't be giving Hendrick's a run for their money any time soon.

My projected items to infuse are: dry juniper berries, mahlab seeds, meyer lemon rind, fennel seed, and rose petals.

I hadn't thought about separate infusions and a final mix, but that's what I'll try. I have plenty of cheap generic vodka for the project since I purchased three bottles thinking that I'd try three blends. The separate infusions definitely offer a lot more possibilities.

I need to go buy more canning jars before starting, so this project may not take off for another day or two.

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I take it this is being done just for fun and not as any attempt to save money or something. While it may be fun and educational, be warned that you're likely to come out spending at least as much as on a bottle of good mid-priced gin and coming out with a product not significantly better (if better at all) than the most bottom shelf of brands.

Edit to acknowledge that Chris was able to come up with something interesting if not really qualifying as gin. Perhaps your experiment will yield fruit after all.


Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

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[...]

...if not really qualifying as gin. Perhaps your experiment will yield fruit after all.

Tell that to Modern Spirits (who make Tru) and Bendistillery. Both of them sell infused spirits as "Gin".

Not to mention the other companies that produce Gins by cold compounding flavor essences...

Not to mention some crazy person over at the Underhill-Lounge who made a juniper flavored punch based on unaged whiskies.


Edited by eje (log)

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[...]

...if not really qualifying as gin. Perhaps your experiment will yield fruit after all.

Tell that to Modern Spirits (who make Tru) and Bendistillery. Both of them sell infused spirits as "Gin".

Not to mention the other companies that produce Gins by cold compounding flavor essences...

Not to mention some crazy person over at the Underhill-Lounge who made a juniper flavored punch based on unaged whiskies.

Perhaps I should have said specified that I meant "Dry Gin". I could be wrong but I haven't been given to understand that quality gins were typically produced from cold-compounding. Haven't had anything I know of from Bendistillery but the Tru Gin was to my palate almost completely unlike gin as I understand it. Tasted ok, I suppose, but the marketing angle turned me off to it.

The crazy guy at Underhill Lounge sounds like he might be on to something...but would his product work in a Martinez?

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