Flavored vodka is fine if you’re in a hurry, but let’s be honest: That stuff doesn’t taste like a lemon naturally.
To get the desired flavor, spirits companies head to the lab and concoct a balance of chemicals to make your lips pucker.
The flavor may evoke citrus–but that hooch won’t sit well with the farm-to-table crowd. Don’t put up with that! Infusing your own vodka is totally easy, and more important, all natural. Be it lemon, cucumber, horseradish or any other flavor of your choosing, home-infused vodkas are a great way to replace mad scientists’ machinations in your glass.
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.
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.
If you really want to see how you’ve done, taste it alongside one of those labels from the liquor companies that are flavored with chemicals. Chances are, you’ll be proud (and you’ll certainly deserve another shot).