Turn Today’s Leftovers Into Tomorrow’s Cocktail

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You can cheaply make flavored vodkas with ingredients already in your pantry or fridge. Enjoy it yourself or consider it a frugal gift idea.

Smoked salmon. Bacon. Thai chili.

Nope, that’s not what’s for dinner. These are just a few of the array of flavored vodkas on the market.

If you’ve ventured to your local liquor aisle, then you know any flavor imaginable of vodka is now available. Some are savory and others sweet.

Marshmallow. Mango coconut. Birthday cake. Have you busted out your shaker yet?

You can save some money being your own mixologist. Not only that but you can use aging produce and other assorted items in your creations. It’s a win-win-win. That last win being that you get a tasty cocktail.

These creations can make unique gifts as well. All you need to add is a gussied container and label.

Vodka is the most common base spirit used. Other light spirits like gin and light rum can also be used to create almost any flavor.

All you need to get started is your spirit of choice, your choice of flavoring, an air-tight container (Mason jars or swing-top bottles work best) and a coffee filter. Preparing the mix will take only a few minutes. The hard part is waiting up to two weeks for the spirit to be infused.

1. Choose your liquor

Your Costco card may come in handy during this step. If you’re on the West Coast, Trader Joe’s generally has a great selection of reasonably priced, good quality spirits.

“If you’re experimenting with a new infusion you may want to use a less expensive bottle so as not to waste money or good liquor,” says About.com.

2. Pick a flavor, any flavor

The world is your oyster when it comes to flavoring. Hey, oyster vodka, anyone?

The most common infusions are fruit, herbs and spices.

Country Living suggests vanilla and cinnamon, which requires merely two beans and two sticks. A more exotic blend takes orange rinds and zest, and fresh ginger.

All of your chosen ingredients should be sliced in order to fit into your container.

3. Prepare the concoction

Place your infusion items into the receptacle. Cover the ingredients with your desired amount of spirits. Close the container and shake a few times.

4. Let the magic begin

Your infusion should be stored in a cool and dark place. Some recipes say to refrigerate, others say the pantry is fine. Shake the creation a few times during this process. Generally it should take about a week, but some are quicker, so most recipes suggest checking the flavor after Day 5.

About.com offers these guidelines for infusion times:

  • One to two hours — hot peppers, though test it more often as different peppers will add their spice faster, and the spirit can easily become unpalatable.
  • Three to four days — intense flavors such as basil, dill, garlic, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mint, oranges, oregano, tarragon, thyme and vanilla beans.
  • One week — moderate flavors such as blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, lavender, mangos, peaches, pitted cherries, raspberries, rosemary and strawberries.
  • Two weeks — mild flavors such as pineapple and lemongrass. Also ginger.

 5. Finishing touches

Once your spirit is suitably infused, you need to remove the flavoring. A coffee filter or fine strainer should be used to transfer the liquid into another container. You can use the original bottle or jar after the glass has been thoroughly cleaned. Your creation should be stored as you would the original liquor.

If you just can’t wait, here’s a recipe from TLC with no infusion time necessary. It’s for lavender and honey vodka:

Brew about 2 tablespoons of dried lavender in a regular drip coffee maker with a filter, using about 4 cups of water. Transfer the liquid to a bottle with 1/4 cup of honey (TLC suggests lavender honey available at a gourmet grocery), add the juice from half a lemon, and stir. Cool to room temperature and serve.

Have a pal who has an adoration for jelly beans to rival Ronald Reagan’s? The Realistic Nutritionist offers a recipe for jelly bean vodka. It takes about 48 hours to infuse. A shot of the finished product has 158 calories and a value of one Weight Watchers point. She suggests mixing a pink jelly bean vodka with Champagne and a twist of lemon.

Still have a few Peeps lingering from Easter? Peep-infused vodka, anyone?

Stacy Johnson

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