Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Coffee Infused Vodka

2 cups whole coffee beans
1 liter vodka

Infuse for one to several weeks.

I talked to the head roaster at Peace Coffee to get his opinion on what sort of beans would be best to infuse in vodka. He recommended using espresso beans. He said this would best bring out the caramel and smoky flavors in the coffee.

The flavor does not disappoint. After a week the infusion smells fantastic. A nice, full flavor. Very much like drinking shots of cold-pressed coffee.

I haven't found just the right cocktail for this one yet. Came up with something I called a Pasty Pole, which is awfully nice, but I hope to come up with a signature cocktail to show this off.

Caramel Vodka

1 batch homemade caramel
1 liter vodka

This recipe uses homemade caramel. I have heard of other recipes that use caramel sauce or caramel cubes. I prefer the bite of the caramel without any dairy added.

After you remove the caramel from the stove, DON'T add the cream you would add if you were making caramel sauce. And keep in mind that the caramel is going to be VERY hot when it comes off the stove. I pour a liter of vodka into two quart jars and have these set aside ready for the caramel. You can put the vodka in some other heavy container but I wouldn't try to pour the caramel straight into the vodka bottle.

I pour half the caramel into each of my two jars of vodka. The caramel forms a hard lump on the bottom of each jar, but this dissolves fairly quickly.

This vodka is ready to drink as soon as the caramel is dissolved.

Homemade Caramel

Start with two cups of sugar and half a cup of water in a pan. Put over medium heat and stir until sugar s dissolved. Once it starts boiling, do NOT stir but just sort of swirl around in the pan. After 10 - 15 minutes the mixture will start to brown. Remove from heat when you get a nice nutty color.

The browning happen all at once, and so do keep your eye on things. And this stuff is incredibly hot when it's done, so be careful. When the caramel cools it will be hard. If you are making caramel sauce, stir in heavy cream right away.

Pasty Pole

1 part coffee infused vodka
1 part cinnamon infused vodka
1 part caramel infused vodka
2 parts milk

Use organic whole milk if you can.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Filtering Vodka

I think I first heard about this as an internet hoax at least five years ago.  Someone had a website with pictures of some guys drinking shots of cheap, nasty vodka and commenting on how they repeatedly ran the vodka through a Brita filter.  They claimed that, after each round, the vodka just tasted better and better.

Well, duh.  I was not sucked in.  For the cost of the filters I could just buy better vodka.  But when I started infusing vodkas, it seemed worthwhile to see if I could take the edge off the cheap vodka and make it more palatable.  

I sent an e-mail to some friends asking if they had an extra water filter pitcher around the house that they weren't using.  I explained my intentions, and within 48 hours I had three filter pitchers on my doorstep.

I tested the filtering theory alongside my neighbor Dave.  We used Phillips Vodka 80.  I buy it because it's made locally.  At $7 for a fifth, it's cheap but still comes in a glass bottle.

First we tasted the unfiltered Phillips.  I warned Dave that I would be blogging about this and that he would be expected to describe the experience.  After a sniff and a sip, he threw back the rest of the shot and said, "Teeth.  It's got teeth."

My first reaction was to note that drinking this vodka was similar to getting my nose too close to a bottle of rubbing alcohol.  Like a medical emergency, drinking cheap, room-temperature vodka straight makes me feel like something is very broken.  Suddenly I was Kitty Dukakis drinking rubbing alcohol straight out of the medicine cabinet during the 1988 presidential campaign.  I would go so far as to call it a Kitty Cocktail, but that would not be funny.  For at least three reasons.

Then we sampled some vodka that had been through all three of the filter pitchers.  Dave sniffed and sipped, putting on his best impartial judgment face, then threw back the shot. "The teeth," he said with rising inflection and rising eyebrows, "They're gone."  He looked for the teeth on the bottom of the glass.  And then he looked for them on the floor.

As for me, I took the second shot and tasted none of the rubbing alcohol burn.  This was some significantly improved vodka.

Bacon Infused Vodka

750 ml vodka
six strips bacon

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain grease. Infuse in vodka for one to several weeks.

If the resulting infusion is greasy, try freezing it. That should make the grease for solid pieces, which can then be filtered out.

Definitely worth experimenting with.

Chocolate Vodka

750 ml vodka
12 ounces chocolate syrup

This is not an infusion, but rather a solution. You just mix the vodka with some chocolate syrup. As such, it's ready to use as soon as it's mixed together.

It's everything you expect: sweet, chocolaty, syrupy. I'd like to figure out how to separate out some of the solids and leave it clearer and cleaner in the mouth.

I've heard of others who infuse vodka with pieces of chocolate. I am assuming that the pieces of chocolate eventually dissolve into the vodka and so what results is still a solution. I might try that to see if it yields a less muddy result.

I am also curious to figure out how to filter this stuff. It pours right through a wire strainer, but immediately stops when I try to pour it through a coffee filter or cloth. Suggestions are appreciated.

Ginger Infused Vodka

750 ml vodka, filtered
1/2 cup ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sugar

Allow to infuse for one to several weeks. This is one of my favorites.

Ginger-Mint Lemonade

1 part Mint Infused Vodka
2 parts Lemonade

Honestly I did not think I would make the mint infused vodka more than once.  The ginger lemonade is an obvious and delicious combination.  A guest last weekend threw in some of the mint vodka and I really thought she would take a sip and leave the rest of the glass.  On the contrary, she was soon making a round for everyone in the house.

Bacon-Chocolate Shot

1 part bacon infused vodka
salted rim (optional)

Pour the bacon vodka first. When you pour in the cocolate vodka, it will sink below the bacon. This is not a drink for sipping - you really need to mix the two flavors to make this work.

A couple of years ago my ex-brother-in-law gave me a bacon-chocolate bar for Christmas. It was good, but mostly my reaction was that it could have been a lot better. Then, last summer, state fairs across the country introduced America to thick-cut, chocolate-dipped bacon chunks. As a Minnesotan of some girth, that just felt self-destructive. Which of course did not stop me.

The bacon-chocolate shot is a drink that is greater than the sum of its parts. The bacon infused vodka on its own is somewhat greasy and salty and has little to mask the vodka burn in the back of your throat. And the chocolate vodka alone is sort of muddy and syrupy (I could probably improve on that). But when combined these two are like some sort of superhero team in which each member's skills cannot be fully appreciated without the other.