I've settled on one basic recipe for infusing most vodkas. You can really just drop the fruit right into the vodka and let it sit a few weeks, but I like this recipe the best. Gives it a heft, makes more of a liqueur.
Here's the basic recipe for what turns out less like lemon-infused vodka and more like limoncello, adapted from trial, error and Cooking Light:
- Combine 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. (Adjust this amount/ratio depending on your preference for sweetness.) Heat over a low flame until the sugar completely dissolves. You've got a nice simple syrup.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 5 lemon rinds, cut into strips. Let this cool completely to room temperature (otherwise, the next step evaporates the alcohol!).
- Stir the syrup and lemon rinds, plus 1/4-1/3 cup of lemon juice into 3-4 cups (one regular bottle) of vodka. Store in a cool, dark place for three weeks, swirling or lightly shaking the container every so often.
- Then strain and filter with cheesecloth. Stores in the fridge up to 3-4 weeks, or a year in the freezer.
Today I'm starting some experiments with tea leaves. (I'm not the first — one company has actually bottled a sweet tea-vodka, targeting a Southern audience.) My concern is that, as tea lovers know, steeping tea too long increases its bitterness. So I plan to watch the samples carefully, tasting often. These could be ready in a few hours, or a few days.
I'm starting one regular large jar of the stand-by lemon version above. This uses one 1.75-liter bottle of vodka. I'm also trying small Mason jars — just like hooch! — with two spoons of these teas, with barely a quarter cup of the syrup:
- A Chinese Keemun that's one of my favorites, from Tea Gschwendner (No. 555).
- A Japanese Kabusecha, half-shade green tea from Gschwendner (No. 718). Probably a little too nice for an experiment like this, but I thought I'd want a very fresh, light taste to this.
- Opened bags of Chocolate Mint Truffle, an herbal infusion from Mighty Leaf. I received this as a gift a while back, makes for a lovely treat with a rich dessert. Contains spearmint, cacao nibs and rooibos.
I'll report back about the spectacular failure or my rush to the patent office.