People are always trying to find ways to update things to give them new life. Food and drink included. There are timeless recipes, but there are so many varieties of a recipe that can speak to someone’s unique palette. Whether it is adding herbs, spices, or deconstructing a dish, making any recipe your own is always encouraged.
I’ve been cooking since I was about 9 years old simply because I was a picky eater, and I was not a fan of boxed foods. So my single mother basically told me to do it myself. So, I looked at a package and found a basic recipe on the corn meal and did just that. I have been creating and altering recipes ever since. Even while in culinary school, I was always thinking of ways to change the standard recipes we were working with in class.
As I have gotten older, the same creative mind has worked in the world of cocktails. I came across a restaurant that was already in the lead for their unique take on Parisienne café fare, and their bartenders kept up with that creativity with the cocktails. Behind the bar I saw antique apothecary bottles with herbs and spices in them. I asked the bartender what it was and it was the first time I had heard of infusing spirits with herbs. I had come across some rare infused vodkas (not flavored, there is a huge difference) at a coworker’s dinner party once, and that was already mind blowing.
Now you can buy infused vodkas, although not common. You can buy infused liqueurs, which are more common. But sometimes, you can’t find the flavors you want when trying to create a unique craft cocktail.
Infusing vodka (or other spirits) is pretty simple. The process is fast and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Most time, creating the cocktail takes more effort than the infusing. I’ve talked about infusing before, but here are a couple of recipes for infusing herbs and fruits for creating something more creative cocktails.
Cucumber and lemon
Lemon, vanilla, mint
Rosemary, tarragon, mint
Ruby Red Grapefruit
Rosemary and mint
- 4 cups vodka
- Mesh strainer
- Coffee filter
- Quart jar with lid
- 4 cup capacity glass bottle with lid or cork
Now, you can choose any of these ingredients:
- 2 oranges or lemons
- 1-2 large sprigs of basil, or another favorite herb (rosemary, mint, etc.)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup clean berries
- 1 cup fruit, cleaned and cut into chunks (pineapple, apple, melon, mango, etc.)
Now here’s the simple part. Take the herb, fruit, or vanilla bean and place in a jar. Pour the vodka in the jar, then put the top/cork on. Place in a dark place at room temperature for a few days. Fruits are stronger, so they will take less time (maybe 2 days). Herbs are a little more subtle and will take longer, maybe 3 days. Do NOT store them in the refrigerator. Pour the vodka through coffee filters set in a mesh strainer, and it’s ready to use.
Basil and herbs – roughly chop and add to jar.
Orange, lemons, melons, berries, fruits – Use citrus peels, no white pith. Cut fruits up roughly. Smash berries slightly leaving them in tact. Grapefruit and blood oranges can be added in pieces, rind and fruit.
Vanilla bean – Cut in half and remove the seeds. Add both the pod and seeds to the jar.
- 2 ounces rosemary-infused vodka
- 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
- Lavender simple syrup
- Dash of fresh lemon juice
- Half of a vanilla bean
- Lemon twist or wedge for garnish
Chop a half of a vanilla bean in small pieces width-wise and place it in a mixing glass. Add the lavender syrup and muddle, crushing the vanilla bean. Fill the glass with ice, add vodka and vermouth. Shake vigorously. Fine strain and serve either up in a cocktail glass or on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or wedge.
Mary Rose Cocktail
- 2 parts rosemary vodka
- 1/2 part creme de cassis
- 1/2 part cranberry juice
- Splash of club soda
In a shaker, combine vodka, cranberry juice and cassis. Add ice and shake. Pour a splash of club soda into a chilled cocktail glass. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass, over the soda.
You can play around with flavors and combinations of flavors. Put them in decorative glass jars and give them as gifts. It’s funny how something handmade will make a hostess feel when you hand them a pretty and hand labeled jar.