From the Past: Holiday Spiced Vodka Cocktails (Dec 22, 2010)

This post is one in a series of posts discussing cocktail exploits or recipes from before I started this blog. This post comes from my old blog and describes some of the first alcohol infusions that I ever attempted and some cocktails that we made using the best of those infusions.

December 22, 2010: Holiday Spiced Vodka Cocktails

A couple weeks ago I became interested in creating infusions…the idea of adding the flavor of one or more ingredients to a base alcohol such as a vodka, bourbon, or tequila. I was initially most interested in making my own bacon-infused bourbon, but when I investigated the topic I discovered that there were many options.

This week I finally made my first few infusions.  I tried three different infusions, each using a different base liquor.  First, I tried making a bacon-infused bourbon using the PDT recipe from this blog post.  My first attempt used Four Roses Bourbon and bacon from a local meat market, but unfortunately it was pretty subpar.  I think this is because I didn’t do a very good job of cooking the bacon, letting it end up a bit burned, and the burned flavor carried over quite strongly into the bourbon.  Unfortunate, but at least I’ll know what to do next time (also, I think I’ll buy some smokier bacon).

My second infusion came from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan.  This is a tequila infusion, called the “Lark Creek Inn Tequila Infusion.”  It involves a whole pineapple, a sprig of taragon, and single serrano chili that has been cut in half and gutted of its seeds.  This infusion came out okay, but it has a taste that reminds me of slightly decomposing pineapple.  I wonder if my infusion vessel was not sufficiently air-tight, which might have allowed the pineapple to decay somewhat during the infusion process.  I plan to try this again, but with a different infusion vessel, to see if it comes out better. (Editor’s Note: After giving this one a few weeks to settle, it actually came out quite nice.)

The definite winner of my initial three infusions is the Holiday-Spiced Vodka, which used approximately these ingredients:

1 750ml Stoli Vodka (any vodka will do…this was on sale at the local CVS)
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Crushed Nutmeg
2oz Fresh Ginger Finely Sliced
10 Whole Allspice Crushed

I let these sit for four days, shaking every day.

The result is a nice, but subtly, spiced vodka reminiscent of eggnog, pumpkin pie, and other holiday delights.

By itself, the vodka is quite nice, but of course I also had to try a variety of cocktail variations.  I made a large number of different cocktails using the vodka, but four particularly stood out.

The best was the Holiday White Russian:

2oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
0.25oz Maple Syrup
0.5oz Tia Maria Coffee Liquor
1oz Half and Half

Assemble all ingredients except the half and half in a rocks glass, stir, add the cream in a layer on top, and serve.

A simple second favorite was the Holiday Hard Cider:

2oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
4oz Apple Cider

Assemble in a rocks glass, stir, and serve.  Very easy to make and quite nice.

The third and fourth drinks that I’ll mention bear some similarity to cocktails I’ve seen made with Calvados or Applejack.  Note that I tried making several drinks with the Holiday Spiced Vodka and Applejack or Calvados, but I found the apple brandies made the resulting drinks a bit too strong.  I tried lowering the alcohol content with a dry vermouth (Vya), but the strong flavor of the particular vermouth that I chose did not mesh well with the spiced Vodka.  It’s possible that with a longer infusion, and thus a stronger spice, that something would be possible here.

Note also that I don’t have particularly good names for these drinks.

First, the Holiday Spiced Martini:

1.5oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
0.5oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
0.25oz Maple Syrup
1oz Apple Cider

Assemble in an iced cocktail shaker, shake, and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

My preference, although a bit sweeter, is the Holiday Spiced Manhattan:

1.5oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
1oz Gran Marnier
0.5oz Lemon Juice
0.5oz Apple Cider

Assemble in an iced cocktail shaker, shake, and server in a cocktail glass.  Garnish with an apple slice.

I recognize that the latter drink is not a true Manhattan, since it does not use a rye or bourbon.  The Spiced Vodka is darker though, and thus I feel this latter concoction is more like a Manhattan.  Probably I should have spent some time to come up with more creative names, but I didn’t.  Oh well.

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