When we talk about flavoured vodka, what comes to mind? Skittles? Smirnoff Lime? That curiously fluorescent bottle of something that you picked up from an off-licence on your way to a house party when you were nineteen? You know, the one that tasted like lemon-scented bleach and made the wallpaper curl.
I think we can do better than that. After all, summer is in full swing and it is prime cocktail season. There’s never a better time to up your drink-making game.
And a great way to do that is with infusions: adding interesting flavours to your humdrum vodka to make it into something rather more exciting and exotic. So let’s cast out the multi-coloured sweets and make things a little classier.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to creating an infusion is that, frankly, they aren’t difficult to make. It’s a very simple formula:
- Acquire vodka.
- Choose your desired flavours.
- Add said desired flavours to your vodka.
- Leave it for a couple of weeks.
- Strain, and enjoy.
All it takes, in other words, is the ability to put things in a bottle and wait. Fairly straightforward, especially when it comes to vodka; the mild taste gives you huge flexibility in what you make of it, which is possibly a kind way of saying that you don’t generally drink vodka for the flavour.
But that fact gives you basically an open choice on your ingredients. You won’t get any unintentional clashes. That choice of flavouring is really the only challenging part of making infusions. Even then, if you know a few basic ingredient pairings, you’re off to the races. Think of the classics: lemon and ginger; lemongrass and lime. Even if you’re a total novice in the kitchen, there exist any number of guides online to help you to find a good combination.
It’s not just that infusions are simple to make – they make it simpler to add great taste to your mixes. Using a homemade flavoured vodka makes any simple serve spirit-and-mixer that much more complex, and you get the joy of a finely devised cocktail with far less fuss.
Here’s one. Fresh basil leaves, lemon wedges and black peppercorns. It sounds like a savoury mix – in fact it sounds more like the start of a Caprese salad than a drink – but topped simply with ginger ale it’s refreshing – sharp but very drinkable, with a depth of taste that belies the binary ingredient list.
For the winter months there’s the classic, cosy mix of apple, clove and brown sugar – lovely with a mild tonic water or even in a White Russian.
The point is, short of the likes of pork and sage, if you can use a combination in the kitchen, you can generally use it in a bottle. So the next time you’re reaching for a tired old Moscow Mule or vodka and tonic this summer, why not do something different with your spirit of choice?