Put that shit down.
You heard me. Yeah, you with that bottle of birthday cake flavored vodka. Put it down right now. You make me sick. Though, not as sick as you’re gonna make yourself when you down it all in one night and wake up the next day with a high-fructose-corn-syrup-induced hangover to end all hangovers.
Do not allow BIG ALCOHOL to dictate your flavored-spirit whims. You can make your own flavored liquors at home, and it’s super easy, not to mention the fact that it makes you seem like some fancy microdistiller hipster.
Which, well, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Just don’t go buying a fedora or anything.
Anyway, all you really have to do to make flavored spirits is to buy a big ol’ thing of cheap-but-not-undrinkable liquor, a mason jar, and whatever you want the spirit to taste like. Then you chop the flavoring agent, whether it’s a fruit, vegetable, or a handful of raw shrimp (do not do this) and throw it into the mason jar. Cover with the spirit of your choice, and just, like, leave it in the fridge for a few days. Taste and shake the jar every day, and when you think it’s done, strain it through a cheesecloth and label it. It’s really that easy.
Let’s do some math. Depending on what kind of spirit you get, a big bottle of cheap liquor will cost somewhere between 15 and 25 bucks. That’ll be enough for you to make 4 decent-sized infusions. Throw in the cost of fruits, vegetables, and whatever else you want to use to flavor your hooch, and the total cost will average somewhere around 30 bucks for a whole bunch of delicious flavored spirits. Compare that to the $19.99 per 750mL that Smirnoff charges for their whipped cream flavored vodka.
In terms of specific infusion recipes and strategies, feel free to get creative, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a few tips to start you off on this wonderful boozy journey.
Usually, it’s best to infuse vodka. It’s relatively tasteless, so it absorbs flavor well. It’ll go with pretty much anything. Rum is similar, but with a sweeter flavor. Generally, the lighter the spirit is, the better it will take to other flavors. Once you get into spiced rums, bourbons, whiskeys, and aged tequilas, you should be careful when infusing, because you run the risk of overpowering the spirit’s natural taste.
Some combinations that I’ve found work well include:
Mango Habanero Vodka (use 1 small habanero, and leave it whole for this recipe.)
Cucumber Lime Gin (when using citrus, you can choose to either just use the peel for a more bitter, zesty flavor, or cut the citrus into rings for a more juicy flavor.)
Vanilla Whiskey (split the vanilla bean lengthwise and pour the whiskey on top. Strain after a day. Vanilla is a very strong flavoring agent.)
Kiwi Coconut Rum (getting the flesh from a fresh coconut sucks. I know. Trust me. It’s worth it. Get a fresh one, crack it, and toast it in the oven before infusing.)
Now, before you get started, a few words of warning.
Infusing with chocolate can be dicey. The resulting cloudy liquor will be difficult to strain, and sometimes can take on a sour taste. Be very careful here. Infusing with caramel, however, is delicious, despite the fact that it also takes hours to strain. When coming up with your own flavor profiles, think of things that complement the nature of the spirit itself. Herbal vodkas work quite well, but herbal gins are a trickier proposition given the floral and herbal nature of the spirit itself.
At the end of the day, though, if you mess up, it only cost you like, 7 bucks, and hell, it’ll still get you drunk. Plus, now you know firsthand not to try to infuse gin with a handful of raw shrimp. Maybe you should listen to me next time. Don’t worry. I’ll call the ambulance for you.