March 04, 2024

Diamond Dishes: Celebrate the New Year with inspired cocktail creations

Let’s pay homage to the holiday spirit by crafting some seasonal spirits of our own. We’re going to explore infusing vodka with fruits and herbs.

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen flavored vodkas on liquor store shelves, but have you ever thought of making your own infused vodka?

Not only is it very inexpensive, but say goodbye to artificial flavorings and colors and hello to absolute control over the ingredients. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

All you need is a large, wide-mouth glass jar with an airtight lid — not plastic, unless you’re making plastic-flavored vodka — a fine mesh strainer, cheese cloth or coffee filters, and a funnel. Save empty vodka bottles to refill with your infused creations later.

Of course, you’ll need vodka and ingredients to infuse, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, I’d like to share how to make cheap vodka taste more like top shelf vodka. There is no sense in paying for top shelf vodka for our purpose.

The secret is filtering vodka with a charcoal-activated water filter, like a Brita or PUR brand filter pitcher. Just designate a new filter exclusively for vodka, because you won’t want to use it for water after you use it for vodka.

Activate the new filter, as per manufacturer instructions, then drain the water. Proceed by pouring the vodka through the filter just as you would water.

You’ll want to run it through several times. I find seven times is the charm.

Will this method fool a sophisticated palate into thinking it’s top shelf? Nope. Will it improve the results when infused or mixed in a cocktail? Absolutely.

How To Infuse Vodka

Into a clean glass jar with a lid, place your infusion ingredients, top off with vodka and close lid. Shaking the jar daily, infuse for 12 hours to 7 days.

Different ingredients require different amounts of time to infuse, and then there’s adjustment to your personal taste.

I have guidelines here, but taste your infusion every day until you’re satisfied with your results. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

When you’re happy with the flavor, strain the infusion material out and decant into a clean bottle or jar. Enjoy immediately or store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.

To sweeten your infusions, simply add simple syrup. But please don’t buy it. Make it.

It’s called simple syrup for a reason. In a saucepan, simmer equal parts sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved.

As this year winds down, let’s raise a glass to a New Year filled with fresh starts and new beginnings. Cheers!

Berry Vodka

Ingredients

1 to 2 cups berries — strawberries, blackberries or raspberries, or a combination

3 to 4 cups of vodka

Procedure

Wash berries and roughly chop. Add to vodka and infuse for three to seven days. Sweeten to taste.

Citrus Vodka

Ingredients

2 cups lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit, or a combination

2 cups vodka

Procedure

Wash and slice fruit, then add to vodka. Infuse for three to seven days. Sweeten to taste.

Cranberry Lime Vodka

Ingredients

1 cup chopped cranberries

Juice and zest of one lime

3 cups vodka

Procedure

Add fruit to vodka. Infuse for one to two days. Sweeten to taste.

Herbed Vodka

Ingredients

1 or 2 large sprigs of basil or another favorite herb — dill, mint, sage, tarragon and so forth

3 cups of vodka

Procedure

Combine the herbs with vodka for two to seven days, tasting frequently. Serve with tonic or soda or make into martinis or the best Bloody Mary ever.

Patti Diamond

Patti Diamond

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal Meets Fabulous!” at www.divasonadime.com. © 2024 King Features Synd., Inc.