Initially I was not impressed with the idea of flavored vodkas, seemed all to frou-frou and contrived, and many of them are, but as we put aside pride and assumptions we can be surprised.
Vanilla-flavored vodka was my first tepid venture, and I survived. In fact I started thinking about many of my assumptions on cocktails, and started experimenting with a variety of flavors. While they were not always to my liking, it was fun, and I have branched out the tasting experiments to a range of spirits and flavors.
For me, the fact that all these infused vodkas looked exactly the same as straight vodka was unappealing, and I have started to make my own infusions.
The first experiment was with vanilla vodka, and it has been a hit. I take a bottle of vodka, generally Stoylichnaya (because I like the name, the bottle, and am comfortable with the price,) add a couple of vanilla beans from Costco and leave the vodka out on the bar for a couple of weeks. The result, an amber-colored spirit with a rich vanilla nose. I leave the bottle in the wine fridge by the bar. Recently, I took an empty half-gallon bottle of Grey Goose and filled it with six or seven vanilla beans and vodka, and have left it on the bar as decoration. I use it to top up the regular bottles. I add more vodka to the mix as the level allows, and add a vanilla bean about once every six weeks. It seems to be working.
I like the color, it looks good, the nose is richer and more full than the packaged vanilla vodka. I prefer my own, it’s fun, but the infused vodkas are excellent as well.
I now use the vanilla vodka in quite a few recipes.
Last weekend I decided to try something different and put about two inches of crushed red chili flakes in a vodka bottle. I left it on the bar for two days and strained the vodka through cheese cloth. Man, it’s intense. The color is a translucent pimento red, the heat is fantastic — a little will go a long way — and the first cocktail I made with it was excellent. I have one more tasting of the cocktail tonight, and if it passes I’ll post about it.
Emboldened by this “success” I am branching out. Today I put cocoa nibs into a bottle; we’ll see how it works.
Love to hear about your experiments.