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DIY drinks


Local chefs and home cooks infuse their own alcohol with store-bought ingredients to create unique pairings.

Vivian Boroff March 9th, 2011

Infused alcohol is all the rage and has made its way into local bars, restaurants and even home kitchens. Although many mainstream bars and liquor stores already carry a wide variety of infused alcohol (think the classic vanilla vodka) ready to be served or used, there’s a more creative alternative.

With classic cocktails coming back on the scene, more and more people are taking it upon themselves to create their own alcohol infusions. They are easy to make, add great flavors to a cocktail and are an interesting twist to a well-prepared dish.

Chef Kurt Fleischfresser, of The Coach House, 6437 Avondale Drive, and Western Concepts, makes four different vodka infusions.

“We infuse vodka with lemons, limes, vanilla beans and bacon,” he said. “Most get put to use in our bar, but we also make some to play with in the kitchen. We found the best vodka to use is a potato vodka called Monopolowa, because it takes on flavors so well.”

According to Fleischfresser, the vodka is mixed with the different ingredients and allowed to steep for a week to absorb the flavors before it makes its way into a cocktail or a dish. The most popular use for the lemoninfused vodka is the lemon drop, a classic cocktail made with vodka, lemon juice, sugar and slices of lemon.

Stacy Rine has been infusing both rum and vodka in her home kitchen as a hobby since she was given some as a gift a few years ago.

“My sister-in-law gave me a gift of pineapple-infused rum, which I just loved,” she said. “We were able to make such great piña coladas with it, and that was the start of making our own infusions.”

Rine has infused alcohol with various fruits, but the two she continues to make are pineapple paired with coconut rum and a cranberryinfused vodka (which would work well with cosmopolitans). Rine allows the alcohol to infuse for longer than Fleischfresser, giving each concoction at least a month to steep to get the best possible flavor out of the fruit.

Alcohol infusions are nothing new.

As a matter of fact, it is a lot more common in homes than most people think. The most popular of all alcohol infusions can be found in the average kitchen pantry: vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is made by infusing an alcohol that is at least 80 proof (vodka or bourbon works best) with vanilla beans.

Not too long ago, I decided to try my hand at making a double-strength vanilla extract. It’s a simple enough project to do at home, but it can be quite expensive to make. To start, infuse 12.5 ounces of vodka with ten Madagascar vanilla beans, which are slit down the center with a paring knife. Store it in a dark space for about eight weeks, taking it out every few to days to give it a shake and to see how it is progressing.

The resulting vanilla extract I created is better than many that I have purchased in the past and will be used in a variety of things that will be baked in my own kitchen.

Home cooks can find a great variety of alcohol to infuse at many liquor stores all across Oklahoma City. Rine purchases most of the fruit she uses for her infusions at her local Crest Foods. I was able to find quality vanilla beans in the metro at Spices of India, 3647 N.W. 39th, and at Mediterranean Imports & Deli, 5620 N. May.

With a little creativity, these easy concoctions can quickly turn into your go-to alcohol for unique drinks.

Interesting infusions

There’s more than vanilla vodka out there. Try your hand at these creative infusions. And a note before you get infusing: potent ingredients (like hot peppers or basil) will only need a few days to steep, while ingredients like fruit or light herbs (like lavender) will need at least a week.

Vodka: With such a neutral flavor, you can pair pretty much anything with vodka. Consider gingerroot, basil, grapefruit, pear or even black tea. If you’re looking for something more unique, try red chiles or bacon.

Gin: Cucumber-infused gin is a no-brainer (and will lead to some pretty amazing gin and tonics), but also try infusing gin with lavender, blackberries, pear or tea. For something exotic, try making your own saffron-infused gin.

Rum: A lighter rum will be easier to work with than a spicier, dark rum. Try infusing it with ingredients like mint, mango, vanilla or pineapple. If you’re looking for something with a bit more bite, try star anise or sour cherries.

 
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