Tag Archives: infusion

My First Workshop: Booze Infusion Blowout!!

 

Inspired by last winter’s soup swap, my friend Elena asked a little while back if we could do a booze swap, tasting and trading homemade infusions. It sounded like a great plan (what could be better than sharing creativity in cocktail form?), but there was a minor glitch. Some of the people who wanted most to participate had not infused liqueurs before and weren’t quite sure how to go about it.  And so, a plan was born: a two-part party with infusion taking place in Part I, an exchange of boozy goodness in Part II.

Part I, the workshop portion, took place yesterday. Infusions were made, drinks were drunk, good times were had. My house still smells like ginger, zesty and fresh.

I highly recommend throwing your own infusion party! Here is how to do it:

Step 1: Roll Out the Beverages.


I had some previously made infusions on hand. Most of them were on the sweeter side — rhubarb, hibiscus, ginger-peach, and earl grey. These I set out with a pitcher of OJ, a pitcher of lemonade, and some seltzer. Nothing too fancy, just some general mixers to cut the drinks a bit so we weren’t just slugging back multiple tastings of uncut liquor. I had a more savory concoction, too: a caraway-dill vodka with a hint of garlic. This I mixed with the meager drop of vermouth I had on hand and a dash of olive juice for a strong and pickly dirty martini. One guest claimed that the caraway-dill vodka was great with orange juice, but I’m not sure I believe him.

Step 2: I Love Jars. Get Some Jars.


We asked participants to bring a bottle of booze and some flavors they would like to work with, and we provided jars to make things a little easier.

Step 3: Permission to Wing It.


Because I was in a period of transition (AKA post-school, pre-state-licensing floundering) when the booze party plan was hatched, we decided to call this shindig a workshop. I was super psyched to take on a leadership role and teach some things, and I typed up some official sounding language in the invite about how we would discuss infusion and sample some past projects before assembling our concoctions. It all sounded very orderly. In fact, it was not very orderly at all, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I vaguely pointed to the line-up of infusions and mixers, and people poured drinks and rolled up sleeves and started slicing and dicing fruits and veggies and spices on the kitchen island, tumbling pretty colors and smells into jars.

I offered a little bit of advice as things trucked along: the zest of citrus fruits is the best part to infuse. When using super crazy hot peppers, taste your infusion hourly to make sure it’s not getting out of hand. Fruits and veggies should be ready to strain in a couple of weeks. Teas will only take a day or so. But mostly, we all just winged it, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at each other’s colorful combinations, lining up shiny jars.

In a few weeks, we will strain our drinks, add some sugar as appropriate, reconvene for swapping and sharing, maybe tie some ribbons on bottles for holiday gifts, resume our kitchen-creative chatter. I look forward to tasting some of these blends next month — I’m eying the vanilla-pear, various gingery concoctions, all of them, really, in all their improvised glory. I can’t wait to taste how they turn out!

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Return of Rhubarb = My Favorite Beverage, Round 2

Rhubarb is more striking-looking with its leaves, but don't eat them. They are poisonous.

Since getting engaged a few months back, I’ve talked several times about making gallons of rhubarb liqueur for my wedding next year. As we have not set a date, I reasoned, I’d better make it now in case we run into crunch time next spring. I think some people might have thought I was joking, but, if there’s one thing I’m serious about, it’s gin. If there’s another, I suppose it’s local produce. And so I am here to restate my commitment to the rhubarb booze, to making as much of it as possible for signature cocktails for Shawn’s and my special day. Now to find a date and a venue that will allow said cocktails…minor details…

I am also here to provide better photos than I did in my last post on this topic.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, How to Make Rhubarb Liqueur:

Step 1: Chop Rhubarb, however much you have on hand, and put it in a great, big jar. Here we see four large stalks of rhubarb, courtesy of our CSA. That is a gallon jar.

Step 2: Add a little sugar and the zest of one lemon. Give it a shake. It will look shimmery and juicy all at once. You will be pleased.

Step 3: Add gin. The first time I made this, I used vodka, noting that gin would probably be tasty. I then made another batch with gin and confirmed that this yielded a vastly superior beverage. Here I have used a handle (that’s a legitimate unit of measurement, right?) of meh-quality gin. It’s not really worth it to use the good stuff. It will all mellow out in the end.

Steps 4-5: Not pictured. Step 4 is straining. Through a coffee filter is best, but a fine sieve will do if you are feeling impatient (the coffee filter straining takes, approximately, forever). Step 5 is adding simple syrup to taste and pouring it all into a bottle.

Here we see my second batch of the season sitting next to batch #1, strained and bottled earlier this week.

Last year, the first batch of the season was a pale pink due to the pale green stalks of rhubarb that were available early in the season. The second batch looked more like Hawaiian Punch™ due to brighter, rosier stalks. Re-visiting my second batch of liqueur after a mere one day of infusion reveals that this is going to be the case again. Look at the color on this stuff!

OK, so maybe they don’t look that different now, but trust me: the color will deepen in the next week or two. I will give the jar a good shake every couple of days, then strain it, add simple syrup, and let my liqueur join its paler friend waiting for next year. That is, if I can resist the temptation to serve this up at every cocktail party between now and then. It’s spring in a cup, people! Irresistible!

Rhubarb Booze!

Rhubarb liqueur is the reason this blog exists. A couple of weeks ago, I trotted off to the farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza with the express purpose of picking up my first rhubarb of the season to make booze and the strawberry-rhubarb slop that goes on ice cream and tastes like early summer perfection. There was a nice lady there buying rhubarb herself, and she and I struck up a conversation about the making of liqueurs. She made some with rhubarb last year. She was psyched. She encouraged me to make and have a cupboard full of bitters (which I hope to get going in the next couple of months — adorable market lady, if you ever read this, you’re super influential). She asked if I had a blog. I made one happen in a rather abstract, removed response. That’s how it went down.

After an excellent day of veggie buying, car borrowing, homebrew shopping, and Long-Island-diner-dining, I got going on the rhubarb goodness. We made the gooey ice cream topping (many thanks to the dinner guest who left strawberries in my fridge that week), and I chopped a whole bunch more rhubarb and plopped it into my trusty gallon jar.

IMG_1895
Step one: Chopped rhubarb in jar

That’s a little over a quart of rhubarb. I added lemon zest for good measure, and some sugar, too. In general, I am in favor of leaving the sugar out and adding simple syrup once your infusables have infused. That way, you have more control and can taste for sweetness and tweak to your liking. If you add the sugar at the start, you run the risk of winding up with something sweeter than you’d like. That said, rhubarb is notoriously tart, so I didn’t think there was much risk of oversweetening, and I really wanted to shake it around with a little sugar and watch the juices start to seep out, so that is just what I did. Simple pleasures.

 

rhubarb shaken with sugar and a little zest
rhubarb shaken with sugar and a little zest

 

I added 1.75 litres of vodka, gave it a good swirl to make sure all juices and sugar crystals were submerged, and tucked it away in a dark and cozy spot.

 

Ready to infuse!
Ready to infuse!

 

By the next day, the rhubarb had all floated to the top of the jar, and the vodka had turned a very pale and pretty shade of pink. I let it sit for just shy of two weeks, pinkening and flavoring up, me giving it a shake whenever I thought of it (probably averaged out to every other day). And here it is all infused. I decided it was done when most of the color had leached out of the rhubarb and into the vodka, as it seemed unlikely that the rhubarb was going to give up any more flavor.

 

Ready to strain...
Ready to strain…

 

Because there was some sediment in the bottle (lemon zest and, presumably, fibers that had come out of the rhubarb), I strained it through a coffee filter. I added some simple syrup and poured it into a glass jug. Shawn proclaimed it spring in a bottle.It was coming up on bedtime when all of the vodka had finally dripped through the filter, so we didn’t do much with it that night. I made one simple drink for Shawn and me to share: Rhubarb liqueur with a squeeze of lemon, topped up with plain old seltzer. It tasted bright and only slightly sweet and most refreshing. It would be excellent with some muddled strawberries (of course) and a little bit of fresh mint or maybe even basil. Given my natural affinities, I thought it would also be great with a little splash of gin. Maybe I will skip the vodka middle man and make rhubarb gin next time around…Either way, cocktail possibilities abound, and I highly recommend this easy, pleasing way of bottling spring.

 

Spring in a bottle: Rhubarb boozy goodness
Spring in a bottle: Rhubarb boozy goodness
In Sum: The Recipe
 
What goes in:
4-5 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
zest of half lemon (or to taste)
1/4 cup sugar
1.75 litres vodka
simple syrup of 3/4 cups sugar (roughly 2:1 ratio of sugar to water)
  
How to do it:
1) Shake chopped rhubarb with lemon zest and sugar in large glass jar
2) Add vodka and store in dark place for approximately two weeks, shaking every couple of days
3) Strain, add simple syrup, bottle up and drink!