No one likes paying more than $12 for a handle of vodka. Barton’s has long since been my Russian compadre for that reason alone. It may not not burn, but it certainly does not not get the job done. And who really is (willingly) taking shots of cheap liquor? Luckily, Barton’s (and other discount liquors) can easily be saved with some time and creativity.
Infused vodka first entered my stratosphere of mixology wonder when I was a mere Frosh. I was awestruck: “WHAT is that massive dispenser of pineapple liquid behind the bar, Dad?” He was no help, of course, because he has not touched anything but Heineken since 1990 (oddly enough, the same year I was born). Anyway, there began my exploration (musing, rather, since I was only 19 at the time) of infusing cheap vodka with fruits and things. The first venture involved a Mason jar, a whole pineapple and the forbidden elixir fondly known as Bart. This went well. The biggest challenge was cutting the pineapple. The next greatest feat was keeping my hands off of the festering fluid for the next two weeks. So sat the jar of sliced pineapple and vodka on my desk for a full fortnight. The constant rays of light beaming from my eyes may have assisted in the infusion, or not. I was watching that sucker, though. When the 336 hours finally passed, I immediately popped open the jar and spooned out some of the pineapple. Bad idea. The pineapple indeed infused the vodka. Great! The vodka, however, also infused the pineapple to a point beyond recognition. It was like eating fibrous, wet Barton’s. The lesson here is to choose your time wisely. Two weeks will create a great infused vodka, but a terrible boozy pineapple. Two hours will create a lightly infused vodka and a deliciously drunk pineapple.
This brings me to my real first infused vodka experience:
I must have been 10 years old. We were at my aunt’s birthday party; a true rager. Being the summer, there was quite the spread of burgers, hot dogs and of course, fruit. Wow, I thought, this summer was a great year for watermelon. I could eat the whole thing! And these toothpicks, so convenient! Look at these people! Heyyyyyy, Nana! I kept eating. The party kept getting better. Before my speech started to slur, my dad came along and ushered me away from the watermelon. I later found out that I was indeed tipsy off of watermelon that had been soaked in alcohol.
Pineapple, watermelon, strawberries or spices, alcohol infusion knows no bounds. A friend (my inspiration for this post) recently made lychee-infused vodka. Gourmet! I, alternatively, made grapefruit vodka. This was not the best. First of all, I am not a big fan of grapefruit to begin with. The flavors were amplified by the infusion and all the mixed drinks I made were unbearably bitter. In short, infuse with an ingredient that you already know and love. Or experiment! Hey, it’s only Barton’s. Infusion does not have to be limited to vodka, of course. Gin with thyme and whiskey with cinnamon are both incredible. A good place to begin is to think of the alcohol and complementary ingredients in your favorite cocktail.
Slice fruit of choice into thin slices that maximize surface area. Layer fruit into Mason jar. Fill the jar with vodka and close tightly. Store in a cool, dry place for two weeks. Drink alone or mix into a cocktail.
If you want to make a drunk snack (a snack that will get you drunk, not a snack to eat when drunk), simply place bite-sized pieces of fruit in alcohol for about two hours.
Original Author: Sarah McKeen