Now that it’s becoming warm again, I enjoy an early evening ritual most days — the alfresco cocktail hour. Whether it’s a glass of rosé paired with a bit of sharp cheddar and green olives or a mocha stout partnered with salty pretzels, I like to pour myself a little something and hang out on my patio, sipping away as twilight falls, looking on as the forest creatures wind down from the day’s activities and the light turns otherworldly.
This time last year, I was pregnant, so alcohol was off-limits. Now that I’ve resumed partaking, I’ve been longing for a cocktail. Inspired by the profusion of both perennial and annual herbs growing full steam in my yard, as well as the Asheville Herb Festival I attended this past weekend, I thought what better way to capture the true flavor of the season than by making infused herbal liquors? And so, today’s Small Measures with Ashley offers 10 suggestions for making herb-infused vodkas. You’ll make use of all-natural and abundant flavoring agents while getting your drink on. Bottoms up! — Ashley
CLICK HERE for the rest of the post and herb-infusion ideas after the jump
We’re moving into the season of not just the alfresco cocktail hour, but also multiple occasions for outdoor entertaining — from barbeques and cookouts to picnics, patio brunches and more. These infusions will inject any soiree with an extra level of festivity. They’ll also make fantastic gifts (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and college graduations are all quickly approaching!).
To create the following infusions, I’ve provided some basic guidelines. Essentially, though, all that’s involved is putting a bit of the best quality vodka you can acquire (I like to use Rain Organics Vodka) into a lidded container, adding a few fresh sprigs of your herb of choice and allowing the mixture to infuse for several days. For each of the herbs listed, I’ve also offered five flavor pairings, if you’d like to infuse the vodka with a little more than one herb (which, of course, will also taste fantastic all on its own). These suggestions come from The Flavor Bible, my indispensable go-to manual when looking for ideas for culinary pairings.
- Cilantro Pair with: ginger, chile peppers, figs, cucumbers, cumin seed
- Basil Pair with: strawberries, cucumbers, orange peel, peaches, pineapple
- Lemon Verbena Pair with: apricots, blueberries, cherries, cinnamon stick, red currants
- Lemon Balm Pair with: fennel bulb, honeydew melon, black tea, nectarines, blackberries
- Tarragon Pair with: lemon thyme, celery seeds, lemon peel, pink grapefruit, bay leaf
- Dill Pair with: cucumber, coriander seeds, cilantro, capers, lemon balm
- Mint Pair with: apples, cardamom seeds, whole cloves, grapes, peaches
- Rosemary Pair with: pears, lemon peel, orange slices, apricots, plums
- Thyme Pair with: whole allspice, bay leaf, celery stalks, cranberries, sage
- Lavender Pair with: peaches, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, lemon peel
1. Clean and dry a glass container with an air-tight lid. I like to infuse in glass mason jars. Depending on how much liquor I want to infuse, and the amount of material I’ll be infusing it with, I use either a quart or 1/2 gallon-sized jar. A quart jar will hold 4 cups of vodka. I suggest using 2 cups of vodka, at least.
2. Place several sprigs of whatever herb you’d like to infuse in the jar, along with additional flavoring agents, if using. Cover with vodka. Secure the lid tightly.
3. The amount of time required for infusing will vary. If infusing an herb by itself, allow up to two days, shaking the jar several times daily. If using additional flavoring agents, allow at least one week. Keep out of direct sunlight and store at room temperature during the infusing process.
4. Strain solids off using either a fine-mesh wire strainer, coffee filter or cheesecloth. Transfer the infusion back to the jar used for processing (after cleaning it out) or into a decorative bottle for gifting.
5. Store the infusion in the refrigerator (and consume within 1 month) or the freezer (consuming within 2 months).
If giving as a gift, you can opt to leave the infusing agents in the vodka and instruct the recipient to strain the solids off after a little time. Otherwise, strain the blend yourself and present the liquor in an attractive glass bottle. I like to use either clamp-lid glass bottles or salvaged, repurposed ones I keep on hand for gift-giving. Also, if you’re not the alcohol-drinking kind but would still enjoy sipping on seasonal herbal delights, check out this post I did last year on making Herbal Sun Teas.
These infusions will be equally delicious whether served neat, with ice or blended into a cocktail. From Bloody Marys and martinis to hard lemonade and cosmopolitans, they’ll add nuance and seasonality to whatever whets your whistle. And, in my opinion, they make alfresco cocktail hour the very best time of day. What about you? Got any go-to liquor infusions you turn to again and again? I’d love to hear about them!