I spent the first half of my childhood in Moldova, a tiny republic of the former Soviet Union, rich with fruit, vegetables and wine. It is the Napa of the Eastern Europe!
Life in Moldova was simple. Eat seasonally, drink year-round. During summertime, my mom would bring home mountains of produce and my dad would can it for the winter. My grandpa would pick the grapes off the vines outside our home and my grandma would make enough wine to last until the next pick. Sometimes, for a special occasion, she would also infuse Vodka.
I’ve always been intrigued with wine making and alcohol infusion but never really had a chance to try it myself. Until I received a book from a publisher with a page full of interesting flavored vodka ideas. I knew it was time for experimentation.
As it turns out, infusing vodka with flavor is a piece of cake (although it goes better with a pickle.) Buy your favorite brand, drop in the flavoring agent, and perform probably the most difficult step in the process – wait a few days.
After that, enjoy a low calorie/full flavor mood enhancer. Sip it on the rocks, since the taste of the alcohol is mellowed out by the smoothness of the flavoring agent, or mix it into a drink for a greater deeper flavor.
Adapted from A Taste of Russia
I decided to go with 4 different flavoring agents and played around a little with the infusion time. I felt that keeping the aromatics in the spirits a little bit longer (1 week vs 24 hrs) produced most flavorsome infusions.
Place 1 clove of garlic, slightly crushed, 1 sprig of fresh dill and 3 white peppercorns in 1 pint of plain vodka. Infuse at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain. A small bit of dill may be left in the vodka, if desired.
Great on its own.
Place a few sprigs of tarragon (or any other favorite herb,) in 1 pint of plain vodka and infuse at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain. A small bit of the herb may be left in the vodka.
Lemon or Orange Vodka/Лимоновка or Оранжевая
Remove the rind from 1/2 large lemon or 1 orange in a single strip, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. Infuse in 1 pint of plain vodka at room temperature for 24 hours. (Do not leave the peel in longer, or the vodka will turn bitter.)
Horseradish vodka/Хреновая Водка
Place a 2-inch peeled piece of horseradish in 1 pint of plain vodka and infuse at room temperature for 48 hours. Strain, then add a couple of springs of dill.
Infusing vodka with fresh horseradish lends extra spice to many of your favorite vodka drinks, especially Bloody Mary. But it is also great on its own. Cheers! If you want to try other flavors, listed in the book (anise, apricot, black-current, cherry, coriander, pepper, saffron, tea or buffalo grass vodka), get your own copy of A Taste of Russia.