I will not pretend to be a scientist.
If I did, I’d be exposed as a fraud almost immediately. I’m terrible at math. I don’t take notes. And (possibly most importantly) I tend to forget about things in my refrigerator for weeks at a time. Although one could argue that those forgotten fridge orphans are themselves science experiments (they sure look like it), this is still not an ideal thing to habitually do when you’re trying to slowly concoct the perfect flavor blend of infusion ingredients and booze.
All that said, I was not super confident about attempting my own vodka infusions. And frankly, from a cost-benefit perspective, there’s no real advantage to be had. Flavored vodkas are a dime a dozen these days, and they’re not expensive – from the bottom shelf to the upper mids, you can find any flavor from pomegranate to cake (???). Even the snooty Ketel One has given a nod to the common drinker and put forth a citrus offering. But there’s something just a little creepy, almost Wonka-esque, about a perfectly clear liquid tasting like pomegranates or cake without color, or an ingredient list, or any other idea how it got that way. So, cost analysis be damned, I set out to attempt to flavor my own vodkas with things you can’t find at the ABC store. I learned a lot from my first few experiments, and you can look for a post soon with overall guidelines for DIY infusions. This particular one (my second at-home infusion) was so good that I couldn’t wait to share. With the few required ingredients, a glass jar, and a little bit of patience, you’ll have a uniquely flavored liquor that makes a great gift, or is perfect for entertaining.
1 750 mL bottle of good vodka (don’t skimp, but don’t get crazy – anywhere in the few middle shelves will do. I personally have used Three Olives, Svedka, and Finlandia with good success).
1 vanilla bean
Split the vanilla bean in half and place it in a glass jar with a lid. Pour in vodka and put in a cool, dark place – I just put it in the refrigerator, but a cabinet or a dark corner is fine too. Let sit for three days, shaking or stirring gently once a day.
On the third day, zest the tangerines, using either a microplane zester or a vegetable peeler – you want about two tablespoons of zest. Be sure to avoid any pith (the bitter, white part of the rind will absolutely destroy your infusion – if you want bitter and white, watch Fox News). Add the zest to the jar with the vodka and vanilla bean and stir to submerge.
Let sit in a cool, dark place for another two or three days, shaking or stirring gently once a day. Feel free to taste daily to see how it’s progressing, or just because it’s fun.
After you have tasted and are happy with the flavor, and have finished weaving around your kitchen and telling your friends how much you love them, place a coffee filter over the mouth of an empty jar and secure with a rubber band. Pour infused vodka very slowly through the filter to remove all solids.
Use a funnel to pour into small flasks (I use these) to give as gifts. Or serve at parties. Or just enjoy it yourself. I won’t judge.
Mixes well with: cranberry juice, flavored seltzer, tonic, lemon-lime soda, orange juice. Also good chilled straight up or with a bit of simple syrup.