Out of gift giving ideas and want a totally unique, special and home-made gift? I've got one for you, as well as for at least a dozen lucky gift recipients on my gift-giving list this year! Infused Christmas Vodka! I bought a dozen stopper bottles from Speciality Bottles.com and will be filling them with my original home-infused Holiday Cheer. The over-all expense is minimal once you divide the ingredients costs over 10 or 12 bottles. All told, this gift expenditure may run you 30 bucks or so for everything. Inexpensive when you look at the per unit costs.
Onto the nitty gritty. I decided that while I would love to make limoncello or other citrus infused vodka, a Noel version was more apropos. Thinking about what would work in a week's infusing time, I remembered a cranberry flavored vodka I made a dozen or more years ago, using a Martha Stewart recipe. I wanted something a bit more festive and seasonal. I had on hand a bag of cranberries, cinnamon sticks, clovers, candied ginger and lots of oranges. All sounded wonderfully festive and seasonal.
If you are short on time, this is a great idea to throw together now or within the next 2 days, to be ready in time for Christmas or even New Year's gift giving. 100 Proof Spirits will infuse faster than 80 Proof, so if you can find a bottle of 100 proof vodka, buy it. I won't say you should cross state lines to buy your booze, but let me tell you that another great thing about living in the Garden State is that the liquor stores sell alcohol at reasonable prices. This is not the time to buy an expensive vodka that's been distilled over diamonds and quartz. Buy an inexpensive brand, like Smirnoff. You'll be flavoring it, so whatever super brand on which you spend you money won't be appreciated. I happened to use 2 kinds of vodka - one I bought at Wegmans for about $10, the other was the remains of a bottle of Grey Goose that we had in the house. Yes, it's a premium mixed with a no-name brand, but I hadn't intended to mix them. It turned out that I needed a bit more vodka for my jar!
- 1 to 1 1/2 Litre of Neutral Distilled Grain Sprits - Vodka is preferred (inexpensive!)
- 1 Bag of Cranberries - washed, rinsed and picked over
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 Whole Cloves
- Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 1 Large Piece Whole Candied Ginger
- Peels of 3 Oranges - Preferably organic oranges, washed/rinsed and peeled
- 1 large glass jar (about a 1/2 gallon size is ideal) - washed and rinsed
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Water
- Decorative Decanting Bottles with Stoppers
- Wash the fruit.
- Into a clean glass jar, add in the cranberries, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, cloves and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
- Peel the oranges using a vegetable peeler. Be careful not to peel any of the white pith. Add the orange peels to the jar.
- Pour in a litre or more of vodka, I used about a litre and a half to fill my jar. Close the jar and allow to steep for at least 5 days. After 2 days, remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and discard them. Allow the vodka to steep for 3 more days, or up to a week total. If time permits, you can infuse the vodka for up to month. This will result in a gorgeous ruby colored vodka.
- When ready to decant, make sure the decanting bottles have been thoroughly washed and dried.
- Make a simple syrup mixture, dissolving 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water. Heat the sugar and water mixture in a small sauce pan, over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Cool.
- Strain the infused vodka 2 or three times to remove any cranberry seeds, grated nutmeg and other infused fruit and spices. Discard the fruit and spices.
- In a large clean glass or non-reactive metal bowl, mix together the strained/infused vodka and the simple syrup mixture. Carefully blend it together.
- Next, pour the flavored vodka into your glass bottles; seal them, label them and give as gifts!
- Use within 2 months for best tasting results!
Fancy bottles can be locally found at Fantes in South Philadelphia, or online at Specialty Bottles.com You'll want to make sure that the bottles you use have seal-tight stoppers, otherwise your spirits will leak, leaving you sad and with less cheer to share!