Here's The Jist:

As a Drink Editor I receive a lot of requests for restaurant, bar and nightlife recommendations. So I started a blog to chronicle Chicago's social scene which eventually morphed into New York's drinking and dining scene. After years in Chicago, I'm now a full time resident of NYC, the East Village to be exact. Look forward to sharing the latest and greatest from the wine & spirits world, straight from the Big Apple.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Liquor Infusions

From the Green City Market to the small organic farm stands that pop up on weekends in neighborhoods, fresh produce is everywhere. For all of the Cheeky foodies out there who are dreaming up news ways to use locally produced food, try experimenting with liquor infusions.

Whether you’re hosting a summer dinner party and need a unique pairing to your fresh tomato salad (try basil-mint infused vodka) or if you’re on the prowl for the perfect hostess gift for a friends’ weekend cabin (strawberry infused tequila), homemade infusions are simple and can be great gifts. I’m heading out to an East Coast beach party in a couple of weeks and plan on making a vanilla bean vodka so smooth it can be served on the rocks or with a splash of lemonade. It’s a great nightcap for a relaxed Hamptons bonfire.

And the best part is that you don’t have to have any spirits experience to infuse.

Below are my top three picks for homemade infusions this summer. And if you simply can’t bring yourself to infuse at home or if you’re strapped for time, pop into Binny’s or Sam’s and pick up a bottle from 267 Infusions. The brand is my go-to for fresh flavors in a pinch.

A couple rules of thumb:

  • When infusing vodka, rum and tequila, use a moderately priced, mid-range spirit like Smirnoff, Bacardi or Sauza. The natural flavors of the herbs, spices and fruits will offset the alcohol notes and will round out the spirit. You can certainly use Ciroc or Corzo, but their nuances won’t be fully appreciated when mixed with fruit flavors.

  • Budget a week for the flavors to seep into the spirit.

  • Use the freshest ingredients possible (no frozen and thawed fruit).

  • The fruit will continue to ripen while in the spirit, so err on the side of unripe versus over-ripe.

    Mango Rum

    Ingredients: Two ripe mangos, 1 litre of white rum

    · Cut length-wise into crescent shapes and put into large mason jar.

    · Store air-tight mason jar in cool area of kitchen for at least a week. I’ve found that a week is an adequate time for the sugars and flavors of the mango to seep into the rum.

    · You have the option to serve the rum as is - with the mangos still inside - or you can use cheesecloth and strain the rum into a fresh container.

    Fresh Strawberry Tequila

    Ingredients: Two handfuls of full, nearly ripe strawberries,1 litre of Blanco or Gold tequila

    · Wash strawberries and drop whole berries into large jar.

    · Store air-tight mason jar in cool area of kitchen for at least a week.

    · The best part about whole berry infusions is that the berries become so drenched in tequila that they can be taken as a shot, or they can be used as a garnish to a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Organic Basil-Mint Vodka

    Ingredients: Fresh, whole leaf basil, whole mint leaves, 1 liter of vodka

    · Drop whole basil and mint leaves into vodka. Do not cut or crush.

    · Store air-tight mason jar in cool area of kitchen for at least a week.

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