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Tag: vodka

It’s Springtime Somewhere: Scented Geranium Spritz

At this late stage in the season, there’s little action occurring on the PFruits balcony. Everything’s been cut back, pulled up, or put to bed. Everything except Franklin (the) Mint, who is still doing well in solitary confinement, and the scented geranium I put in mid-season to replace the monarda that crapped out before bothering to bloom.

In addition to being gratifyingly green so late into the fall, the geranium’s feathery, leathery leaves give off such a gorgeous, complex scent–floral rose, spicy lemon, astringent pine–when I brush up against them that I felt driven to capture it somehow before the frost finally does the plant in. Having just gone out and tousled it to see get another hit of its smell, I’m now sitting here in front of the computer with my hands up my nose like Mary Katherine Gallagher, breathing in the fabulous scent.

Many people use the (non-toxic, I checked) leaves of scented geranium to flavor sugar for use in baked goods, and I’ll probably do that as well, but why infuse sugar when there’s VODKA? I mean, honestly. So, after cutting a few leaves, giving them a good wash and air-dry, I gently clapped them together in my hands to release the oils and plopped them in about a quart of vodka.

This, by the way, represents the cutting edge of herbal cocktail science. Apparently, today’s mixological cognoscenti clap or spank their herbs gently rather than muddling them so as to pull the essential oils to the surface but not break them up to the point that the bitter green plant flavors come to the fore.

Continuing this quest to pull the flavor of the oils and not of the green chlorophyll-y leaves itself, I only steeped the leaves for about 24 hours. Much longer than 48 and those bitter green flavors will emerge even if you’ve only given your leaves the gentlest of spankings. The upside, though, to all this cosseting of the vegetation is that your fabulous herbal infusions are ready almost instantly.

Then, though, came the question of what to do with it. By itself, the vodka still burned like vodka, but sparkled with the flavor/scents that the geranium did. While it was fairly obvious I’d need to add some fruit, sweetness, and a little acid to the party since the geranium’s pungency all falls fairly high on the nose, I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish all that without drowning it out.

After much tinkering and subjecting friends to teacups with teeny amounts of this, that, and the other combination of things, I think we came up with a lovely, if slightly unseasonal, beverage. It’s lovely and delicate, with the wonderful complexity of the geranium enlivened by the sparkling water and rounded out with a touch of lemon and just a few drops of rich, fruity Chambord. Of course, it really begs to be sipped at a garden party, so unless there’s an orangerie somewhere in your general vicinity, this one goes out to all you Southern Hemispherians… at least for now.

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Summertime Sippin’: Lemongrass Vodka

Tis the season, all of a sudden, for refreshing poolside/rooftop/backyard cocktails. And, lest it be said that I never did anything for you, here’s another quick and easy infusion that will set your bar–wherever it may be–head and shoulders above everyone else’s.

Like the Earl Grey vodka I put up for our Royal Wedding “tea” party, this is another simple put-stuff-in-vodka-and-let-it-sit-around kind of thing. While I have some other more complex liquors in the works (strawberry-black pepper rum, anyone?), this fairly basic lemongrass infusion is worth mentioning since the herb has such a lovely flavor–sharp, citrusy, and herbaceous–that isn’t familar to people as it should be.

I suspect this is in large part due to the “grass” part of lemongrass. It’s only good fresh (dried is UTTERLY useless), and even then, it’s tough and fibrous and just kind of a pain in the ass.

Vodka, then, is the perfect gateway application as we get all of the taste with none of the narsty crunchy bits found in the headily-scented Southeast Asian soups and such where lemongrass is usually deployed.

In a nod to those cultural antecedents, I used turbinado instead of regular sugar to smooth out the mouthfeel and add the toasty caramel note often found in Vietnamese cooking particularly. A tiny piece of ginger adds dimension to the already powerful lemongrassy zing.

This is just lovely on the rocks with ginger ale–now’s the time to reach for the Canada Dry, fancy ginger beers would just walk all over the lemongrass–or a lightly-flavored seltzer, maybe with a dash more syrup and a mint sprig. Any way you slice it, it’s a brightly envigorating.
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Fit for a Royal Wedding “Tea”: Earl Grey Vodka

So, in case you’ve not heard, Prince William and his lady in waiting, Kate Middleton, are getting mawwied in April. Though neither royalist nor republican (small “r”, people) myself, I did think that a royal wedding-watching party would be fun. And what better way to celebrate that with a “tea” party? I’m still debating whether to go traditional (finger sandwiches, Victoria sponge) or literalist (tea-smoked duck, green tea roulade), but I have decided that guests will be required to wear hats–best hat wins a prize direct from the Buckingham Palace gift shop courtesy of Mr. T’s mom.

In addition to hats, however, a tea party also requires tea. But since I’m not really a fan of hot tea, and this is going to be at its root a cocktail party, regular old PG Tips in the ancestral teapot was not going to cut it. Instead, I’ve just put up a big bottle of Earl Grey vodka–a more spirited libation in keeping with our slightly less beholden-to-protocol festivities. Having made it before for a St. George’s Day party several years ago, I can say that this is a delicious elixir shaken on its own with a twist, or with a bit of cranberry juice for a punch, or further enlivened with a bit of champagne or sparkling water and a bit of simple syrup.

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