Black Peppercorn-Infused Vodka
This is an easy, quick infusion that with a remarkable and versatile result. This is a staple in my home bar, and requires only fresh, whole black peppercorns and a good quality (but not high-end) vodka.
- In a two-cup mason jar, add a handful of coarsely cracked black peppercorns.
- Fill with good-quality vodka (when I say good quality, imagine drinking it ice-cold by itself).
- Cover and let sit in a cool, dark place for no longer than 24 hours. It gets too intense quickly after that.
- After the 24-hour period, strain the vodka into a clean pint bottle or a mason jar - and put it in the freezer. It will be the color of a dark rum.
- Let it mellow another day, and it's ready to drink.
Per two cups of whiskey
This is a strange and fanciful infusion which is simple to prepare, and delicious to drink - especially if you like both bourbon and coffee. Two great tastes, together.
- In a two-cup mason jar, add a generous 1/4 cup or so of fresh, whole coffee beans.
- Fill with two cups of good-quality bourbon. I like to use Wild Turkey 101.
- Cover tightly and let sit for 12 hours.
- Strain the liquid through cheesecloth into a fresh bottle or jar.
Orange or lemon
Due to the oils in their skins, lemon and orange peels can be flamed, creating a caramelized flavor in a drink. Be careful playing with fire in the vicinity of strong spirits, though. With a sharp knife, remove a thin section of peel from the exterior of a fresh orange or lemon, about an inch in length and perhaps three quarters of an inch wide, avoiding the pith. You want to end up with an oval of the peel. Holding a lit match or lighter in one hand, and the peel (between forefinger and thumb, exterior facing toward the drink) in the other, gently squeeze the peel so that the oils spritz through the flame and over the surface of the drink. You will see sparks if you do this correctly. In case you need a visual guide, here is a video showing the whole technique at bonappetit.com.
Homemade Whiskey Sour Mix
Makes about four cups
Here's a recipe for sour mix that you can use in almost any cocktail that calls for lemon-based sour. I find that it makes a very high-standard whiskey sour - a perfect cocktail to top off a day at the beach.
- 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice (about 8-9 lemons)
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 cups simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, combined over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then cooled)
- Dashes of orange bitters
- Optional: a couple of splashes of Stirrings' Blood Orange Bitters
Full-strength honey is not easy to use in cocktails, unless they are warm. Once you add honey to a shaker with ice and liquor, it congeals and gets lumpy. It can ruin the looks of a drink. Making honey syrup dilutes the honey enough to prevent it from congealing, while retaining its unique flavor. For different nuances, try different types of honey, such as lavender, orange blossom, clover, and so forth.
A standard recipe is:
- 1 part honey
- 1 part warm water
Rosemary-Infused Simple Syrup
This is delicious in a number of drinks that call for simple syrup. You can also use this syrup, and other infused syrups, to create refreshing, nonalcoholic beverages. For example: In a glass, mix equal parts syrup and lemon juice. Add ice cubes, and top with club soda. Stir, and garnish with lemon peel or a sprig of rosemary.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
In a saucepan, add the sugar, the water, and the rosemary. Heat over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and let steep for half an hour at least. After the syrup cools, it should last in the fridge for about a week.