december 17, 2013
Visitors bearing homemade treats are always welcome at my home during the holidays. A gift of handcrafted limoncello made by friends a few years back was sipped with extra pleasure, illustrating that gifts handmade with care are treasured all the more by the lucky recipients.
Strolling the aisles of the local liquor store a few weeks back for a little holiday inspiration, I found vodka flavors ranging from subtle and complementary (citrus and currant) to those inviting comparison to children’s cough medicines (sugar cookie dough! strawberry mango!).
How hard can it be to customize vodka with seasonal flavors and pack it up for holiday host gifts? Surprisingly easy. Time does all the work, and depending on how strongly flavored you take your vodka, you can have a batch ready to go in as little as four days. Keep some for yourself and stock your bar with the fixings for other colorful seasonal libations (see my post two winter cocktails).
Today’s recipe has a peppery bite, is not very sweet (most flavored vodkas call for up to seventy five percent more sugar) and has the romantic aroma of an anise flavored liqueur without the syrupy sweetness. If you are not enamored with Sambuca, ouzo or other anise flavored alcohols, omit the star anise and let the other spices shine.
I sampled the infusion at four days and it was divinely tasty, and after one week the flavors were more assertive but not overpowering.
Let your recipients decide how this crimson magic can best be used in their homes, or attach a little card with suggested ways to enjoy :
- straight up
- added to sparkling water or champagne
- mingled with sweeter beverages like ginger ale or lemonade
- added to hot cider for an evening fireside treat
A merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all from my home to yours!
Spiced Cranberry Vodka
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes about three cups
six ounces fresh cranberries (half a bag), rinsed and picked over
¼ cup cane sugar
1 tablespoon water
4 whole star anise
1 teaspoon whole cloves
9 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
6 green cardamom pods, smashed with wooden spoon or mallet
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
one 750 ml bottle vodka ( I like Luksusowa potato vodka)
- Stir water and sugar together in small saucepan over medium low heat until sugar is melted.
- Add cranberries and cook over medium heat, stirring, just until most berries have burst, about several minutes.
- Place cranberry mixture and spices in clean two quart jar with tight lid.
- Pour vodka into jar and stir mixture with metal spoon and then give a good shake; seal tightly.
- Place spiced vodka mixture in dry cool place (basement perfect, or fridge if your home is warm).
- Shake or stir daily with clean spoon.
- Spiced vodka may be ready for packing into containers between four and seven days, depending on desired strength of flavors; feel free to take a small sample.
- Strain mixture, discarding berries and spices, into another clean jar or pitcher, or metal bowl.
- Store spiced cranberry vodka in fridge or freezer indefinitely.