While browsing through an old books store several years back, I came across a book called Infused, 100 Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails. The very first sentence caught my attention: “Making your own infused liqueurs is simple, and the results are delicious.” I was suddenly caught up with the idea of being able to capture the flavors and beautiful colors of fresh fruits ( and herbs and vegetables, too) in a liqueur that could be enjoyed year-round. These make wonderful gifts as well, particularly at Holiday time.
All infused liqueurs are created using the same basic principle. A flavor is steeped in an alcohol base for a period of time. The solids are filtered out, and a sweetening is added. The liqueur is aged which allows the flavors to mellow, then it is bottled and ready to serve. Vodka–clear and neutral tasting–is an ideal blank canvas for infusions and this is what I use. However, other spirits work beautifully as well: rum, tequila, bourbon, brandy and gin, so long as they are clear or have minimal color of their own to contribute. By making your own infusions you are not limited by what you find in the liquor store, the flavor combinations seem endless.
Makes about 3 1/2 – 4 cups
Bring 6 Tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup water to boil in a small saucepan, stirring just until sugar dissolves; remove from heat and allow to cool. This is called a simple syrup.
Place 1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped rhubarb in a large wide-mouth jar. Add 3 cups vodka, 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur, and cooled syrup; stir. Screw lid on tightly; let stand at room temperature in a dark place for 2 to 3 weeks. Give it a shake every now and then. During this time the color will leach out of the rhubarb, giving the liqueur a rosy color. Strain mixture through a sieve over a large bowl. (One with a pouring lip is ideal). Discard solids. Pour the liqueur into a bottle. Now the HARD part: Wait 1-2 weeks for flavors to mellow. OK, you can have a small taste. YUM!
This is how I made my first batch, and it was very good, but I’m going to make more while rhubarb is still available, and this time I am going to put in a few thin strips of orange peel (no white pith) instead of the Grand Marnier because I didn’t taste quite enough orange flavor the first time around. No, wait, I think I’ll use both. Wonder what that will do to the color???? I feel a little like a mad scientist as I continue to come up with flavor concoctions. Most have been HITS, but a couple have been MISSES. I”ll be sharing more flavors with you as time goes on.
This is what rhubarb flavor looks like! Top photo shows a variety of flavors including cranberry, peach, orange, and lemon.