This post should have probably been titled gifts from your bar, but I try to keep up the appearance that I’m not a total lush. But really, who doesn’t love alcohol related gifts? So far this year I’ve made Cranberry Lime Vodka and Buddha Hand Vodka (think citron vodka). After learning so easy those where, I’m tempted to infuse a bunch of other spirits, but really there’s only so much the two of us can drink (and I generally shy away from the hard stuff). Unfortunately for us, alcohol gifting isn’t the easiest thing to do. We travel a lot for the holidays. We’ve actually never spent Christmas eve or day in our apartment though this year we might get a few hours on Christmas Day night. So toting around bottles of alcohol on the train, or worse, plane, in addition to our other Christmas gifts does get a bit cumbersome. If people chose to visit Brooklyn for Christmas, I guarantee there would be many more alcoholic gifts! Hmm…maybe that’s the type of persuasion I need to start using.
So how about an alcoholic treat not for sipping but for kitchen magic that is so easy, you’ll wonder why you’re shelling out a fortune to buy a few ounces of the stuff. No idea? How about a little vanilla extract? Something that everyone uses (if you bake even the slightest bit)–just think how amazed your friends and family would be to get a small vial of homemade extract. Pretty cool, huh?
When I buy vanilla extra, I’m generally shelling out $4-5 for a 4oz bottle. And that’s at the coop. Not sure how much it would be other places (and I’m talking PURE vanilla, not that imitation stuff). If you make it at home, it ends up being less than $0.50 a oz. Considering I use enough vanilla that you might think I’m sipping the stuff, I was up for the challenge.
My friend turned me on to this wonderful website Vanilla Saffron Extracts. You can order any type of vanilla beans starting at $20 a pound. Add some vodka, let sit for a few months and you have vanilla extract. I got the recipe from one of my favorite (not jut for) canning books, Food in Jars. The recipe recommends mixing the extract directly in the 750ml vodka bottle, but since I generally buy cheap vodka by the 1.5L, I needed a different jar. I thought about my mason jars but was worried it might spill during the final decanting. So instead, I came up with the perfect solution–Ronnybrook milk jars. The quart sized glass jars that I have collected on my shelf, waiting to return to the market are perfect! You end up with a quart rather than 3/4 of a liter, but more is better, right?
Vanilla Extract (adapted from Food in Jars)
- 4 c not your best vodka
- 30 vanilla beans
- 1 quart sized jar, like a milk jug
Pour 2 cups of vodka into the jar. Split vanilla beans and scrap out seeds with the back of a paring knife.
Using a funnel, push all seeds into the glass bottle. Seal and give it a good shake. Add empty vanilla bean pods to jar as well, and again seal and shake. Finally, add the remaining vodka to your jar.
Store jar in a cool dark place for 4-6 months. The liquid should become dark, almost syrupy and strongly vanilla scented.
If giving as gifts , strain extract through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into smaller gift jars. Add one fresh vanilla bean to each jar before gifting. If keeping for yourself, strain some of the extract into a smaller jar. Top off the large jar with extra vodka (and maybe an extra bean or two over time) to create a forever replenishing bottle of extract.
- Candy Cane Infused Vodka (tessashomemade.com)
- Twelve drinks of Christmas for your holiday party (sfluxe.com)
- 10 Awesome DIY Christmas Gift Ideas! (storybookapothecary.com)
- Vodka Infused with Ginger, Lime & Cayenne (howtofood.net)
- Fruity Alcohol Enhancers – The Vodka Zinger Natural Flavor Infuser Makes Healthy Cocktails (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)