Do you remember the lengths to which your parents went, hiding the Christmas gifts? And do you remember your determination to find those presents? I'm talking post-Santa childhood, of course. We kids thought we knew every hiding place possible, but magically, the presents appeared on Christmas Day. Life comes full circle, so in addition to hiding certain presents this year, I also have to hide most of "the good stuff," which includes the sweets: Sees candy, chocolates, rum cakes and various home-made cookies including these chocolate biscotti with almonds & pistachios~
While I give some of these to my family before Christmas, I know they will easily mow through ten pounds of chocolates, toffee and cookies before the 25th, and then I have to either buy or bake more. This year, I am hiding "the good stuff" away in the basement, in tins. Yes, you may call me Scrooge, but "the good stuff" is expensive!
Dinner will be on Christmas eve this year. I spent last evening at the Chinese market choosing a fresh salmon and watching it be prepared. I set up the filets last night for gravlaks; we will have some prime rib with a menu of mostly seafood. Our bar will feature a range of infused vodkas~
You can infuse with Eureka lemons, which are the lemons commonly found in the grocery store, but use Meyers if you can find them, they are less acidic so easier on the tummy and with food; a handy-dandy bar tool such as this is best to peel the citrus of your choice~
if possible, try for one single peel, so it looks like ribbons~
Berries can be used whole; it's ok to bruise them a little if pushing them into bottles, it just releases the color and flavor faster~
When I see vodka infused with lemon, I think of Aquavit Restaurant in NYC or the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, which was my base for several months, commuting from London for work. It's one of those drinks I taste and it transports me to a a lovely memory of Scandinavia. Ice cold, please~
Any combination of fruit, berry or spice can be placed in a jar or bottle, topped off with vodka and stored in a cool place for a week or two for an infusion. Vodka is a perfect vehicle for taking the color and taste of the fruit; you can add any kind of spices, pepper, or vanilla. Stoli sells all those "flavored" vodkas on the market, but in fact you can make your own! I prefer top shelf liquors when I drink them, which is not often, but you can use any kind of vodka. Infusing vodka with cracked pepper corns makes a spicy vodka that is great for Bloody Marys. This year I am also experimenting with pomegranate, for martinis~
Infused vodka makes a wonderful gift if your friends drink, it's a fresh & colorful gift for for New Year instead of wine or champagne. You can gift them in canning jars or small pretty bottles; these are the berries as I poured the vodka on top today; the berries are still very red; I'll show you the finished versions next week...
...clear bottles work very well, like this cognac bottle from last Christmas~
But, a word to the wise. HIDE THE BOTTLES as they infuse. Last night I got home late and found that the vodka-in-waiting had been "sampled." Uh huh; my Christmas supply was half gone, maybe I should make more quantity and maybe it was too much to see & smell this (Meyers lemon infusion) for the last week~
In the springtime, mimosas with various citrus juices are served at most of our family parties; I use my collection of footed wine decanters more for mimosa bars than for wine, and this Christmas I am using them for the infused vodkas in a range of colors; this mini holds an amber-colored, pear-infused vodka (ripe Thanksgiving pears did not go to waste!) with the liquid strained into the decanter, and then a pair of vanilla beans added; vanilla takes up to two weeks to infuse, while berries take less then a week....
another decanter holds pink grapefruit ribbons, to compose the drink of your choice~
Last night all of the raspberry- and blackberry-infused vodka and some of the lemon vodka was used to make pre-holiday cosmo's with pink sugar rims. Today after the market I had to start all over again, then the filled jars disappeared to the basement; I made one combo raspberry & blackberry which I thought was pretty in layered fruit~
I have only made it through half the jars today, so tomorrow I will make up the hostess bottles. These berries came from the farmers markets though you can find them at your grocery store or be sure to check localharvest.org for other local grower sources. I hope you will try them if your family or guests like Cosmos or Martinis. You'll see the vodka bar when I get the table set next week~