Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit that dates back to the 1500s. Much like gin, it's a neutral spirit flavored with botanicals—only caraway seed is the primary flavoring instead of juniper berries. Use aquavit instead of vodka in a cocktail recipe to add a bold and savory kick.
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One sure-fire way to start an argument with me is to say that absinthe makes people hallucinate. It doesn't. But if you think it does, you have something in common with French regulators in the early 1900s. Back then, everyone was panicking that absinthe would drive people insane because it contained wormwood. Before more people could succumb to absinthe madness and chop their ear off à la Vincent van Gogh, they outlawed the spirit. (The fact that absinthe was 140 proof and people were drinking it like wine had more than a little to do with the crazy behavior, but I digress.) With absinthe out of the picture, people needed another delicious anise-flavored alcoholic beverage. That's where pastis came in.
Habanero peppers are as brilliantly inky as an orange highlighter or a rogue sunbeam in October, and their heat as warm as the longing for summer in the dark heart of February. Of all the sweetly spicy peppers I foolishly sampled that day, their flavor was subtle but still scorching and fruity, perfectly suited for a bright citrus cocktail.
Last week, we looked at vodka, but mainly at clear, or unflavored, vodka. Today we'll follow up with the other type of vodka on the market: flavored vodka. We'll look at its history, some production methods, and a controversy or two.
Unless you were cooler than I was—which is a distinct possibility—your formative drinking years involved quite a few artificial ingredients and embarrassing choices. My early experiences with alcohol included a lot of fake fruit flavors and the occasional Zima. If peanut butter and jelly vodka had existed back then, I would have been all over it. 'm reminded of those days whenever I taste a mass-produced, flavored spirit. Even some of the high-end flavored liquors like candy and chemicals to me. If you want a flavored spirit that doesn't have a fake taste to it, you'll have a hard time finding it at the store.
A homemade pear liqueur made with brandy gives you the sweetness of a fruit liqueur and the dryness of brandy in one ingredient. This pear liqueur hits the "Do I DIY?" trifecta: easy, cheap, and better-tasting than the store-bought stuff.
Delicately sweet with a hint of bitterness, a homemade chocolate liqueur made with cacao nibs is like an expensive dark chocolate bar in your drink instead of like a jigger of Nestle Quik.
Homemade creme de menthe tastes and smells like fresh mint. It completely blows away the commercial stuff, and it's totally simple to make.
Ginger liqueur offers an exciting bend of sweet and spicy flavors. It can turn a basic drink into an intricately layered cocktail experience. Sure, you can use ginger liqueur all year (it's great with sparkling wine, especially when muddled with peaches in the summer) but this potion especially calls to us in winter, when it's just the thing to spice up our drinks. You can buy Domaine de Canton at most liquor stores—but what about making your own instead?
This homemade ginger liqueur tastes so elegant that people will not believe you made it yourself. It can compete with Domaine de Canton on flavor—for less than half the cost and only 20 minutes of work.
A daintier, more delicate Bloody Mary, made with tomato water and hot pepper vodka.
More substantial than a mimosa, but not as stick-to-your ribs as a bloody mary; this fresh carrot, orange, and vodka cocktail is just the thing to sip before heading out for a little hike through a sunny meadow full of clover-munching bunny rabbits.
Sometimes you feel like tea, other times you want to slurp up chocolate milk. Is there room for something in between? Honest Tea's new CocoaNova line includes three flavors: Mint Cacao, Mocha Cacao, and Cherry Cacao. The infusions, which resemble watered-down Yoo-Hoos, are dairy-free, gluten-free, and 50 calories per glass bottle.
The practice of flavoring liquor (by soaking stuff in it) is almost as old as the art of distilling, but as Frank Bruni noted recently in the New York Times, the current prevalence of infused booze is at an all-time high. Vodka infused with lemon peel or bourbon with vanilla beans, anyone?
Lately infusing my own spirits has become something of an obsession, and I have a big enough collection of bottles filled with fruits, herbs, and spices sitting under my sink to prove it. So when I came across this somewhat strange recipe for Milk Liqueur from the Azores in David Leite's The New Portuguese Table there was no way that I wasn't going to try it.
Infused vinegars were all the rage at last week's Fancy Food Show in New York City. But why buy chile-infused products, when it's just as easy to make them at home and control how much heat you want from the chiles? Take the smokiness from anchos, the fire of Thai chiles or the sweetness from red bell peppers. Other spices or seasonings can be added as you please, and the overall price will be considerably less. And why stop with just vinegar? Infuse oil, honey or alcohol too. Here are the basics for chile infusions.
Limoncello is a southern Italian lemon liqueur that is made primarily in Sicily and Sardinia and traditionally served at the end of the meal as a digestivo. Limoncello works equally well before the meal as an apertivo, which is how we're presenting it this week as part of the menu for a full Italian meal.