Ever since I figured out that most of the magic that happens at those fancy cocktail bars comes from infused spirits I've quickly adopted the practice at home. And it really couldn't be easier—simply take a middle of the road bottle of something, add your choice of fruit, herbs, or spices, and let it sit for a week or two before straining and serving. With a few of these infused spirits even the most middling home bartender can produce cocktails worthy of a master mixologist.
This recipe for Vin d'Orange from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton is an ideal introduction to the world of home infusions. For those of you familiar with Lillet, that lightly sweet, elegantly orange flavored French apertif, this is a do-it-yourself approximation. White wine is mixed with pieces of whole orange (including the skin and pith for a pleasant bitterness), vanilla bean, cinnamon, and a mix of vodka and sugar for sweetness and shelf life.
I chose a Grüner Veltliner for it's affordability and drinkability, somewhere around $13 for a liter, and a neutral potato-based vodka from Poland that I had infused in the past with lots of success. When it came to selecting oranges I went with the not so great to look at but flavorful and aromatic juicing variety. Your vanilla bean should be pliant and oily, and the cinnamon sticks should still have a bit of give.
After a week anticipation, tasting the Vin d'Orange is really thrilling. All of the flavors come together in a manner that is delicate, floral, and honeyed, reminiscent of a Creamsicle in the most elegant way. You can serve it with a few ice cubes and a slice of orange, as a float on top of a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine, or mix it into a gin and tonic for one of the most refreshing summer cocktails around.
- 2 (750 ml) bottles white wine
- 1 cup vodka
- 4 oranges, with the peel, scrubbed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean
Combine the wine, vodka, oranges, sugar, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean in a large glass bowl or food-grade ceramic crock, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover tightly and set in a cool, dark place for 1 week, stirring daily.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or a single thickness of cheesecloth and taste for sweetness, adding a pinch more sugar if necessary. Decant into bottles, and then cork them. Keeps refrigerated for up to 6 months.