Monday, April 22, 2013

Extra-Curricular Cocktailing - Infused Alcohol & Simple Syrups

Homemade Bitters, Photo: NK
My best friend is mighty talented. By day, she's a Social Worker and Vocational Counselor who also has a specialty in Horticultural Therapy, not to mention a fierce green thumb.

In her spare time, she cooks healthy vegetarian meals, bakes some seriously tempting sweets, and dotes on her husband, dog, and cat, all in-between weekend camping trips and farming conventions. When I met up with her the other day, she matter-of-factly mentioned that she'd just decided to walk to meet me, you know, a hundred city blocks. She is the urban-frontierswoman I'll never be. 

Since her work results in her spending a good deal of time at the Horticultural Society of New York, she suggested I join her for one of their workshops. One that also happened to feature one of our favorite pastimes.

It was fun to be in a classroom with my besty again, since the last time was probably in fourth grade. Back then, we were ever teacher's nightmare what with our inappropriate outbursts and ill-timed giggles. We managed to keep it together for most of this engrossing class, but then again, some things really never change. 

Our Bitters, Infusions and Simple Syrups class was taught by Sarah Lohman whose very cool blog, Four Pounds Flour, focuses on Historic Gastronomy, or exploring historic recipes, food customs, and the stories behind centuries of food and drink across cultures. 

We learned a lot and Sarah was very entertaining as well. Among the highlights, I found out that it is super easy to infuse spirits with all manner of flavorings - herbs, fruits, even vegetables. Unsurprisingly, some hipster-ish looking dude even asked about infusing Bacon into Vodka. Apparently, this too is within reach. 

We even made our own homemade Bitters which are steeping as we speak. They should be ready in a few more weeks!

Mixing an Infused French 75,  Photo: NK
In today's post, we'll explore some fast recipes so that you too can create the  basic building blocks for mixing a great cocktail. Creating homemade Liquor Infusions and Syrups to enhance your mixed drinks is easier than you think. We'll even try our hand at an original cocktail with Basic Simple Syrup and my homemade Lemon/Lime Vodka. I like to call it a Grown Up 7 Up. Enjoy! 

*Basic Simple Syrup
1:1 Ratio of Water to Sugar 
(1 Cup Water to 1 Cup Sugar, etc)

~To create: heat water and Sugar over low heat until Sugar has fully dissolved, stirring from time to time. 

~To infuse: while Sugar and Water is heating add ingredients of your choice to impart flavor. This is best done with dry ingredients such as Citrus Zest, a Cinnamon Stick, and Herb, etc.

Check out this great Ginger Lemon Simple Syrup HERE

Homemade Sour Mix
By Sarah Lohman

2 Cups Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Cup Simple Syrup

~To create: Mix Lemon and Syrup and use in your favorite cocktail. The best way to use sour mix? Margaritas of course. I've also been know to enjoy a Whiskey Sour now and again. 

*NK's Own Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka
Makes 1 Cup (8 ounces)

1 Cup Smirnoff Vodka
Peel of 1/2 a Lime
Peel of 1/2 a Lemon
1 Wedge of Lime
1 Wedge of Lemon

~To create: Add Vodka to an airtight container. Squeeze and twist rinds over container to Let sit at room temperature for at least week, shaking from time to time. When ready to use, chill in the refrigerator and strain out solids. Enjoy with your favorite mixed drink.
Note -the higher the proof of your Vodka, the faster the flavors will infuse. 

Grown Up 7-UP
Yields 2 Drinks
Photo: Neurotic Kitchen

8 Ounces Seltzer
2 Ounces Simple Syrup* +1 teaspoon Simple Syrup, divided

3 Ounces Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka*above
2 Lime Rounds for Garnish 

2 Lemon Wedges, for squeezing
2 Slices Lemon Peel for the Lemon twists

Stir together Seltzer, 2 Ounces Simple Syrup, 3 Ounces of Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka and the Juice of 2 Lemon Wedges. 

Place Ice in two glasses and pour mixture over each. Take each Lemon Twist and squeeze/twist it over each glass. This action allows the essential oils from the Lemon Rind to be dispersed over the drink imparting an aromatic layer to the cocktail. When done, toss each Lemon Twist into the glasses and garnish with Lime Rounds. Finally, float a half teaspoon of additional Simple Syrup over each glass and serve. Cheers!

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