Lots of discussion here lately on Halloween cocktails. I would bet that in most of the country it is, or has, surpassed St. Patrick’s Day as the holiday adults celebrate with a drink. It’s on a Friday this year (and a Saturday next year) so there’s the opportunity to have one more before turning in. With my advancing age, volume consumed has long been surpassed in importance by quality of consumption. Every drink (or bite) taken entails a certain number of calories that have to be accounted for at some point. If I’m going to take them in, and work them off, they better be worth the effort. You know “Life’s too short to drink cheap wine,” and all that.
My goal for a Halloween drinks is to get some Halloween flavor into my companions. Using the Pumpkin flavored syrup is a quick and easy way to do it. The sugar in the syrup limits it usefulness though plus it’s pre-made. We’re all about homemade ingredients around here, so making our own pumpkin flavored items seemed to make sense. Remember, a drink is a vehicle for getting tastes into the drinker. Sugar blunts the taste and alcohol blunts the taster. Making our own components allows better control over both. We’re no longer trying to knock out our date, she’s now our wife and one of us has to drive home.
I digress. An extraction, err ah, infusion is one way to get flavors out of something solid and into a drink. Infusing spirits seems to be all the rage now. That’s because it is easy and fun. There is lots of info on the the web that is free for the taking. A search on “Pumkin infusion” turned up two. This and that.
The first, taken from Sunset magazine, was interesting in that they used squash for the pumpkin flavoring and just a bit of it at that. The second, from a New York City bar, used raw pumpkin. Several follow up posting criticized it for tasting like, well, raw pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie flavor I guess was expected. Both of these have the usual pumpkin associated spices added in.
I turned up one more recipe in Infused by Susan Ella MacNeal. Not sure where I got this, but it looks to be $2 used on Amazon. Her recipe calls for 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 vanilla bean, 2 cinnamon sticks and 15 to 20 cloves. These are infused in a bottle of the liquor of your choice for 1 month and strained when the flavor reaches the desired intensity. Couple of points here: first, again with the prepared food. This is only one step away from me using a pumpkin syrup. That’s a step I’m trying not to take again. Second, “any liquor” can be used. Good point. We saw that here with the peach liqueur, making a brandy and then a bourbon based version. I think rum and pumpkin would be complimentary.
Here’s what I came up with.
- 16 oz of diced butternut squash – 8 oz roasted, 8 oz raw.
- (This was one half of the squash)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 whole nutmeg, rough broken
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 75cl vodka
I set it up last week with the plan on steeping it for just over a week.
The most common recipe I find this used in calls for 3 parts pumpkin vodka, 1 part Amaretto. If you shake it with ice, you’ll get some water to dilute it, but that still seems like a lot of alcohol. This might be one where a little homemade grenadine is welcome. Have to experiment and get back to you.
The picture I posted also shows a larger jar with just the spices infusing. That was supposed to be my pumpkin infused rum. I picked up one of those small Pumpkin Pie Pumkins at Ingles, gutted and peeled it, then roasted it. When it was done it smelled terrible. I was sure I didn’t want that taste in a drink. The raw flesh didn’t smell so great either. So I just put the spices into the rum. I’ll figure out what to do with it later (Mai tai or Daiquiri, something along those lines).
My spices were purchased at a local organic grocery that sells them bulk. I can just by what I need, one vanilla bean, one nutmeg, etc. Also, I left out the cloves. There have a fairly distinctive flavor some people don’t enjoy, Amateur Cocktail Gal included.
October 28 addendum:
I siphoned off some of the pumpkin vodka to try out. The aroma off the vodka is distinct but faint. Pretty pale orange color. After reading through some previous post I hit on the idea of a Pumpkin Cosmo, subtituting Amaretto for the Triple Sec and using the pumpkin vodka as the base. I cut back on the Amaretto so it wouldn’t over power the vodka flavoring.
- 1 1/2 oz pumpkin vodka
- 3/4 oz Amaretto
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- splash of pomegrante juice
Shake and strain.
Here’s what I got:
Not bad, but the pumpkin flavor was vanishingly faint. The juice didn’t add much either and detracted from the orange color the drink might otherwise have had (the red got washed out a bit in my picture).
Next attempt – Grand Marnier in place of the Amaretto. Still a problem of losing the pumpkin flavor in the final mix. Probably ought to shelf this one for a while.