The final product, a little more than two bottles of Apple vodka and three bottles of premixed Manhattans

Here's what we ended up with - two bottles + a little extra of the Apple vodka and three bottles of pre-mixed spiced Manhattans

Meant to put this up sooner…We settled on a coupe of drinks with the apple infused vodka. One fairly simple made with the vodka, Rose’s Lime Juice and the cherry syrup. You have to be a little careful with the last two so that the sweetness doesn’t get out fo hand:

  • 2 oz apple infused vodka
  • 1/2 oz cherry syrup
  • 1/2 oz Rose’s Lime Juice

Shake and strain

The next idea came a couple of days after Halloween as I tried to figure out what to do with the left over vodka. I’m not a big fan of vodka (I mean what’s the point?). I’ve switched most of my drink making and infusing to using base liquors with some favor of their own. I still had a bottle and a half of the apple vodka to use up though. I thought of the Side Car cocktail, and a variation David Embury wrote about that substituted Calvados for the brandy. Pulled up Eric Felten’srecipe for the Sidecar and modified it a bit to get-

The Apple Sidecar

  • 1-1/2 oz apple infused vodka
  • 1/2 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lemon juices
  • 1/4 oz cherry syrup

Shake and strain.

Now that was a cool drink. Cheers

Apple Sidecars


Halloween is a Saturday this year. A great chance to serve a few drinks. Our north Asheville friends are having people over again this year after the kids trick-or-treat. Always a great time. They’ve allowed me to contribute some booze. I’ve been trying to come up with something unique, delicious and worthy of Halloween night. I made a couple of false starts last week, pulled out some books from the cocktail library then had a revelation this past weekend.

I’m maintaining my love for the Manhattan that started back on July 4th with the Cherry Bounce Manhattan. That was a good drink. I pulled off a little of the Blackberry infused rye to make a few for a recent camping trip. Even better, a perfect combination with the light snow that was falling. For Halloween I want to add a little extra  <*punch*> to the drink. I played around with adding flavored liqueurs, but each one also added sugar. That made the combinations too sweet. The revelation was to infuse whatever flavors I want into the rye before mixing up the drinks! duh. Fortunately, I figured out this obvious solution while I still had time to get it done. I give you:

Fall infused Rye

  • 75cl Rye Whiskey
  • 12 oz frozen cherries
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon stick chips (~ 3 sticks)
  • 4 large strips of orange zest
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 10 allspice berries, crushed
  • 4-5 whole cloves

Infuse cherries and rye for 4-5 days. Add spices about 48 hours before straining. Add grated orange zest 12-24 hours before straining.

I’ve got some more Carpano Antica vermouth coming to mix up a few bottles of Halloween Manhattans. Why “Halloween”? Because that’s when we’ll drink them.

After having that revelation, I had another. Some people won’t drink brown liquors no matter how good the vehicle they come in. This came after discussing Martinis with a friend. He only drinks vodka based cocktails. Go figure. For those lost souls who want to party, but also want to keep the taste meter safe, I also have some vodka infusing with apples and cinnamon.  One of the false starts from the start of this process involved freshly made cherry syrup. I have a wine bottle’s worth of that left. I’m thinking it will be a good addition to the vodka, plus/minus some dry vermouth. Testing and final recipes formulation will occur on the 30th.

Apple infused vodka

  • 75cl Vodka
  • 6 apples, peeled. cored and diced
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon chips (~2 sticks)
  • 10 Allspice berries, crushed
  • 4-6 whole cloves

Infuse over 3-5 days, strain and bottle.

Can’t wait for Friday to take a first taste

Rye and Vodka getting ready for Halloween

Those of you following this blog know that we were out of our house for just over a year. We moved back in toward the end of October. I made a most remarkable discovery at the house we were renting shortly before we moved out – a timber sized Chestnut tree was growing in the back yard. Now the plight of the American Chestnut is a sad one. It went from the dominant tree species in the eastern US to a memory over the course of the first half of the last century. A fungal blight imported from the Far East laid waste to millions of trees. There are programs attempting to breed blight resistant trees, but they are works in progress. Hybrids of Chinese and American species exist, and that appeared to be what we had. Still, the sight of chestnut burrs and nuts on the ground under my feet was astonding. I gathered all the nuts I could and have tried to get them to germinate over the pat several months. Of the four dozen or so I started with, two are starting to put out a shoot. I’m still hopeful about the others, but they are terribly prone to mildew due to the high carbohydrate content of the nut kernel. Two is better then none, and I nurse them daily.

All of that is given as a prelude to say that I have started paying closer attention to my natural surroundings. After finding the chestnut tree, I found three apple trees growing in my part of town and one pear tree that must be over 100 feet tall. I also finally took notice of a large grove of black walnut trees on the main east-west road through our area. There grow like weeds on the roadside and were covered with green nuts last fall. I picked up several grocery bags worth and set about harvesting the meat from inside. This is no small task because the husk stains your hands and the shells are like concrete. I spent half a day shelling to get about 1/3 of a cup of meat. Not a productive way to spend my time. A little searching turned up a company in Missouri that processes black walnuts and sells the nuts commercially. Sure enough, the Ingles down the street had one pound bags for about $12. Not as fresh as home picked, but a quick analysis of my time vs. the cost lead me to pick up a bag.

Once I had the bag, I needed to figure out what to do with it all. I contemplated a walnut cake where the nuts are ground into a powder (like marzapan does with almonds) and then mixed with chocolate and others ingredients. An easier use is to simply stir them into some brownie mix. You get a bourbon-like flavor that is unusual but nice. Hey wait a minute, did I say bourbon? Yep, I decided to infuse. Half the walnuts got lightly toasted in the oven (250 degrees I think) then added back to the rest. These went into a glass jar that was then filled with 100 proof vodka. That was in October. I stuck it into the cellar and kind of forgot about it.

I recently went to work on an allspice-rum extraction. That got me thinking back to the walnuts. The jar was brought out of hibernation, and strained. I strained the nuts through a coffee filter held in a new, simple coffee maker I recently picked up. Worked like a charm. The filter clogged but it didn’t seem to clog as easily as my old method.

Starting with 750 ml of vodka, I ended up with about 500 ml of black walnut extract. It was pretty harsh stuff. The aroma really captured the walnuts but there was a burn to the palate. It needed some sweetener. I consider using a sugar syrup then remembered some Shag Bark Hickory syrup I had picked up last month. It is made like maple syrup but from hickory tree sap. The flavor is similar, but a little sweeter. Progressive additions lead to a final combination of 70 ml hickory syrup to 500 ml Black Walnut vodka. I’ll let it sit and “marry” for a few weeks before trying it again. It’s a bit too strongly flavored to drink straight, but I’m thinking it will work as a flavoring agent in a rye or bourbon cocktail.

Extra notes: It took about two weeks for the staining to wear off of my fingers. For a couple of days there, it looked like I had gangrene. Better to wear gloves next time. Also, as I was typing this up, I saw that Hammonds (the Black Walnut processor) has a black walnut extract available now. One or two drops of that in a drink might very well take the place of this concoction.

Two discoveries this week. I put together an Amazon order last week that included a copy of Mixellany’s facsimile reprint of the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book. This was originally published in London in the late 1930’s.  According to the preface, it collects together many recipes from the Savoy Cocktail Book and adds a few. I also received three glasses I picked up on eBay last week. The concurrence seemed worth celebrating. I selected a recipe from the book and went to work – the Claridge


  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Apricot Brandy
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

Stir and strain.

Pretty color that looks great in the glass. A bit too sweet for me though. Went back to the Cranberry vodka and tried to make a cassis

  • 2 oz Cranberry/Orange infused vodka
  • 1/2 oz creme de cassis
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice

Shake and strain

Not bad and a beautiful deep red color. Works equally well with less or no lemon juice.

Last night’s Cranberry Vodka drinks were so good, we decided to pass out some as gifts this Christmas. A quick shopping list was assembled and then trips to Greenlife Grocery for more organic cranberries and oranges and the ABC store for vodka. I’ve been using Smirnoff 80 proof for most of my infusions. It’s not the cheapest stuff, but also not the most expensive. I had always bought this in 75 cl bottles ($14 in NC). It never dawned on me to price it in the bigger bottles. Surprise, surprise – about $8.15 for 75 cl if you buy the 1.75 liter bottle. Two of those came home with me. As I mentioned in the last post, the similarity of Sloe Gin to Cranberry infused vodka struck me. A Cranberry infused gin seemed worth trying. For this I splurged a bit. Plymouth is on sale for $20 a bottle so I brought one home. I’m sure Gordon’s or Booker’s would have done well ($8 and $13 respectively), but for test purposes a comparison of Plymouth Sloe to Plymouth Cranberry seemed better. Cranberry Gin

The berries were rinsed and picked over several times to remove bruised or spoiled fruit. As I mentioned in the first Cranberry post, un-popped berries seemed to add nothing to the vodka, so this go round all the berries were popped. I did this in 12 oz  lots, simmering over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Each batch was allowed to a cool a few minutes before going into the infusion jar. Next, I added the zest from three oranges to each 12 oz cranberry batch. My Microplane grater was indispensable for this step.

The first picture is a single batch (gin) just after the spirit was added.

Our plan was for three bottles worth of vodka. Fortunately, I have a very large jar salvaged during a previous recycling run that will hold a gallon. It was pressed into service again (it was the home for the spiced rum infusion). Perfect size for three bottles worth of vodka and fruit.

You can see that the gin has already taken on some of the red color. The bottles in the back are from the first batch. I’m trying to filter out some of the sediment. With the current batch, I’m going to try for a three week infusion before straining.

Cranberry / Orange Infused Vodka

  • 75 cl 80 proof vodka
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • zest of 3 oranges

Wash and pick over cranberries discarding any damaged fruit. Simmer cranberries with a little water over medium heat until most of the berries have popped, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pop any remaining whole berries. Let cool, then add to infusion vessel. Add orange zest and then vodka. Let stand 2 to 4 weeks, stirring daily. Pop any berries that float up. Strain and bottle when flavor reaches your preference, around 2 to 4 weeks.

That is the final recipe.

The gin is a one-off test. Another thought would be to use silver rum. Then you could give Daiquiris and any other rum drinks a festive, bright red cranberry tinge.

Great break the last few days. We had some family in town for Thanksgiving. Nice full court meal at lunch and some postprandial laying about the rest of the day. With the kids off playing and some good tunes on the stereo, the evening seemed like a good time to shake up a few drinks. The Cranberry Vodka was pressed into service for what turned out to be two good drinks. The vodka has a brilliant red color that is striking on it’s own. There is a strong cranberry flavor and nice faint bouquet of orange from the zest. First up, the Crantini (couldn’t resist) a vodka sour made with our cranberry infused vodka. The proportions follow David Embury’s magic ratio. A dash of maraschino in the second round added a note of complexity. Both keepers.


ACG Crantini

(ie Cranberry Sour)

  • 2 oz Cranberry-orange infused vodka
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz 3:1 simple syrup
  • dash or two  of Maraschino (optional)

Shake and strain. If you left out the maraschino and added a dash of orange bitters or Cointreau you’d have something approaching a Cosmo.

The similarity of this vodka to Sloe Gin was not lost on me.

Cranberry Chaplin

  • 30 cc Cranberry Vodka
  • 30 cc Apricot Brandy
  • 20 cc Lime Juice

Shake and strain

I made a Charlie Chaplin for my house guest along with the Cranberry version. The Cranberry was drier and more refreshing.

All of these fruit flavored items were too much for the Amateur Cocktail Sibling who wanted gin with “just a little something in it.” He professes an allergy to Vermouth (pine nuts??) so out came the Grand Marnier for a French Kiss. This from the Cocktail Database. Three parts gin, one part Grand Marnier, stirred. Not bad, but I had another Cranberry Chaplin.

Next up: a Cranssis – a Vodka Cassis with our homebrew.

Picked up our free turkey at Ingles last week. The grocery store runs a promotion every holiday season – buy a certain amount over a certain period of time and you get the bird.  I guess the intention is for you to serve this at a holiday meal, but I like turkey so I cooked it. I used a method described in the latest issue of Saveur. Very simple oven roasting. Great result. Also made some stock that I will save for Thanksgiving gravy.

This time of year is a boon for food fans. I think I’ve picked up and gone through a half dozen holiday issues of different cooking and food magazines. Saveur gets a mention because they have good recipes and travel articles that aren’t overwhelmed by the advertising. Cranberries came up in about all of these. Cranberries are something I’ve always wanted to like but seem to pass on each year when I’m fixing my plate. I think it’s the texture, because I like the smell. They are uniquely American and may have been served at the first Thanksgiving. I wanted to get them into the meal some way so into the vodka they went.

Cranberry infused vodka isn’t a new idea. They are several recipes out there for making it. Most include sugar to make a liqueur. I tend to like things dry so I will have a better base to add things in to. I looked at several cranbery sauce recipes as I considered how to make my vodka. Oranges seem to get added in often. They was also the question of cooking the berries or not. I thought cooking would make it easier to extract the flavors. As you cook cranberries they thicken on there own into a sauce.  I assume that the pectin in the berries is the cause. One risk of infusing a cooked sauce might be another gelled mass like I got with the fig infusion.

Here’s what I’m trying:

Cranberry Orange Infused Vodka

  • 16 oz fresh cranberries
  • zest of 3 oranges
  • 75 cl 40 proof vodka

Cook 12 oz of the berries in a small amount of water until most of them pop, about 4 minutes. Cool, then add all ingredients to the vodka.

It’s been sitting for a week now, getting stirred every day to make sure it doesn’t gel. The smell is great. I will strain before Thanksgiving so it will be ready to serve. I’m thinking of combining it with a little apricot brandy and lemon juice, or maybe some creme de cassis. If it works out, I might try infusing some gin or rum. Watch for follow up –


Here’s the follow-up (Nov 22) – I’ve been stirring every day and today it seemed right. Great bright red color and good aroma off the liquid. I strained through a large colander, then into a bottle through a smaller mesh sieve. Rather then deal with the hassleof running it through cheese cloth, I am going to try and let it settle for a few days and then decant of the sediment.


Several observations for the next batch: First, the whole cranberries looked exactly like they did when I started. They spent their week and half floating on the vodka, whick I suppose is what cranberries do. The popped berries looked washed out. I take this to mean that the whole ones contributed nothing and could be skipped. Next time I’ll use only 12 oz of fresh berries and cook them all until pooped. Second, the left over fruit pulp makes a not too bad sauce. Add a little water, some sugar to taste and a few fresh berries and simmer for 5 minutes or so. The flavor isn’t terribly strong (a lot of it is in the vodka) but it is still enjoyable. Third, I ended up with a little more volume than I started with. Yeah.

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