Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Throw Down: Vodka-Infusion Tasting

Vodka infusions combine two things that are dear to my heart: cooking and drinking. When one of our readers suggested a vodka-infusion party, I thought, What could be better? . . . Oh, I know, a big fat cash prize for the winner.

If you are similiarly taken with this idea, then read on to learn how to throw your own vodka-infusion party. I call it: From Russia with Love. Click here for a Vodka Flight Playlist, and click here for our winning infusion recipe!

The Contestants
First, you need to limit your contestants to only about a half dozen or so, and plan to create tasting flights of about 1 teaspoon per flavor. Unless you're filming an episode of Drunk History, there is only so much vodka you can give to your houseguests. You don't want your dearest friends waking up the next morning wishing they had never been born.

Email your contestants and send them this link to everything they need to know about vodka infusions. Different ingredients take different amounts of time, but two weeks is the most time you'll need. Invite your team of infusers over two weeks before party time. You supply 1 Qt. canning jars (you can pick these up at your local gardening store for about $1 a pop), squares of cheesecloth, and if you're feeling generous, the list of ingredients each contestant specifies. The infusers supply their own vodka, and take their infusions home to incubate them.

The care and feeding of infusions is pretty simple; they need to be shaken 3-5 times a day, and stored in a cool, dark place. Once properly infused, the ingredients need to be removed, the vodka should be strained through cheesecloth, the original container should be thoroughly cleaned, and then the new and improved vodka can be returned to its home. It's up to your guests if they want to get fancy - choosing a cool bottle, or creating their own label.

The Party

Display the vodkas where they can be the center of attention. Next to each bottle, you'll need a stack of shot-size disposable cups. Number each cup with a sharpie marker, so that each stack corresponds with its bottle, i.e., a stack of #1 cups by the first bottle, #2 cups by the second, and so on. This will be a bit time consuming, but will make the voting infinitely more easy. For voting, you'll simply need a blank scrap of paper for each taster, and a drop box for anonymity.

Utilize all the table space you have. Each taster should be able to get comfortable with six mini-shots in front of her so she can sip and decide which her favorite is. When voting, she'll just have to write down her favorite cup number.

If you feel like screening videos silently in the background, you could continue the Russian theme with something striking. From Russia with Love is instantly recognizable. It seems like every ten years someone remakes Anna Karenina - this one stars Greta Garbo. Or you can impress everyone by having heard of Russian Ark - an epic and visually-gripping movie shot in all one take.

Sample Menu
Food is ESSENTIAL at an event like this; people will need something in their stomachs to soak up the alcohol. I'm including a link to making Russian dumplings, called Pelmeni and Vareniki. Making these would be incredibly ambitious, so alternatively, you can look in the freezer section of your supermarket, especially if that supermarket is in a Russian neighborhood. Or you can settle for some frozen dumplings or blintzes.

However, take if from me that Russian dumplings are phenomenal. Pelmeni are meat-filled and are typically served with melted butter as a sauce. Vareniki (which I swear sounds like "vleminki" in my ex-boyfriend's Ukranian accent) can be filled with blueberries, and are usually swirled around in a simple sauce of sour cream and sugar. This might be my favorite food on planet Earth, and I hope for your sake that you get to try it someday.

Featured Cocktail: Moscow Mule
The perfect cocktail for this event will depend on the types of infusions you've got going on. But Moscow Mules are a great thing to do to vodka, and at a party like this you can make them on the weak side and they'll still be delicious. Combine 1 oz (or less) of the vodka of your choice with 1/2 cup of ginger beer (it's non-alcoholic, with a little more kick than ginger ale), 1 tsp. simple syrup and 2 tsp. fresh lime juice. Garnish with fresh mint and a slice of lime. Nasdrovie!


  1. Just took the secret ingredient out of my vodka. Let's hope it tastes better than it smells!

  2. Yeeeeeah I know what you mean. I know it was voted down, but I am still in favor of people competing with cocktails rather than the straight stuff. Thoughts?