The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Properly Sauced - Infusing with Ginger

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 16, 2010 5:20PM

GingerVodka.jpg Most bars and restaurants have been using infused spirits for years - it's so mainstream that many liquor brands produce professionally infused spirits. We knew, intellectually, that the process was easy to do at home, but somehow it seemed daunting, and we put it off. That ended last month, when we bought a flat of mason jars, a huge bottle of cheap vodka and went to work.

An "infused spirit" is simply any alcohol in which a flavorful vegetable, fruit, herb or spice has been left to stew. For your first attempt, go cheap - there's no point in buying good booze if you're going to (potentially) destroy it. It's important to have a sealed container to keep the stuff in (during and after the process) and we recommend glass. We could buy fancy bottles to keep the stuff in, but we enjoy the home-y touch of mason jars labeled with masking tape. It's like Mom's homemade tomato sauce, but a lot more fun.

We decided on ginger for our first attempt. We peeled and sliced the ginger, added it to a full mason jar (about 700 ml) of vodka and let it steep. Some recipes say it MUST not steep for more than a day, while some let it sit for 6 months or more. We split the difference, and gave it 2 weeks. If you want something a little sweeter, add about 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar, and stir to combine. When we opened the jar, our cheap vodka had been transformed. No, we didn't suddenly have Domaine de Canton, but it was a new and interesting spirit to play with! If you split it with simple syrup, you could substitute it for any ginger liqueur in any cocktail. We mixed it 2 parts vodka to 1 part amaretto, and got a smooth, sippable drink. Any suggestions for a name?

Play around! Try infusing anything you have lying around - herbs, spices, farmers market produce. Next, we're going to try something savory for bloody marys - garlic-chile vodka, anyone?