On an episode of Charlie Rose a few years back, Elaine Stritch told the host that when she took her first drink as a 13-year-old, she “tripped to the moon on gossamer wings.”* (Her eventual alcoholism was of course less poetic.) This quote’s aptness impressed me: At their best, spirits offer a giddy charm that reaches celestial realms.
With gossamer wings in mind, I recently took up A.J. Rathbun’s book Luscious Liqueurs. Inside, the master mixologist explains the art of infusing alcohol with nutty, fruity, and exotic flavors to liven up your drinks. Some of Rathbun’s 50 recipes ask for as few as three ingredients (Limoncello: lemons, simple syrup, grain alcohol) while others require slightly more (Millefiori: coriander, mint, cardamom, cloves, lemon, mace, marjoram, thyme, vodka, simple syrup).
It turns out that making a liqueur requires little more than time—four weeks on average—and a glass jug. My inaugural vessel of vodka pear liqueur involved combining chopped pears, lemon zest, and 3 cups of vodka. After two weeks, I stirred in simple syrup and then let it sit for two more weeks. The results were smooth, sweet, and stiff—brava!
Since the going rate for an urban cocktail is now as much as $10-$11, infusing is a surprisingly cheap way to expand your cocktail palate. (Adding flavor means you can freely use lower-priced brands of alcohol.) And the best part? Sharing good spirits with friends!
*Lyrics courtesy of Cole Porter.