Serious Eats: Drinks

How to Infuse Your Booze With Halloween Candy

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[Photographs: Clay Larsen]

Quick: look over both shoulders. Are the kids out of the room? Great. Then listen up: you don't have to let the kids take Halloween away from you anymore. Sure, let the little whipper snappers put on plastic masks and go begging across the neighborhood for penny taffy. You can even wear a smile while you help them do it—that'll be your own disguise.

Because once the kids are asleep, your Halloween can really begin, with these awesome (and weird) candy-infused spirits. The basic idea: take popular Halloween candy, dump 'em in a jar full of hooch, wait until it tastes great. Whereas many store-bought flavored liquors tend to taste flat or chemical-y from an overabundance of sweeteners, you can make any of these homemade booze infusions to suit your palate perfectly.

You'll need a few things to accomplish this personal feat of boozy accomplishment, but it's likely stuff you've already got laying around. First, the alcohol and candy of your choice. We have a number of combinations to recommend below, but feel free to experiment with like-minded flavors (apple and cinnamon, say, or vodka and anything). In terms of equipment, be sure to have some 16 ounce mason jars on hand, with nice tight lids. When it comes time to strain out the remaining candies at the bottom of your jar, a fine mesh strainer works well, or you can opt for a thin sheet of cheesecloth and just take your time with it. No sense in spilling your infusion all over the counter just because you couldn't wait to drink it fast enough (although that's understandable).

So go dust off your bar bottles, sneak some candy out of that plastic jack o'lantern and get to work: We've got some drinkin' to do.

Hot Tamales and Tito's Vodka

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Hot Tamales are the candy for the young'un who wants more than a stick of Big Red, but can't handle the Atomic Fireballs. With fierce (emphasis theirs) cinnamon flavors and a little tongue-tickling heat, Hot Tamales have been a candy aisle staple for years and years. They recently managed to update their logo to look like some sort of super cool meteor, ready to crash sunglasses-first into your mouth.

How to infuse: Pour enough whole hot tamales into a 16-ounce mason jar to cover the bottom in a single layer—about 12 to 15 candies should do it. Add two cups of vodka and seal. Because the slightly tacky Hot Tamales exterior breaks down faster than your will to drive the damn kids all over town in search of the neighborhood that gives out full-sized candy bars, you won't have to wait long...10 hours later, your infusion should be ready.

The color you're looking for is bright hot pink. That's how you know it's working. Once you've achieved maximum glow from the jar, strain the candy dregs at the bottom. It is not recommended you use your teeth, since you'd have to drink two cups of vodka straight before the candy at the bottom got to your mouth.

Try it with: Anything slightly fruity. The thin cinnamon backbone gives enough woodiness and warmth to the infusion, so punch it up a touch with something bright and clean, like orange juice or a fizzy lemon lime soda.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate and Maker's Mark Bourbon

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Of all the candies we drowned in booze, the Hershey's bars maintained their shape and relative size the longest. Ultimately, that's a good thing, since our goal was a delicate chocolaty flavor that doesn't overpower the booze.

How to infuse: Go with two of the half-ounce snack size Hershey's bars and let them steep for 24 hours in the whisky. While it may not look like much is happening, eventually those Hershey's bars will be bullied into submission, and give up that sweet, sweet chocolate flavor.

Try it with: A little fresh mint. If you've infused the chocolate correctly, you should have some seriously smooth bourbon with just a hint of darker sweetness. Muddle a few mint leaves gently in the bottom of your glass, add ice and your chocolate bourbon, then slowly sink into your leather library chair as a fire crackles nearby and your old dog brings you your slippers.

Candy Corn and Bacardi Gold

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When you infuse two cups of rum with about two ounces of candy corn, it ends up being—well, it's not a great idea, but you and the Bacardi Bat have gotten into worse together. Mostly, the sweet sting of Bacardi is as present as ever, but there's a nice undercurrent of candy corn that will sit on your tongue long after you've washed the drink down.

Really, this one depends on your preferences for candy corn. If you're a fan, you might actually find this one an intriguing and fun seasonal beverage. But if you can't stand the tricolored triangles, mixing in Bacardi will be as disappointing as your kids finding out that Santa isn—wait, wrong holiday.

How to infuse: Assuming you're already OK with the idea of candy corn, load up on the candy corn in this infusion, because this one is pass or fail. Two ounces will do you. Add two cups rum on top. Let the jar rest for about 36 hours, strain away any remaining artificial flavor nubs that might be stuck to the bottom and enjoy. They should come out easily if the infusion is run through a mesh strainer.

Try it with: Some coconut milk, to really embrace the sweet sugary flavors, and a touch of Angostura bitters to help take the edge off.

Junior Mints and Lunazul Tequila

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Mint, chocolate, and some 100% agave blanco tequila? What could go wrong? A lot, actually, which is why you've got to be extra careful with this infusion. The three items can work together, but it's all about the timing. If you want this stuff to turn out right, you're going to have to watch it more than your very own children.

How to infuse: Pour in a small pebble pile of Junior Mints, enough to line the bottom of your mason jar and then a few more. DO NOT cut open the Junior Mints, or you'll risk releasing an over-abundance of fake minty disaster. If you want to open one or two, go for it, but no more. Top with two cups tequila. Then, let the chocolate slowly filter off the Junior Mints until the white fleshy insides just start to be revealed. You should be safe to let this happen overnight, but don't sleep in too long or you'll end up with a big jar of spiked mint water. Check after 10 hours, and leave the jar no more than 20 hours.

If you've done your job correctly, the remaining little pods should just have some white sticking through, and they won't fall apart when you're straining them out. What's left is a thin, brown-tinged mason jar of gently minted, smoothly chocolate tequila that still carries some bright afterburn.

Try it with: Try it in iced coffee, or serve with a splash of grapefruit soda for a bitter, bubbly edge.

Werther's and Laird's Applejack

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Apple and caramel are natural allies, so expect the same sort of fall flavors you'd get from a normal candy apple in this infusion. You'll get a crisp fruitiness, smooth, sweet caramel and a little depth from the alcohol at work.

No matter how long you let this mason jar sit, you're going to have some frothy stuff at the top and a pretty thick texture. Your mason jar will get syrupy, your mouth will feel lined with a sheet of sugar, and the liquid on the sides of your glass will take their time falling away back down to the bottom of the tumbler.

How to infuse: For best results, use no more than 4 Werther's hard caramel candies. Top with 2 cups applejack, and strain after 36 hours. There will be some candied pellets still stuck to the bottom of the jar. You may want to filter through a coffee filter, if you have the patience.

Try it with: A slice of actual apple and a little ginger ale to keep things light. And to thin out your drink so you don't need a spoon.

One to Avoid: Marshmallows and Novo Fogo Cachaça

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No dad, cachaça is not the name of the booty dance that got Miley Cyrus in all sorts of trouble. It's fermented sugarcane juice, straight from the rustic hills of Brazil. So what better to add to the mix than marshmallows! You know, the pillowy white cylinders that are basically pure sugar anyway?

Cachaça has a lip-smacking flavor that reminds us of bananas, citrus and a little hint of salt. But the final result was so sugary and funky we have to tell you to just back away.

How to infuse: Cachaça is delicious. Marshmallow-infused cachaça is not. At all. The marshmallows disappear inside the alcohol basically instantaneously, and no matter how many marshmallows you keep dumping into the mix, they will all disappear. At first we put in five regular sized marshmallows, thinking that would get the party started. Then, after a few hours, we added a couple more. Bad move. There must be some sort of sugar vortex at work here, and the result is some funky stuff. If you do attempt this infusion, wait two days for any remaining sugars to collect at the bottom before you give it a sip. Strain through a coffee filter before sipping.

Try it with: If you must try it—for the sake of science, or something—try mixing the infusion with something heavy to even it out. Like a brick.

About the author: Farley Elliott is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. He writes about food, beer and entertainment at OverOverUnder.com.

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