One sure-fire way to start an argument with me is to say that absinthe makes people hallucinate. It doesn't. But if you think it does, you have something in common with French regulators in the early 1900s. Back then, everyone was panicking that absinthe would drive people insane because it contained wormwood. Before more people could succumb to absinthe madness and chop their ear off à la Vincent van Gogh, they outlawed the spirit. (The fact that absinthe was 140 proof and people were drinking it like wine had more than a little to do with the crazy behavior, but I digress.) With absinthe out of the picture, people needed another delicious anise-flavored alcoholic beverage. That's where pastis came in.
'infusions' on Serious Eats
Habanero peppers are as brilliantly inky as an orange highlighter or a rogue sunbeam in October, and their heat as warm as the longing for summer in the dark heart of February. Of all the sweetly spicy peppers I foolishly sampled that day, their flavor was subtle but still scorching and fruity, perfectly suited for a bright citrus cocktail.
Last week, we looked at vodka, but mainly at clear, or unflavored, vodka. Today we'll follow up with the other type of vodka on the market: flavored vodka. We'll look at its history, some production methods, and a controversy or two.
Unless you were cooler than I was—which is a distinct possibility—your formative drinking years involved quite a few artificial ingredients and embarrassing choices. My early experiences with alcohol included a lot of fake fruit flavors and the occasional Zima. If peanut butter and jelly vodka had existed back then, I would have been all over it. 'm reminded of those days whenever I taste a mass-produced, flavored spirit. Even some of the high-end flavored liquors like candy and chemicals to me. If you want a flavored spirit that doesn't have a fake taste to it, you'll have a hard time finding it at the store.
Ginger liqueur offers an exciting bend of sweet and spicy flavors. It can turn a basic drink into an intricately layered cocktail experience. Sure, you can use ginger liqueur all year (it's great with sparkling wine, especially when muddled with peaches in the summer) but this potion especially calls to us in winter, when it's just the thing to spice up our drinks. You can buy Domaine de Canton at most liquor stores—but what about making your own instead?
More substantial than a mimosa, but not as stick-to-your ribs as a bloody mary; this fresh carrot, orange, and vodka cocktail is just the thing to sip before heading out for a little hike through a sunny meadow full of clover-munching bunny rabbits.
Sometimes you feel like tea, other times you want to slurp up chocolate milk. Is there room for something in between? Honest Tea's new CocoaNova line includes three flavors: Mint Cacao, Mocha Cacao, and Cherry Cacao. The infusions, which resemble watered-down Yoo-Hoos, are dairy-free, gluten-free, and 50 calories per glass bottle.
The practice of flavoring liquor (by soaking stuff in it) is almost as old as the art of distilling, but as Frank Bruni noted recently in the New York Times, the current prevalence of infused booze is at an all-time high. Vodka infused with lemon peel or bourbon with vanilla beans, anyone?