I'm going to say a word here, and I would appreciate it if you don't throw things at me.
I know, I know--as far as the calendar goes, we're about as far away from that day as it's possible to get. But, really, hold off on the rotten tomatoes, because I'm about to tell you how to make welcome gifts of home-infused booze for your friends and family. The only catch is, you have to start now.
Infused liquor is one of the simplest home preserving projects there is. While you can always get fancier, at heart it requires only four ingredients―strong alcohol, some fruit, a little sugar, and several months of time.
Aside from being the whole point of the thing, the alcohol kills off all of the nasties that you generally have to be aware of when canning. I like to use whiskey or rye―because they're already interesting by themselves―but vodka and gin make good bases for infused liquor, too. As always when infusing, pick a bottle in the mid-price range.
The fruit you choose will elevate the alcohol and, obviously, give it added flavor. While you never want to use rotting or moldy fruit, this is the perfect use for the pint of raspberries that's just about to go bad or the strawberries you're not going to get around to turning into jam. Essentially, the fruit should taste amazing, but if it's a little banged up cosmetically it won't matter a bit.
The sugar is not a hundred percent necessary, but I recommend adding at least a little to round the flavor of your liquor out.
And, last, but perhaps most important―time. Time is what will meld everything together, such that you can almost taste July when you open your bottles and begin pouring drinks in frigid December. Time is what will take your bottle of mid-range alcohol and turn it into something truly worthy of a holiday gift. How much time is enough will depend on your own personal taste, but start with no less than 3 or 4 months and work up from there.
The following recipe for Cherry-Infused Rye takes advantage of the bumper crop of cherries we seem to be having this year. It also makes the most amazing Old-Fashioned, which is one of my favorite Christmas-time cocktails.
- about 4 cups sweet cherries, stemmed
- 1 cup sugar
- 750 mL rye whiskey
Wash a half-gallon jar with soap and hot water. After rinsing it very well, add the cherries and sugar. While you should stem the cherries, it's not necessary to go to the mess of removing the pits.
Pour the rye over the top and stir or gently shake to dissolve the sugar. Store in a cool dry place for at least 3-4 months before removing the cherries and decanting the rye into smaller bottles for gift giving.
Alternatively, keep it all to yourself and enjoy sipping Old-Fashioneds all the way into the new year!