Vodka Tasting: 5 Infused Vodka Recipes

     One of my favorite Russian experiences was vodka tasting. Prior to our trip to Russia (spring 2012), I drank vodka in an occasional Bloody Mary, but other than that, I pretty much avoided the stuff.
    When is Russia . . . it seemed only natural to embrace not only their food but their drink as well. So, I signed us up for vodka tasting where we also learned all about the traditions and customs associated with the national beverage.
     Our favorites were the flavored vodkas so I’ve been experimenting with some infusions that we recently served at a Russian-themed dinner party. Three vodkas were offered before dinner along with lots of appetizers (see notes following recipe), one during dinner, and the final one prior to dessert (vodkas are listed below in the order in which they were served).

Flavored Vodka . . . make your own in 5 steps:
1.  Purchase inexpensive vodka, such as Popov® (as they say you wouldn’t want to interfere with the flavor of high priced vodka).
2.  Filter it 5 to 8 times through a Brita® or Pur® water filter (the filtering is said to put Popov® into the Grey Goose® category).
Filtering the vodka through our Brita water filter.
3.  Fill an airtight jar with fresh ingredients, pour vodka over, store in refrigerator.
Ready to go into the refrigerator.
4.  Taste at regular intervals starting at 4 days; some things will infuse faster than others (generally 6 to 7 days are ideal).
5.  Strain out the additives; transfer to another bottle and refrigerate until ready to drink.
Rebottled and label added.
Flavor Additions: These are the flavors I tried but I’d also like to experiment with strawberry vodka and lemon as well. I’ve added comments from those who tried the vodka in italic.
1.  Basil Tomato Vodka – a small bunch of basil + 2 or 3 small tomatoes left whole infused in 750ml (just a little over 3 cups) of vodka for about 6 days. “Nice blend of flavors.”
2.  Red Pepper, Peppercorn & Thyme Vodka – ½ of a red pepper + 2 teaspoons black peppercorns + several stems of thyme infused in 750ml (just a little over 3 cups) of vodka for about 6 days. “This one has a bite.”
3.  Garlic Jalapeño Vodka – 1 jalapeño (remove seeds, cut in half) + two garlic bulbs (peel) infused in 750ml (just a little over 3 cups) of vodka for about 6 days. Could also be used in Bloody Mary’s. “Spicy.”
4.  Cucumber Thyme Vodka – 1 small cucumber, cut into chunks + several sprigs thyme infused in 750ml (just a little over 3 cups) of vodka for about 6 days. “Mild.”
5.  Chocolate Mint Vodka – a bunch of chocolate mint leaves infused in 750ml (just a little over 3 cups) of vodka for about 5 to 6 days. “Minty with a hint of chocolate.”

2013 Holiday addition: Peppermint Vodka

·   Never drink alone.
·   Never sip; drink in one gulp. 
·   After drinking, breathe in to enjoy the full effects. 
·   Always toast -- toast health, friendship, love, country, to vodka, etc.

5 Stages of Vodka
1.  Warm – creates a warm feeling as it is drunk.
2.  Relax – body & mind begin to relax
3.  Truth – the truth comes out!
4.  Friendship – everyone becomes a friend!
5.  Love – everyone becomes a BEST friend!

Russians & their Vodka
·   Vodka is the traditional drink. Over 3500 types available in Russia.
·   80-proof is best. May be potato or grain based; Russians prefer rye based.
·   Russians believe that vodka should not be stored, rather it should be drunk immediately as the spirits escape if stored too long.
·   Chill vodka but do not freeze (freezing makes either expensive or cheap vodka taste the same). Never serve at room temperature!
·   Allow half a liter of vodka per person.
·   After drinking vodka, do NOT go down in alcohol content . . . or suffer the consequences!
·   It is a must to eat lots when drinking vodka. Salt, fat and bread are essentials and typical foods include: marinated/pickled olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, capers, onions; dill pickle slices (they help cut the sharpness of vodka); salted fresh cucumber slices, tomato wedges; rye bread, rye bread with thin slices of white pork fat, smoked bacon.

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