Thursday, October 21, 2010

Infusing Vodka with Dried Fruits and Nuts

An Infusionary Tale

I've spent the better part of the last month brainstorming, shopping, experimenting and finally beginning to imbibe some fruit and nut infused vodkas.  After my summer cocktail tasting at Prospect Wine Shop working with herbs and summer fruits, my attention turned to the flavors of autumn and what I'd like to be drinking come October and November.  Here it is mid-October and my labors are starting to come to fruition, so to speak.

I began with nut vodkas, knowing that they had to steep longer that fruits or herbs.  My favorite nut is a toasted hazelnut so that kicked off the project.  I toasted them myself in a dry cast iron skillet on a carefully watched flame.  You have to pay attention it never smokes and that the nuts are turned regularly so they don't burn.  After a while you can hear the skins crackle and they start to release their aroma and get a bit golden colored.  When they get to the desired color transfer them to a bowl to cool thoroughly.  Once you can handle them rub the skins off one by one.  Now they're ready to be chopped.  As you can see these are a labor of love.  The end result is worth it.  Use about a quarter of a cup of chopped hazelnuts to one cup of vodka.  Shake them daily and let sit for about a month before filtering.

Toasting hazelnuts

I also made toasted walnut, almond and pistachio.  The walnut was good, nutty but wasn't distinctively walnut.  The almond was similar, maybe should be tried without the skins, but was much improved with a splash of pear nectar.  The pistachio, however, is divine, although I noticed that it can't age for too long or it can take on a soapy note.

Then I moved on to dried fruits.  Pears were a certainty and it turned out beautifully.  I had three kinds of figs to test:  organic Turkish,  pajerero and black mission.  The black mission fig vodka is a winner and is a beautiful purple color.  The fruit releases it's sweetness without being cloying so they're nice to sip alone or can mix with juice without getting too syrupy.  I used roughly about one third cup dried fruit to one cup vodka for about five days.

Black mission fig vodka
 After filtering them I got a better idea of what works and what doesn't and made more of the tastier things and drank the rest with friends.  Now it was time to play mixologist.  I took a good look at my essential oil collection and made up some new dilutions to play with.   I've added cardamom, clove, honey absolute, labdanum and sandalwood to the dilutions collection.

I have a lot of experimenting to do but the drinks are starting to take shape for the next tasting on Saturday, November the 13th, between 4pm and 6pm, Prospect Wine Shop, 322 Seventh Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Check out their website at for information on other tastings or stop by to peruse their extensive selection of fine wines and cocktail fixings.


  1. This post is proving very inspirational to me right now. I'm not even sure if you still check this site/post, but I have a few questions! Will the black mission fig vodka hold up over time? Obviously most alcohol has a long shelf-life, but in your opinion does the subtle infused flavor have an expiration date after it has been strained and bottled? And on a related note, you said that the pistachio vodka can turn soapy-tasting if it "ages" too long... do you mean that the pistachios shouldn't be left to infuse for too long, or that the strained vodka (post-infusion) shouldn't be allowed to age for too long? Am I making sense? About to try my hand at these flavors down in KY and would appreciate any advice you may have! Thanks for your post.

  2. Hi Julie,
    Sorry, I just now saw this! I'm happy you're so inspired, it's an inspiring process. I've not had the black mission fig vodka hand around long enough to know if it really holds up but my sense is that it will. And I believe the pistachios shouldn't be left too long, hence the soapy note. I noticed it happened with walnuts as well. I think it's the oil in the nuts and I'm not sure what the answer is. Good luck, let me know if you have any great successes!

  3. Hi Julianne - I am hoping to do the pistachio infusion also. Would be amazing if it works out. Any idea on how long the mixture should be left for to avoid the 'soapy' taste?

  4. Hi Geoff,
    The first time I made the pistachio vodka I left it macerating for three weeks. Last time I think it was only ten days and I didn't notice the soapy note as much. Good luck!

  5. Nice blog.. Thanks for sharing this information with us

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  7. Put the nut infusions in the freezer when they taste ready. This will solidify any oils that can be easily strained out as solids.

  8. Do the pistachios need to be toasted as well prior to the infusion, or will the flavor be released enough during the crushing process to ensure good absorption?

  9. Kelly, I toasted the pistachios briefly. Good luck!

  10. Just a thought, nuts oil are the flavor enhancer. What if after you roast the nuts leave it dry under the sun and let some oil evaporate and pulverize the nuts and put it in a cheese cloth before submerging it in the vodka.