Some food, some drink.
Celery-peppercorn vodka: the cheapest booze you’ll wait for
Abstract: Once after a party, I was 'gifted' a bottle of rot-your-gut, open-bar-at-the-wedding-reception vodka. Not wanting to waste what was bestowed on me, and yet wanting to save my palate from impending doom, I started to consider infusions. Around this this time, the Bloody Mary was my 5 o'clock cocktail du jour. As that particular adult beverage is already great for masking the unpleasantries of cheap vodka, I figured, “why not give the booze a little more help?” I opted for a two tiers of assistance: black pepper to nuke any trace of charcoal-tinged burn, while finishing crisp and clean with fresh celery.
Purpose: Vodka's funny stuff in that it's one
of the few things folks will pay more for when it tastes like nothing.
Yeah it's silly; I'm guilty of it too, as I've got my favorite
flavor of nothing as well. As nothing is always worth something,
there are times where if you add more of another something, you can tolerate
It just so happened that on one occasion, I was left with a bottle that was a little more something than nothing. Here was a bottle I'd not held in my hands since the days of college. The whole experience was akin to being caught singing along to hair metal. Once, a treasured thing; now, awkward and embarrassing. The first thing I had to do was get it out of that ridiculous silver & black, bird of prey-emblazoned getup. Time for an infusion.
As I was researching guidelines regarding infusion times, the common theme seemed to be about a week for infusions with strong flavors, and two to three weeks for more delicate infusions. Finding a baseline for the peppercorn infusion was a no-brainer (thank you, Mr. Brown). However, I was having problems finding a documented celery infusion. In the end, the closest I could find was this cucumber infusion. As both are vegetables that don't have a lot of essential oils to give up, I figured it'd do.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Put celery and booze in a CLEAN 1 quart widemouth jar. Save the original 750ml bottle & lid, as you'll need something to put your finished product back into. Lid the quart jar and put in a cool dark place for two weeks, agitating every couple of days. At week three add the crushed peppercorns. Continue agitating every couple of days. At the end of week three, strain back into the original bottle thru a funnel lined with a couple of coffee filters.
Observation: First things first. Make sure the
using to infuse is clean.
A good bet is hot water and some of that non-chlorinated
cleaner oft-hawked by well-groomed fellas now deceased. You can
use soap too, but you'll have to rinse it reeeealy good. Concerning
choice of booze: assuming you already have an empty fifth to put the
finished product into, if you're gonna buy cheap, buy big. You're
not gonna find any flavored vodka at the local package store that's
worth drinking for less than five bucks a fifth. This is an open
invitation to experiment.
Because we're dealing with opposite ends of the flavor infusion spectrum, it only makes sense to begin with the celery infusion, as it's going to take longer to procure those gentler, subtle flavors. Make sure to chop up the stuff from the center, leaves and all. Ever noticed the heart and leaves smell more like celery than the outer ribs? Chances are, you were probably going to throw it out anyway (for shame!), so if you're not going to use your celery hearts for soups, stocks and salads, at least put it to good use here.
Results: As with any infusion, know your target. If you were planning more of a martini-style application, it might behoove you to spring for the good stuff. In this case, I'm betting on the V8, Worcestershire, and Sriracha to nuke the remaining undesirable tastes. Truth be told, most Bloody Marys are probably going to be able to fend off those oft-putting flavors without an infusion, but what you'll be missing is additional depth of flavor without all the added crud found in a bottled Bloody Mary mix (Seriously. We shouldn't even be talking about bottled mix). This vodka infusion adds the pungent perk of peppercorn plus a nose of celery that folks associate with a Bloody Mary, all without having to worry about an eye-gouge from the garnish.
Notes: Because my conscience won't allow me to let you continue to drink a Bloody Mary made from a mix, I'll let you in on how I do it.