Vodka has been a controversial spirit in the cocktail world, as despite its overwhelming popularity in the global market, it’s often been condemned out of hand by supposed cocktail enthusiasts. However, those days seem to be coming to an end as craft vodka labels gain in popularity and bartenders find endless opportunities to use the neutral grain spirit in cocktails.
One area that vodka excels in, arguably more than any other kind of spirit, is in infusions. This is largely due to its relatively neutral flavor profile, allowing the infusions to come through clean and clear. And while it’s possible to simply add whatever ingredients you like to a high-proof vodka (or even Everclear), sometimes you don’t have the time. In other instances, you may not want such a high alcohol product. In any case, one popular solution in both bars and home bartending is to use a kitchen device: sous vide cooking.
Adam Gamboa, the lead bartender of Il Posto in Denver, uses Mason jars for his sous vide infusions. He recommends that newbies bring the jars to temperature slowly, warming them up with the water bath itself. He hasn’t yet met an ingredient he hasn’t been able to sous vide, he says, and he suggests picking up a copy of “The Flavor Bible,” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, for some infusion inspiration.
The Platinum Blond utilizes a grapefruit and rosemary infusion, which is citrusy and herbal and works perfectly in this sour riff. To double down on the flavors, the drink gets some additional fresh grapefruit juice, as well as a rosemary sprig for garnish. For sweetness, Gamboa adds elderflower liqueur, whose floral qualities marry well with the citrus and herbs. A little simple syrup helps to balance the flavors, as does some lemon juice.
Once you’ve made this, you can try your hand at other infused vodka drinks like the Elder Greene Blues or New Year’s Sparkler. “Don’t limit yourself—you can create almost any flavor profile imaginable with a bottle of vodka and a sous vide,” Gamboa says.
- 1 ounce grapefruit-rosemary-infused vodka*
- 1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
- 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- Garnish: rosemary sprig
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig.
*Grapefruit-rosemary-infused vodka: Add 1 liter vodka, 1 peeled and sliced grapefruit and 2 sticks of rosemary into a Mason jar and sous vide for 2 hours at 130 degrees Fahrenheit, starting the timer once the bath hits the desired temperature. (Make sure you place the Mason jar in the bath before starting the sous vide, otherwise the rapid heating could break the jar.) Strain once the jar is cool enough to handle. Store in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.