I don’t begrudge vodka drinkers. You know why? Because as one cocktail blogger put it, vodka sodas pay the bills. Also, my windshield has never been clearer thanks to the stuff.
But besides its cleaning uses, vodka is supremely useful for pulling flavors out of things. And because modern tastes (and law) demand that vodka tastes like nothing, it imparts little to no flavor to whatever you decide to infuse it with.
Wash the wax off an organic orange.
In a jar, place one cup of white sugar at the bottom.
Pour in two cups of vodka. Don’t waste your money on a superpremium brand. Grab something off the bottom shelf. Pinnacle or even Monarch will work here.
Suspend the orange above the liquid using cheesecloth. Do not allow the orange to touch the liquid.
Shut the jar, and allow to sit for ten days. Do not mix.
Now, at this point, Quillen can explain the intricacies of the process better than I can. But simply put, over the next ten days, the alcohol vapor, which is more positively charged than the orange oils, will draw out the oils from the skin of the fruit. By day three, you should actually see the oils beading on the surface of the orange.
On day ten, remove the orange and depending on the size of your batch, rack or decant the vodka sec through a fine-mesh strainer, (which you totally keep behind the bar anyway, right?) leaving the sugar behind in your infusing jar. That last part is super important.
Bottle it up and use it.
This vodka sec is different from other triple-sec orange liqueurs in that it is less syrupy-sweet than Cointreau, and even less than Bols’ Triple Sec. It tastes more like an orange smells than any other liqueur I’ve tasted, and most importantly, relies only on the fruit to impart flavor
Unlike brandy-based Grand Marnier, the harsh tones typically associated with cognac are notably absent. It has a silky mouthfeel and a bright orange flavor. It’s actually quite good.
I tried it in the following recipe:
1.5 oz Sauza Hornito’s Reposado Tequila
.75 oz Vodka Sec
.75 oz Fresh-Squeezed Lime Juice
dash Blue Agave Syrup
It makes a damn good margarita. In place of Cointreau, the vodka sec provides a brightness in the form of a thinner texture and more orange flavor. Because the vodka imparts no flavor, the rested tequila shines through, just as it ought to.
Just think of it as another tool in your toolkit.