Thursday, December 27, 2007

Time Friends, IoG Edition - Year Two

Our second post here at Infusions of Grandeur was admittedly filler, because we started off with a couple of two-week infusions and had no updates yet. So we posted a "fan edition" comic from Time Friends, which focuses on two time-traveling buddies who have more than a passing resemblance to your favorite Mad Scienticians.

A year later, we've decided to follow up with another edition of Time Friends: Infusions of Grandeur.

Of course, we have no need for filler today. Be sure to check out our cider vodka results if you missed it.

Spiced cider vodka is amazing

After fifteen days and five ingredients, our spiced cider vodka was ready to sample. The infusion, which involved apples, cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, and cloves, was our most complicated to date, and had the highest standard to live up to. Often, when we throw a party in the cold winter months, Wayland crafts a delicious apple cider, slowly heating it in a crock pot with the latter four ingredients. (Often, allspice is also used, but we could not find any whole allspice in time for this infusion.) We mix the cider with a healthy dose of spiced rum, and enjoy the warming, flavorful drink.

We modified the experiment slightly from the original write-up. The cinnamon stick was intended to infuse for the full run of the experiment, but when we tasted it on day ten, we decided that the cinnamon flavor was getting too strong and removed it. However, when performing final maintenance on day fourteen, we decided that the apple had overpowered the remaining cinnamon flavor, so we added a new cinnamon stick for the final day. The final infusion schedule was as follows:

Day 1: Add one cinnamon stick and one wedged apple
Day 2: ---
Day 3: ---
Day 4: ---
Day 5: Replace apple wedges
Day 6: ---
Day 7: ---
Day 8: ---
Day 9: ---
Day 10: Add two orange wedges, replace apple, remove cinnamon
Day 11: Add three nutmeg seeds
Day 12: ---
Day 13: ---
Day 14: Add a bundle of cloves and one cinnamon stick
Day 15: Complete!

Please note that only two wedges of the orange were used, as opposed to the complete apples. The orange was intended to only provide a hint of flavor, and not be a primary component. We scored the wedges to ensure some flavor would escape the wedges' skin.

This was the sight that met us on day fifteen. The vodka had attained a burnt orange color. We strained out the ingredients and tasted it, and we were not disappointed.

"This vodka has truly captured the essence of mulled cider," Wayland wrote. "It's sweet, with no hint of burn, and the flavors interplay wonderfully for a truly cider experience."

I found that the final day's maintenance made a world of difference compared to the mid-experiment taste the day before. "The addition of cloves, and particularly, the extra day of cinnamon gives this infusion a complex flavor, exactly as we were hoping. Each flavor puts in an appearance, with the possible exception of nutmeg, but none steal the show."

We were exceptionally pleased with how the vodka had turned out. Even cold, it gave a sensation of warming. It tasted almost exactly like Wayland's spiked cider, even without any rum being involved. Though this infusion required more maintenance than any we have done previously, we feel that it was well worth the effort.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Candy Cane Infused Vodka Results

Twas the night before Christmas and throughout the lab
Vodka was infusing with the potential for good and for bad

The scienticians in their lab coats stood before this next test
Three jars of vodka each with candy canes, to taste was the rest

Peppermint candy cane would be the one they tried first.
Would this be the best or would this be the worst?

I shook up the jar and poured each man a shot
"To Cronan!" we toasted and then wrote down each thought.

Brendan: The front end is very peppermint; at first, it seemed that this would be quite smooth and refreshing. Unfortunately, a fairly strong vodka burn rose from the background. This might work in a mixed drink, but I wouldn't shoot it.

Wayland: We have successfully created Scope!

Peppermint candy cane was not good, that was for sure
Cherry candy cane was the next that we had to endure.

Once again each man had a shot in his hand
Would the taste of this vodka they be able to stand?

Brendan: This had the same front end-back end interplay, though it intensified this time. The front end is too sweet and the back end burn is even harsher. This vodka is remarkably devoid of cheer.

Wayland: That was excellent and sweet and cherry-ish on the front end; however, it turned evil and burning on the back end, like a reverse Mr. Scrooge.

They said this vodka did not fill them with cheer.
Which was not what they wanted this season of the year.

The final candy cane vodka was that of chocolate mint.
With the results of the first two, their hopes were but a glint.

One shot for each was poured for these two.
And they drank it right down, as they often do.

Brendan: This one is better than the others, at least. It has a nice chocolate flavor on the front with peppermint notes, and though the burn still follows, it is not nearly as strong. It is an oddly gradual burn, however.

Wayland: Probably the best of the three, but that's not saying much. Again, it has a delightful front end, but once the flavor left, it burned wherever it touched including my lips.

It seems candy canes and vodka were not meant to be.
Failures not one or two, but it occurred with all three.

And as they watched the vodka drain out of sight
Both said, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WMD (Wayland's Mixed Drink)

So, December 19 is the one year anniversary of Infusions of Grandeur. To be totally honest, I'm surprised it's lasted this long. Like so many mad scienticians, we are prone to start a mad scheme and then go onto the next, abandoning the first while in progress. But here it is a year later, and while there was a lull for a while there, we have continued onward and have now reached a milestone.

There was much debate over what we should write for our one year post. At six months, we had the Big Experiment. We considered doing another derivation of that, examining and isolating other variables; however, we've got quite a few ambitious experiments going on currently, with our three-way candy cane infused vodka and the five ingredient spiced cider vodka. We didn't want to detract from these projects with yet another large product at the same time.

In our discussion, however, we realized there has been a big secret that has never made it to the site. In the first six months of the blog, I found a drink that is by far my favorite. A drink, that when I settle for the evening to relax, is my first thought on what to pour. A drink that I've made so often, my fellow scientician and our lab assistant roll their eyes when I mention I'm going to make it. A drink that I've poured all evening for friends at parties. And up until today, it didn't have a name. For our one year anniversary, I give you the aptly named:

Wayland's Mixed Drink (WMD)

1 part Mad Scientician™ Vanilla Infused Vodka
1 part Mad Scientician™ Caramel Infused Vodka
1 part Cream de Cacao
1 part Butterscotch Schnapps
2 parts Irish Cream

Pour over ice in a rocks glass, then into shaker and back into glass.

Wayland's score: 5.0 flasks out of 5
Brendan's score: 4.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

There was much discussion in the writing of this post on what exactly to call this drink. Forever, it has been either the "Untitled" or a "Modified Untitled." (Because it was derived from the original Untitled Cocktail #1.) Brendan was hesitant to let it be named. "It is what it is, and it has been untitled for so long now. It's the end of an era." I thought, times change, we've hit a year, it's time for this drink to have a name. At first, it was to be called Wayland's Preferred Drink, however, the abbreviation WPD was just not as nice as WMD. So Wayland's Mixed Drink or WMD it became.

And coming up soon, Snickers infused vodka....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the lair of Doctor Christmas

Our spiced cider vodka is coming along nicely, but in lieu of its completion, we have decided to do yet another holiday-inspired infusion experiment. Imagine if you will, a wintry land of magic, populated by an elven society. Much of the population is employed by their leader, an elderly, half-Inuit son of Robert Edwin Peary. This man is known by many names, but chances are you have heard of him as a certain Mr. Claus.

Mr. Claus single-handedly supports the elven economy through the distribution of toys and goodies each Christmas, but even he enjoys the finer things in life; he is especially fond of cookies and milk, but occasionally partakes of a beverage of the alcoholic variety. Though he has traditionally been a fan of egg nog and cider, he has learned, during the process of his yearly list-making, of two Mad Scienticians; two men who could craft for him a drink infused with the very spirit of Christmas. This is the story of our latest creation: Candy Cane Vodka.

For this experiment, we are creating three vodkae, each with a different flavor of candy cane. One will use the traditional peppermint candy cane; one will use a chocolate mint flavor; and a third will use cherry-flavored canes. Two candy canes will be dissolved in each.

Wayland struggles through the wrapping of the canes as he begins the experiment.

As with some of our previous experiments, this is a solution, not a true infusion. The candy canes will be fully dissolved in the vodka. Very soon after beginning the experiment, we could see the vodkae becoming cloudy as the candy canes began to dissolve.

This will be a quick experiment, but you will have to wait until that most magical of nights, Christmas Eve, to see the results!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jalapeño Gojira!

Most of the images in our archives are not appearing right now. We host our images and other files on a separate site, which is currently down while we switch domain registrars. For this post, we're hosting our images on an emergency Photobucket account, but our archives are text-only for the moment. Everything should be back in working order soon.

Though many of our infused vodka experiments turn out to be one-time gigs, we use a number of them regularly, and must periodically replenish our supplies. Recently, we began a new batch of our jalapeño vodka, which we use often as a marinade.

We normally infuse our jalapeño vodka for three days. This is sufficient to give the vodka a crisp, smooth flavor, reminiscent of green bell peppers, followed up by a substantial but not overwhelming kick of heat. This time, however, though I marked the date we begun the infusion on our calendar, I forgot to add an end-date reminder. As such, the vodka was neglected in an obscure cabinet in our laboratory -- for eleven days. Though it doesn't show very well in the below photo, the vodka had attained a pale but noticeable green color, which had never appeared in previous batches.

Of course, when we finally discovered it, we weren't going to give it up as a lost cause. We Mad Scienticians are well established as capsaicin addicts, and were intrigued by the over-infused vodka. We decided to sample it that night.

Amazingly, the vodka was still quite drinkable. "This has a hell of a burn on the back end," wrote Wayland, "but it's not too bad. It's probably still milder than our habanero vodka."

"It still has the same jalapeño flavor, without tasting overdone," I wrote, "but the heat is kicked up significantly."

We soon realized that of all the infusions we have created, jalapeño might be the only one that is time-scalable. Most infusions have a peak where they have attained the strongest and most faithful flavor from its ingredient, after which it descends (some gradually, others very quickly) into ruin. Jalapeño vodka may yet have its breaking point as well, but it seems that its creator can adjust their infusion time, depending on how much heat they prefer, without adversely affecting the flavor or overall quality.

Wayland noted, however, that "I can definitely feel the burn in my stomach after all is said and done."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The First Cocktail Challenge: Orange and Cinnamon

First of all, I wanted to take a moment, before moving on to the challenge, to mention a momentous occasion here at Infusions of Grandeur. Today's post is number 100, and I find it fitting that this is something a little different than normal for our hundredth post. This is the first post whose content was decided by our readers.

Anyway, onto the results.

Challenge Drink #1

With the results of the votes being cinnamon and orange infused vodkas, it left me with a little to think about. This was an odd combination, so I decided to start simple, to figure out just what I was dealing with. So I stated with a cinnamon and orange "martini."

1.0 oz. Cinnamon Infused Vodka
3.0 oz. Orange Infused Vodka
Shake over ice and serve in a chilled martini glass.

With this drink, the cinnamon was just too overwhelming. The flavor of the orange was barely noticable and it turned out somewhat bitter. Brendan liked it a bit more than I did, but definitely not a drink worth ending the challenge over.

Brendan's score: 2.5 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 2.0 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Challenge Drink #2

Since the fruit flavor was lost in the first drink, I decided to add more in the second drink. I ended up using Apple Pucker schnapps as an addition to the original attempt, along with a bit more Orange Infused Vodka. I ended up chosing the Pucker over our own Apple Infused Vodka, because of the bitterness in the first drink and the Pucker has a bit more of a robust flavor.

0.5 oz. Cinnamon Infused Vodka
2.0 oz. Orange Infused Vodka
1.0 oz. Apple Pucker schnapps
Once again, shaken over ice and served in a chilled martini glass.

Brendan wrote a description that I just couldn't add to:

"The orange shows up better, but it is muted together with the cinnamon. Together they contend against each other from the same side, like Gore and Nader, allowing Bush's apple to take the lead. The drink is decent, but the flavor is too fragmented."

Brendan's score: 3.0 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 2.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Challenge Drink #3

At this point in the evening, I was beginning to find myself very tired. I reached for one of my favorite caffeine fixes when inspiration struck on what to do with the final drink.

0.5 oz. Cinnamon Infused Vodka
1.5 oz. Orange Infused Vodka
6.0 oz. Red Bull
Pour the vodkae over rocks into a collins glass, top off with Red Bull and shake once, gently.

Brendan wrote that "the cinnamon pops up and almost overwhelms it at first, but then backs down and lets the orange and Red Bull join forces in the lead." (Apparently, my colleague is a fan of the split ticket concept.) "I've never been able to quite pinpoint the flavor of Red Bull, but the citrus complements it quite well," he continued.

"I think the cinnamon gives a nice contrast to the overall citrus of the drink," I wrote. "I should probably stop here. I'm not saying it's perfect, but it is a good drink."

Brendan's score: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

And at this point, I went and passed out from exhaustion. Stay tuned for post number 101, and expect to see more cocktail challenges in the future.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A taste of the holidays

The holiday season is fast approaching, and now it's time to start the experiment we've been leading up to for a while: spiced cider vodka. We have done several multi-ingredient vodka infusions before, but never with more than two ingredients; this one, on the other hand, will include a whopping five. The goal is to make apple the strongest flavor, but to include notes of cinnamon, orange, cloves, and nutmeg. We recently created clove infused vodka and nutmeg vodka to fine-tune our processes and determine the timing, whereas we have created each of apple, orange, and cinnamon vodkae numerous times before.

We began with a gratuitous photo of all the ingredients together, but we only used two of them initially.

To begin, we are starting with apple and cinnamon. Traditionally, we have infused each of them solo for two weeks, so we used that as a basis for our timeline. Cinnamon vodka tends to be very strongly flavored, so we only used a single stick (rather than the usual three), and will evaluate over time whether it needs to be removed early (or if more should be added, for that matter).

As for the apple, we are going with the methodology we decided was optimal in the Big Experiment, replacing the apples every few days throughout the experiment's run. We began by slicing an apple into eighths. We are still using Granny Smiths, as we always have; one day, we hope to do a Big Experiment-style comparison of various apple types.

Once the apple was sliced and cored, we placed the cinnamon stick and apple wedges into a science jar, added vodka and topped it off with a spoonful of sugar to aid the infusion.

The other ingredients will be added along the way based on their individual infusion times. We are planning the following schedule for the experiment:

Day 1: Add cinnamon and apple
Day 2: ---
Day 3: ---
Day 4: ---
Day 5: Replace apple
Day 6: ---
Day 7: ---
Day 8: ---
Day 9: ---
Day 10: Add orange slices, replace apple
Day 11: Add nutmeg
Day 12: ---
Day 13: ---
Day 14: Add cloves
Day 15: Complete!

This is, of course, tentative, and could change depending on experimental conditions. We'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Results of the vote

Wayland was going to announce the vote tally for his first Cocktail Challenge tonight, but he has prematurely taken leave of his consciousness for the night, so I am filling in for him. The vote would determine which two infused vodkae Wayland would have to create new cocktails with; the first vote determined that one of them would be cinnamon vodka, and narrowed the second down to black tea/lemon, orange, or watermelon vodka. A runoff vote was held to complete this choice.

The final tally is as follows:

  • 6 votes for Orange vodka
  • 3 votes for Black Tea/Lemon vodka
  • 1 vote for Watermelon vodka
  • 1 vote for Pat Buchanan

So, orange infused vodka is the clear winner. Stay tuned: in the remainder of this week, we will be posting our latest experiment, as well as Wayland's Cocktail Challenge: Cinnamon and Orange Battle.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Joy of Bartending

We take a lot of pictures in the laboratory during our experiments. Only a portion of them make it to the site. The other day, we were looking through some of our old ones and did a double take when we saw this one:

I seem to recall this drink having an aroma of lemon and a remarkably clean finish, but the consistency was a little off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nutmeg vodka: now with dangerous toxins!

Our most recent infused vodka experiment is nutmeg vodka. This experiment follows up on our recent clove-infused vodka, leading up soon enough to one of our most ambitious experiments yet, a five-ingredient spiced cider vodka.

Nutmeg has a long history in holiday drinks, being a traditional ingredient in egg nog and mulled cider. It is also used as a flavoring spice in cuisines around the world. What many people do not know is that nutmeg contains a mild hallucinogen known as myristicin. Consuming one to four teaspoons of ground nutmeg can cause mild euphoria and distorted vision (coupled with unpleasant side effects). Upwards of six teaspoons can lead to nausea, body pain, convulsions and even a psychiatric disorder aptly named "nutmeg poisoning." Fortunately, though nutmeg is a wonderful spice in lower quantities, consuming this much nutmeg straight up is generally unpleasant enough to prevent most people from trying to get a buzz from it.

We created our nutmeg-infused vodka using three nutmeg seeds. One nutmeg seed yields approximately three teaspoons of ground nutmeg. Let me check my math here... that's a total of nine teaspoons. You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

Don't worry, we're fairly certain that infusing vodka with whole nutmeg (as opposed to ground) is not going to impart most of its myristicin into the vodka. In addition, whatever amount of the chemical actually does find its way out will be distributed throughout a fifth of vodka, not a single drink, so as long as no one drinks this stuff from a beer bong, we should be pretty safe.

To begin the experiment, I cracked each seed approximately in half using very technical instruments.

We poured vodka over the cracked seeds and infused it for a little over a week.

The time came to taste the vodka... and then it whooshed by like one of Douglas Adams' deadlines. It seems that this infusion should run for somewhat less than a week.

"I'm torn on this one," Wayland wrote. "It's definitely nutmeg, but I think it's a bit on the strong side. I'd probably recommend a shorter infusion time when we put it in the cider. It's a bit bitter, but might work if it is mixed with something."

My thoughts ran along nearly identical lines. "Whoa, that was definitely some nutmeg. The flavor is spot on, but way too strong. It needs to be infused for a shorter length of time. Other than that, there is a mild vodka flavor but not really a burn."

Despite the extra time, we consider this vodka a success. The flavor is not so strong as to ruin the vodka, but mixed drinks will have to be proportioned carefully to avoid overpowering other ingredients. In the future, though, we will infuse it for a shorter duration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cocktail Challenge #1, Part 1

A few weeks back I took a poll in the comments here in the blog and on LJ to let you, the readers, decided which two of our infusions should be joined for me to attempt to make a cocktail out of.

Well, I had planned on releasing the results of the cocktail challenge today.

We have one clear winner of what's going to be in the drink for that post:


However, we have a three way tie for the second. They are:

  • Black Tea/Lemon
  • Orange
  • Watermelon

So, once again, I turn to you our audience for help. Which of the above vodkae should be combined with Cinnamon (and whatever else I decide) for me to attempt to make a cocktail out of?

The voting on this will close on Saturday, so make sure to get your comments in quick.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Looking Over a 50 Clove Vodka...

Back to the science lab again! This week, we've decided to make clove-infused vodka.

In our research into cloves, we found that cloves were used in the past for medicinal purposes for gastro-intestinal problems. So, maybe this will be the vodka that settles your stomach!

This is the first experiment of three we have embarked on to create spiced cider vodka. We decided we should attempt an infusion with each ingredient individually first, and we had all of the necessary infusions but two. The vodkae we already had were apple, orange, and cinnamon. And then we had to make two as of yet announced vodkae. Clove is the first. Stay tuned next week for the second, and then finally we'll ring in the month of December with a glass of holiday cheer with spiced cider vodka.

We obtained a brand new container of cloves, only to find we already had about 2/3rds of a jar left in our spice cabinet.

I took the tedious process of counting out 50 individual cloves, then poured the vodka on top of them.

Dance, my little drowning cloves! Dance!

After a scant two days of infusing, we decided the vodka was ready to taste.

Brendan liked it, but felt it was missing something.

"This is rather tasty, though it feels incomplete. It has a pleasantly musky flavor with just a hint of spice. I think it will be excellent in the cider combo, though I wouldn't necessarily drink it on its own."

As for myself, I thought it was a damn good drink on its own.

"That's a beautiful taste. I almost think you could sit there and sip on this on the rocks. It's sweet with a distinctively clove warmness. It has a bit of an odd taste near the back end, but otherwise this is excellent."

So, not a perfect review, but we definitely both approve. Stay tuned next week for the final ingredient, before embarking on spiced cider vodka.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our new product line: Eau de Scientician

The other day, I got a call from our friend Bevin, for whom we recently developed lavender-vanilla vodka for her birthday. She was pleased with how the two vodkas turned out, though with a twist we never would have thought of ourselves. She concurred with us that the original batch, with the week-long vanilla infusion, tasted the best. She deemed the second batch, which was mostly lavender and not much vanilla, unworthy of drinking, but found another way to make use of it: as a perfume. It would seem that the lavender vodka has just the right level of scent for this purpose; the alcohol either evaporates or is undetectable (we have not tested this process scientifically).

Consider this, ladies: the first women's perfume that came up on a Google search, which happens to be Burberry London, retails for $41 per ounce. Lavender-vanilla vodka, created using our methodology, costs approximately $12 for 750 milliliters, or $0.47 per ounce. By volume, this is a savings of 98.85%, and the supply will last you forever.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Gift of Vodka: Lavender-Vanilla

Before we begin, we want to note that all comments on the blog site now require a "captcha" word verification. We've been getting a lot of spam posted in the comments - mostly in old posts, but it still needs to be stopped. It's important to us that all of our legitimate readers are able to comment, so we decided this was the best compromise. Sorry about the inconvenience.

Recently, our friend Bevin (who you might remember from our original caramel vodka experiment) had a birthday, and she had a special request for the occasion: lavender-vanilla vodka. We were only happy to oblige.

We have, of course, infused many batches of vanilla vodka in the past; it is one of our staples. However, we hadn't any idea how to proceed with the lavender. A number of websites our research uncovered recommended using whole lavender sprigs, but Bevin had provided us with a bag of loose blossoms, so we kept looking. We nearly decided to figure it out on our own, by tasting it daily until it was done; however, at the last minute, we found a post on a forum stating that such an infusion would be complete in a mere fifteen minutes, and any more would ruin it. We tested this theory using half a cup of lavender blossoms soaked in 750 mL of vodka.

The color began to change almost immediately, and sure enough, after a mere 15 minutes, the vodka had attained a light purple color and a strong but subtle aroma. We strained the blossoms out and tasted the lavender vodka without the second ingredient.

Both of us found the vodka to be subtly pleasant. "I had no idea what lavender tastes like or is even used for; I am a man, after all," I wrote in my notes. "But this vodka is very intriguing. It has a slight sweetness, and a complexity that is rare in many infusions that run for days or weeks. It has a very slight vodka flavor in the background, but no burn at all. I look forward to tasting it with the vanilla component."

"I do believe this is what lavender essential oil would taste like," Wayland wrote. "If my guess is correct, the lavender only changes the vodka flavor slightly, but it is the scent of the lavender that gives you the distinct taste."

Wayland tested his theory by tasting the vodka again, this time with his nose pinched to block the aroma.

"There was no flavor to the vodka this time... until I let go of my nose on the back end. Then it tasted like it smells again. To me, that proves that the taste comes mostly from the scent."

At this point, we sliced a vanilla bean lengthwise and placed it in the vodka as we have so many times before. We usually run vanilla vodka for about five days, though we felt that this may be too long for this infusion; we wanted a subtle vanilla flavor that would not overpower the lavender. We set out to taste it in two or three days. However, a series of unfortunate events prevented this from happening, and soon we found ourselves nearly a week into the experiment.

Fearing that the vodka must be ruined, and with Bevin's birthday fast approaching, I frantically began a second batch of vodka using the same steps. The next day, we tasted both batches for the first time; one after seven days of vanilla infusion (on the left, below), the other with a mere 24 hours.

The second batch was still close to the pleasant color of plain lavender vodka, while the original batch looked more like plain vanilla vodka. We granted the point to batch two in this round, but the most important test was yet to come.

We tasted the original (week-long) infusion first. "This has a nice blend between lavender and vanilla, I think," wrote Wayland. "My only complaint is a mild burn on the back end."

"I was surprised that the vanilla had not overpowered the lavender," I echoed. "In fact, the vanilla is a fairly light component of this vodka, though it does have a significant presence. There is still a hint of vodka flavor that detracts slightly, but not much."

Next, we sampled the second batch, with the day-long vanilla infusion. Not entirely surprisingly, this was not long enough. "The vanilla component is still there," I said, "but it's even lighter than before, essentially an afterthought. This vodka is good, but it's not much different from the straight-up lavender."

Wayland's comments were similar. "This wasn't as good as the first. The lavender flavor is a bit too overwhelming. I think, like the first, the vanilla needs more time to infuse." Then he made fun of me for panicking.

In the end, we gave both batches to Bevin, mainly so she could estimate what the plain lavender vodka would taste like using the second batch. We were quite pleased with how the first batch turned out, and may make another bottle of it for our own stock.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Improvising a Drink: The Process

I stared across the array of vodkae before me. It had been far too long since I played with an original drink, so I carefully perused the large variety of options. Finally, I looked at ginger and almond. We had made very few drinks with those two, so I challenged myself. What could I do with these?

My brain wrapped around the possibilities. I had a wide variety of ways I could play with these two. Finally, I settled on adding apple to the mix, but still, I thought it needed something.

And then I had a moment of "that might work."

I poured one shot apple, one shot ginger and one shot almond over ice into a rocks glass, then topped it off with sour mix. A quick pour into the shaker and then back into the glass... and it was time for the moment of truth.

Hmmm. This tasted like sour mix, with a hint of apple around the edges. Despite my hopes, this drink just wasn't right.

I pondered some more, once again letting my eyes glance over the options. There just didn't seem to be a proper mixer to go with these three. So I decided I'd make a "martini," with one part of each. As I poured each of the liquors into the shaker, my mind had another thought, "Let's add some spice to this."

To my dismay, our experiments cabinet was devoid of both jalapeño and habanero vodkae. The only item that I could come up with that would give it a bit of spice was cinnamon. So I added one part cinnamon as well.

That was a mistake. The cinnamon overwhelmed the "martini." I could find a hint of apple and some ginger around the edges, but the flavor was overwhelmingly cinnamon. Again, it just wasn't right.

Finally, I went back to my original thought, one part apple, one part almond and one part ginger, shaken and poured into a cold martini glass. This was an interesting drink. At first sip, the flavor of the drink is fairly neutral. Soon, the ginger becomes the dominant flavor in this one. You taste a slight hint of the apple, but the almond is almost non-existent. It's not bad. I don't think I could drink it on a regular basis or even more than one in an evening, but of my three attempts, this was the one I actually finished.

This post started as an attempt to document a process of coming up with a cocktail based on two vodkae to begin with, sort of an "Iron Bartender" type of challenge to myself, if you will. And then inspiration flashed, rather than me attempting to come up with a drink from ingredients of my own choosing, I thought it might be fun to have the audience of the blog come and play along. So, my friends, I will give you a list of ingredients. Anyone who wants to pick two can do so and tell me which two in the comments. After a reasonable period of time, I will tally up the voting and the two vodkae with the most votes will be the next subjects of my "drink challenge." The choices I give you tonight are:

  • Orange
  • Watermelon
  • Apple
  • Black Tea/Lemon
  • Cinnamon
  • Pop Rocks

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A peach vodka tasting in two acts

Yikes! Okay, it looks like our relaunch didn't go as smoothly as we initially planned, but now we have a system! This from the guys who produced the catchphrase "Plans are overrated." Expect us to post more frequently in the future. For really!

We first tasted our peach vodka on a fine Thursday evening after four days of infusion. The research we conducted indicated that this would be plenty of time, but this was not to be. The vodka had attained a light orange-pink tint, but not much else. "This has very little peach flavor, no sweetness to speak of and is a bit sour," I wrote.

Wayland's take was similar. "There's definitely a strong vodka burn with this. I didn't get much peach flavor at all."

The vodka went back into the science fridge to infuse further. We tried it again a week later, for a total of 11 days of infusion. Our feelings were more mixed on this second try.

Wayland liked it in general but was slightly let down by it. "This is very good, except for the back end. It had a crisp, sweet front end, and a smooth, almost tasteless middle. It also left a sweet, peachy aftertaste. However, between the middle and the aftertaste, the vodka left a spoiler that marred an otherwise great vodka. This is good, but if not for the sour/burning back end, it would be great." (Wayland later clarified that the vodka had ruined the ending of that week's Stargate: Atlantis.)

I seemed to have gotten all the parts Wayland didn't like, but without the good parts to balance it. "Sourness is the wrong term for it. So is vodka burn. What I got is a tingling sensation that started dull and intensified through the back end. Quite unpleasant, though it does taste a little sweeter now."

We decided to give it some more time and see what happens. Of course, after that we kind of forgot about it, so it may have been left too long. But now it is in the system, so we will find out soon enough.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I could drink a peach for hours

Today, the Mad Scienticians are heading back into the lab to make a new vodka infusion. (You didn't think we were giving them up, did you?) This time, we are creating peach-infused vodka.

I don't know how the rest of the world associates peaches, but here the U.S., peaches are largely associated with the South; particularly Georgia and South Carolina. However, much as we learned about the kiwifruit, its history draws back much further than that. In fact, the peach and the kiwifruit share a common ancestry: both are native to China.

We obtained a large peach (the better to snack on the remaining portion) and sliced it thinly around the center pit.

We put a handful of peach slices into a science jar, poured in the vodka and topped it off with as many more slices as we could fit.

Our research indicates that this infusion should be fairly quick, no more than a few days.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Our next infusion: Chicken

Chicken infused vodka?

No! Vodka infused chicken.

Greetings one and all, it is I, the "other" scientician. Up until now, Brendan has taken a brunt of the load and written up all of the posts up until this point. In an attempt to even things up a bit, I promised to try and write more of the posts after the relaunch. So expect to hear a bit more from me as well from now on. Anyway, on to the science...

Our idea for this experiment was to take a dozen wings and then marinade them in our habanero infused vodka, in an attempt to transfer some of the flavor of the habanero pepper into the wings, thus giving them a bit more of a kick than our normal wings.

We made two batches of wings, a dozen marinated in vodka for several hours, the other dozen non-marinated for control purposes.

But first, I had to find the habanero vodka in our ever-expanding infusions cabinet.

They say the waiting is the hardest part, but compared to our normal infused vodkae that can take several weeks; marinading the chicken only took a few hours, which seemed relatively short, since we went on to other tasks while they marinaded.

Eventually, the time had arrived and we began to fry the wings. We started with the non-marinaded batch, so as not to risk contaminating the oil. Both batches were dipped in egg wash, then rolled into our Mad Scientician brand chicken batter - flour mixed with seasoning salt and a secret blend of spices. The trick is to balance the heat between the front and back end, with just enough saltiness to give the flavor some depth.

We tasted the non-marinaded wings and had the following reactions:


"The frying process always reduces the heat a great deal. When tasting the batter straight, it has a heavy burn. After cooking the wings, however, they're not nearly as hot. These are a little less hot than I'd like, but do have some heat and just enough saltiness."

My reaction was fairly similar:

"Pretty good. I think we got the batter right on this time... I'll definitely be interested to see how the infused wings turn out."

Since we cooked all the wings before tasting any, the habanero infused vodka infused wings were ready to try immediately after.

Personally, I was not overly impressed, but thought it might get better with a longer marinade time:

"There is a subtle difference here I'm not exactly sure I can put my finger on. It's somewhere in the middle. I thing we might have more success if we let them infuse longer."

Brendan, on the other hand, was not impressed at all:

"Those wings are a little hotter. It's not a large difference, but it's about enough to kick these up to where I like them (when I'm not going all out with the heat). However, there is an odd flavor to the wings, reminiscent of vodka, an effect that I haven't observed with other foods we've marinaded with our infusions. Most of those previous experiments have involved beef, so perhaps the chicken accepts more of the vodka itself, along with the infused flavor."

Later, we theorized that the remaining vodka was probably due to the cooking method. Other foods, such as beef roasts, cook long enough and hot enough that the alcohol evaporates. The wings don't fry for quite as long, so the alcohol may not have had time to evaporate. Not to mention, the fried batter and oil may have trapped the alcohol in the wings.

So I wasn't impressed and my co-scientician felt the marinade detracted from the overall flavor. So, unfortunately, I think we need to call this one a failure.

But, isn't that what science is? Pushing the boundaries to see just what we come up with.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The things we do in the name of science (part two)

Welcome back to Infusions of Grandeur for the conclusion of our multi-liquor filtration experiment! Before we head into the results, we'd like to take a moment for an administrative note. (You've been waiting with bated breath anyway, you don't mind, right?)

We are thinking of switching our blog feed to full-article syndication, rather than the short blurb that currently syndicates. However, Ye Olde Feedburner has informed us that over half of our subscribers read us on Ye Olde Live Journal, and we don't want to blow up everyone's friends list unless we're sure about it. So, we'd like to leave it up to you. Let us know which way you would prefer to read our feed; you can leave us a comment here on the blog, over on the LJ feed, or by e-mail at infusions -at- Thanks!

Having filtered each of our cheap-ass liquors through a water filter five times, it was now time to bite the bullet. Which is literally what some of them felt like. For each type of liquor, we first tasted the unfiltered cheap stuff that we had set aside, then a medium-grade equivalent, and finally the filtered cheap. We began with the gin. Below, you see the unfiltered sample stored in one of our trademarked ex-soy sauce bottles (because we're classy folks with a reputation to uphold), and the filtered back in its original bottle.

We are both vodka drinkers at our core, so our relative unfamiliarity with other liquors (at least in their straight form) may reduce the complexity of our analysis somewhat. Though we occasionally use rum or whiskey in a mixed drink, gin is a liquor that we seldom use for anything, other than the occasional Long Island Iced Tea. This, despite the fact that as our fellow drink-blogger Jeffrey Morganthaler recently proved, gin is simply infused vodka, something we are intimately familiar with.

We poured two samples of the unfiltered Aristocrat gin and drank.

This gin is rough, to be sure, with a heavy burn going down. I did find the flavor intriguing, though -- no, not good at all, but interesting enough to intrigue me about the real thing. I had tasted straight gin before, but not in many years, probably in my early days of drinking.

"It's basically like a cheap vodka with fruit around the edges," Wayland commented. "It isn't as bad as I thought it might be."

The next gin was Tanqueray, which differs from Aristocrat in more than just production standards: whereas Aristocrat is 80 proof, Tanqueray is 94.6 proof. Though this could be advantageous for some purposes, it made it more difficult to compare the flavor fairly.

"That actually burns worse than the cheap stuff," Wayland wrote. "Of course, the additional 15 proof might have something to do with that. The flavors were similar, but to me, the burn really detracted from the flavor." Personally, I felt that the difference between the two was only faintly apparent.

Finally, the first moment of truth had arrived. We poured samples of the filtered Aristocrat gin and drank them.

Wayland seemed positive about it. "This was much smoother than the first two. I don't think any flavor was lost through the filtration process either."

My reaction was not quite as optimistic. "The harshness is somewhat abated. So is the flavor. It tastes like thinly flavored vodka now."

The light rum came next. We use rum a great deal more than gin, but usually it is either gold or spiced rum. I can't think of a single instance when we've used light rum, other than one weekend filled with Anti-Voyager Zombies, several years ago.

Again, the unfiltered Aristocrat was not as bad as we expected; it was almost smooth, but not quite. The flavor was sweet, but very mild. The burn was relatively light as well. On the whole, it was fairly neutral and unremarkable.

Our mid-grade benchmark was Myers's Platinum White. Though this was meant to be our good rum, I felt a sense of foreboding already from their inability to use proper grammar in their own brand name.

"This wasn't as sweet as the Aristocrat," Wayland noted, "but it was still fairly smooth. It wasn't bad, but I think I actually prefer the cheap stuff."

There was definitely more flavor to this one, in my opinion, but it wasn't a sweet flavor. The label calls it a "rich, buttery flavor;" I wouldn't go that far, but this would be decent in a cocktail.

The filtered Aristocrat, again, was a reduced version of its former self in most factors. The burn was almost completely vanquished, but there was not a great deal of flavor remaining. "It's not as sweet as the unfiltered, but I think it's still sweeter than the Myers's," Wayland noted.

"I could sit and sip this," I said, "but there would be no point in doing so."

Things took a turn for the worse when we tasted the Aristocrat Gold rum. "This is definitely the worst of the rums so far," Wayland commented. "It's sweet, but has a touch of sourness to it as well. The burn is much more than was present in the lighter rums." I described the taste as "mild sweetness, followed by a harsh burn."

As we stated in Monday's introduction to this experiment, we erred in our selection of a mid-grade benchmark by getting a dark, rather than gold, rum. Therefore, the comparison is not really fair, but we're going to make it anyway. "This is pretty much quintessential rum as I think of it," I noted after tasting the Myers's Original Dark. "Strongly flavored and a little sweet, with a burn that's strong, but not too harsh. I wouldn't drink this on the rocks, but it's pretty good, certainly better than the light."

Wayland didn't react as well to the Myers's Dark. "Ugh! Something about that hit my gag reflex. This was the least sweet of the rums we've tasted. Something about the flavor of this just didn't agree with me."

Finally, we sampled the filtered Aristocrat Gold. Remember from our Monday post that this rum had been noticably reduced in color during the filtration process. "I probably liked this the best of the darks," Wayland said, as if that was a compliment. "Although, it seemed the most diluted of the group."

"The loss in flavor is less significant than the loss in burn," I noted, "but that's just because there was so much burn to lose. It still has a little bit of flavor and a little bit of burn, but overall, it seems watered down."

Whiskey was our next stop.

Whiskey gains its deep color from the oak casks in which they are aged. The label states that Aristocrat whiskey is aged for thirty-six months. You would think that after all that, they would take the time to remove the splinters.

This was easily the harshest of the liquors we tasted this night. "Someone call the cops," I said. "We just found a shine runner."

Once our palates had recovered somewhat, we followed up with the old standby, Jack Daniel's. "Much smoother by leaps and bounds, but it is still a bit harsh," I noted. Jack is a favorite of ours for mixed drinks, but it's still not a shooting drink for us. "This was alright," Wayland said. "There was a bit of a taste on the back end that I wasn't overly fond of, but otherwise it's okay."

The filtered Aristocrat whiskey followed the trend set by the previous liquors. "Much smoother still," I said, "but yet again, the filter has removed a lot of the flavor, resulting in another watery-tasting drink."

"This was definitely the best of the whiskeys," Wayland commented. "Of course, it also had the least flavor, so it might just be my own vodka bent."

We could put off the inevitable no longer. It was now time to move on to the tequila, or as we know tonight's cheap brand, "Pepe Motherfucking Lopez."

There is some history between us and Pepe. Seven years ago, a party was held in Wayland's honor. In those days, Wayland's standard drink was the screwdriver, which he tended to pour at quite a heavy mix. At this particular party, one of our "friends" decided he was going to get Wayland wasted, and offered to make him a screwdriver. What Wayland didn't realize at the time is that the screwdriver was spiked with Pepe Lopez.

It was this night that we learned that vodka and tequila do not mix. Wayland didn't get particularly drunk, but he did get sick and spent the rest of the night unconscious, accumulating Reddi-Whip about his person.

Naturally, Wayland would take the first taste of the Pepe tonight.

"That definitely wasn't pleasant, but the taste was mercifully short lived," Wayland said. "I think I can go another seven years before trying it again."

I managed to avoid the tequila that fateful night long ago, but I wouldn't get off so easily this time.

"Damn, that burns. Actually, it's not exactly a burn, it's a gag trigger," I commented once I was capable of doing so. "I know why there's no worm in it. It dissolved without a trace."

Our next sample was Jose Cuervo Especial, which fared somewhat better. "That didn't gag me... quite," I said. "The taste is strange, kind of spicy, but not the kind of spicy I like."

"Jose was definitely smoother than the unfiltered Pepe," said Wayland. "I'm just not a fan of tequila, I think. This is drinkable, just not a first choice."

Lastly, it was time to find out whether the filtration process could do anything to help Pepe along. We poured samples of the filtered tequila and drank.

Wayland noted some improvement. "Of the three tequilas we've tried, this one I might drink again; it was fairly smooth. Not bad, but I'm never going to be much of a tequila drinker, just something about the taste."

I found that the tequila had the very odd property of tasting watered down, yet triggering the gag reflex anyway, though not nearly to the extent of the unfiltered Pepe.

The results of this experiment were disappointing, but not altogether surprising. The filtration trick works so well on vodka due to its simplicity -- it is essentially a mix of water and ethanol. Other liquors, having more complex flavors, contain more compounds that are meant to be there, but can be removed by filtration, reducing it to a seemingly diluted taste. If you are simply looking to make a lot of mixed drinks and get drunk, this may be an option for reducing the harshness of your drinks, and perhaps even the hangover effects (we did not test this theory). However, if you're drinking because you particularly enjoy rum, gin, whiskey or (god help you) tequila, you're better off by far to make the investment and drink decent liquor.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The things we do in the name of science (part one)

Welcome, one and all, to the re-debut of Infusions of Grandeur! It's great to finally be back. We've got a lot of great things planned for the blog, but we wanted to start back off with something big. We decided that, since we're expanding our horizons a bit, we should see how well one of our time-honored methods will translate to other subjects.

As our long-time readers know, all of the vodka infusions we make are based on bottom-shelf rotgut vodka that has been filtered five times through a water filter to make it drinkable. The process won't turn Vladimir into Grey Goose, but it does remove most of the impurities that make it wretched, transforming it into a decent mid-grade. If you are skeptical, you can read our original debut for a side-by-side comparison; or, for some of the technical details, read our study on vodka filtration.

But the question we intend to answer today is, how does this process work with liquors other than vodka? Bottom-shelf run, whiskey and other liquors have the same problem with impurities as bad vodka. However, they also have flavorings that are not present in vodka, the simplest of all liquors. Will these essential compounds survive the filtration? There is only one way to find out for certain.

In this experiment, we will test the filtration of five different liquors: gin, light rum, gold rum, whiskey, and tequila.


Aristocrat was chosen for most of them because it's a fairly standard low-grade that most people are familiar with (at least, in our region). Pepe Lopez tequila was chosen for sentimental reasons, which will be explained in part two of this post.

Before filtering each liquor, a small amount was set aside to serve as a control. The testing of each liquor consisted of three samples: first, the original, unfiltered liquor; second, a middle-shelf equivalent (see below); and finally, the filtered liquor, to see how it compares to both.

Before we begin, there are a few caveats that we should discuss. First of all, the same filter was used throughout this experiment, which could taint the later portions. We attempted to reduce this risk in several ways. We are using a brand new filter, and ran plain tap water through it between each liquor to rinse it. We also used less of each liquor than our usual 750 mL bottle; as a rough estimate, we used about 300 mL of each. (We bought 375 mL bottles when possible, and set some of that aside for the control; no one seems to sell gold rum in 375 mL bottles, so we bought a fifth and used only a portion of it.)

Second, I'm sure that Scottes will point out that the Myers's Rum we're using as a comparison to the Aristocrat Gold is a dark, not a gold rum. We didn't realize this until after we had completed an $80 liquor run, so we decided to leave it in place with this disclaimer. (The irony is not lost on us that, though we are evaluating a way for frugal drinkers to save money, this is our most expensive experiment ever.)

We read somewhere that Niels Bohr used tick marks on a Post-It Note as a highly scientific control.

We filtered the liquors in order of color, starting with the clear liquors. We began with gin, then moved on to light rum, gold rum, tequila, and finally whiskey. The first test of this experiment would be color of the liquors: if there was a loss in color due to the filtration, this would not bode well for the process.

The gin and light rum went through first; there was, of course, no change in their color. When we began filtering the darker liquors, we began to observe their color closely. After five passes through the filter, the gold rum experienced a fairly obvious loss in color. Here you see the filtered rum on the left, and unfiltered on the right.

The tequila came next. Pepe Lopez has a fairly light color to begin with; by our rule, we should have filtered it before the gold rum in the first place. As such, the color change was subtle, but it definitely occurred.

The change in color is more apparent when you compare them more closely. Here's a cropped section of each photo; the filtered tequila is on the right.

The Aristocrat whiskey, though much darker than the tequila, experienced a similarly subtle change in color.

Do these changes in color represent a similar reduction in taste? With such bad liquors, would that really be a bad thing? Does a small loss of color mean a similarly subtle drop in taste, or is it evidence of a greater change? We will return on Wednesday with the tastings and results!