Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Minty-fresh booze: results of spearmint infused vodka

We sampled our mint infusion five days into the experiment, a day longer than we originally intended, due to circumstances beyond our experimental controls. Here's what it looked like before bottling:

By the way, we'd like to thank everyone who commented, both locally and on our LiveJournal feed, to help us determine whether the mint we used is spearmint or peppermint. Though a true consensus was not reached, we are operating under the assumption that it was indeed spearmint.

I wasn't looking forward to this sampling. The extra day of infusion only compounded my fears that the vodka would end up tasting like toothpaste. I prepared the first sample, swigged it back, and swiftly spat it out into the sink.

"Oh, God, that's horrible!" I declared, once my mouth regained functionality. "Your turn."

Wayland took several minutes to get his composure, without complete success; by the time he took his shot, he was still laughing at my misfortune.

Worse yet, he liked it! He said that the initial taste is a bit rough, but the back end was much better, releasing a whiff of freshness in the aftertaste. I tried it again, but again had to spit it out. I just couldn't stand the front end long enough to get to the good part.

And Wayland was smug about it, too.

It's possible that particulates were present in the samples, since we did not filter it until afterward. I don't believe there were any large enough to make a significant impact on the test, though. More than likely, it simply sat too long, though my initial fears may have also introduced bias to my evaluation.

At this point it was time to create a cocktail using the spearmint vodka, which was named with ultimate creativity.

Mint Chocolate Cream

1-1/3 oz. Mad Scientician™ spearmint vodka
1-1/3 oz. Crème de Cacao
1-1/3 oz. Irish Cream

I didn't find the flavor of the mint vodka offensive in this drink; it was much more subdued. It simply... wasn't anything special.

Look closely into my eyes and you will see that I am not amused. YOU ARE WASTING MY TIME, DRINK.

Wayland's take on the drink was similar to that of the shot; it was only notable on the back end. At first, it's just a chocolate and cream drink; then the mint makes an appearance, but it's not the breath of fresh air he experienced after the straight vodka. In this diluted form, he described the mint as "an afterthought."

Brendan's score: 2 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This week's experiment: Lime infused vodka

Today, we are introducing our latest experiment, lime vodka. Tomorrow, we will post the results of our mint-infused vodka experiment, and the first sampling of the coconut vodka.

First, however, we must report an unfortunate occurrence involving Wayland's lab coat. During an attempt to create a squid-infused vodka, Wayland was wrestling with a live squid in order to subdue it. Unfortunately, despite the superhuman strength he attained by questionably legal means during our coconut experiment, Wayland lost the struggle, due to the squid's defensive use of ink spray. As a result, Wayland's coat became permanently stained with squid ink.

After this embarrassing incident, we decided to base our next experiment on something that could not fight back -- or so we thought.

On the suggestion of several of our readers after our orange vodka infusion, we invested in a basic citrus zester. This was our first attempt at using the zester. Alas, it did not go well. There's a saying in the military, "You have to be at least 10% smarter than the piece of equipment you're working with." It seems that, despite my scientifical background, I didn't meet this qualification.

The zester simply slipped right off of the lime, leaving shallow grooves but not separating any usable zest. In the process, I nearly zested my index finger instead. Yowie!

It was at this point that Wayland had a brainstorm. We already have a piece of lab equipment that is much more effective than this dinky zester. He reached into the cupboard and pulled out the cheese grater.

This led to a much easier, faster and less painful zesting process. We zested two limes, each yielding a reasonable amount of zest.

We then sliced the remainder of the fruits, separating the pith and keeping the "meat" of the limes.

You can tell a lot about both of us by the way we went about this process. I carefully cut around the meat, attempting to cut away all of the pith without losing any pulp. The process was not entirely successful, and frankly, a pain in the ass.

Wayland, on the other hand, cut off the edges of each slice in four strokes, leaving a square slice and sacrificing some of the fruit, but finishing much more quickly and easily.

Finally, we discarded the pith, and tossed the zest, fruit, and filtered vodka into a jar. The loose zest provides a nifty snowglobe effect, simulating the green snow that will fall during the coming nuclear winter.


We plan on letting the lime infuse for 4-5 days, about the same amount of time as the orange vodka.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our first real trainwreck

Oddly enough, the first batch of infused vodka that both Mad Scienticians agreed was universally bad was not a new experiment, but a repeat. Our initial attempt at strawberry vodka, completed a month ago, was a resounding success; it was so good, in fact, that the bottle was consumed faster than any other thus far.

When we set out to replenish our supply, however, we made two fatal errors. We used strawberries that were not quite at their prime, and we inadvertently used about two-thirds as many as with the first batch. As a result, the product proved undrinkable.

We disposed of the unfortunate vodka in a small, tearful ceremony in the lab. An MP3 of "Taps" was played in the next room.

Worry not, however; this solitary incident has not weakened our resolve. We intend to repeat this experiment yet again this weekend, after acquiring fresh strawberries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pineapple vodka results

We sampled the pineapple vodka last week, and believed it to be ready for bottling, but we were delayed in bottling it and testing it in a cocktail due to Wayland coming down with the flu. Fortunately, the extra infusion time has served to make the pineapple flavor more pronounced.

There was a degree of give-and-take in this infusion, as the pineapple itself soaked up a great deal of vodka, causing the pieces to expand to nearly double their original size. (Please note that this is an estimate based on memory, not precise measurement.)

We filtered the vodka through cheesecloth to remove pulp and other particulates as we bottled it.

Unlike any of our previous experiments, the pineapple vodka hardly changed color as a result of the infusion; only a vague yellow tint is visible.

We gave the vodka another round of sampling to see what difference the additional time made. We were quite pleased with the results. When it first enters your mouth, the initial taste is still mostly vodka, but it is mild and subsides almost instantly. In its place, only pineapple remains, subtle but distinct.

Sadly, this is the best reaction photo of me that we could get, despite my drinking three samples for the purpose. (Work, work, work...)

Wayland volunteered to taste the pineapple chunks this time. Apparently, they were even more horrid than the strawberry slices from that experiment. The pineapple had given up all its flavor to the vodka, and absorbed a great deal of vodka in return.

The initial sampling completed, there was only one task remaining: testing the infusion in a cocktail. Since we're sure everyone was expecting us to create another tropical-style drink, we decided to do something else entirely.

Pineapple Bull

Over ice, pour:
2 oz. Mad Scientician™ pineapple vodka
4 oz. Red Bull

We were surprised at how underwhelming this drink turned out. Not only did the pineapple flavor hardly show up, the flavors of the pineapple vodka and Red Bull seemed to cancel each other out, leaving a nearly flavor-neutral drink.

You see, I am shocked and appalled at the lack of flavor! Or perhaps I need to train myself not to exhale so hard when I drink, at least when photos are being taken.

Brendan's score: 2 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is there a botanist in the house?

We've had a couple of helpful comments to the beginning of our Mint Vodka experiment, hoping to identify the type of mint we are infusing. I tasted one of the leaves, and have a feeling that it is indeed spearmint, but I've never tasted raw mint before and could be totally off the mark. It is branded "Kateri's Fresh Mint" if that is any help.

Here are some close-ups of the mint; you can click on them to see high-resolution versions. If any eagle-eyed readers can confirm whether we are using Mentha spicata or some other species, it would be much appreciated.

Let's hope it doesn't taste like toothpaste: Mint Vodka

This week, the Mad Scienticians are experimenting with a mint-infused vodka. We have also completed the pineapple experiment, and will be posting the results tomorrow.

We could only find fresh mint in one grocery store; unfortunately, it was in a vaguely-labeled package, so we're not sure if it's spearmint or peppermint (we're hoping spearmint). Eventually, we will get into the habit of shopping for low-demand infusion supplies at the farmer's market, instead of taking what we can find at the last minute (promise!)

First, we ate some Girl Scout Thin Mints to ensure we were in the proper minty mindset. Then Wayland began by rinsing six sprigs of mint.

We put the mint and vodka into a jar and let the infusion begin.

This is one of our easiest infusions yet, with the exception of Cinnamon and Pop Rocks. We're going to let it infuse for three or four days before sampling.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cuckoo for coconut vodka

The Mad Scienticians went down to the wire coming up with an infusion flavor this week, due to a very busy weekend. Ultimately, we wound up going to the store and looking for something on the fly; we came up with several ideas which we may use in the future, but for this week, we decided to roll with coconut. Two of our recent successful cocktails have involved coconut rum, and we want to see if we can produce a vodka equivalent; furthermore, it ought to compliment the pineapple vodka in progress, which is nearly complete.

We purchased an "easy-open" coconut, which proved to be a misnomer. It didn't help that our laboratory is uncharacteristically lacking in immediately accessible tools. We found two stray screwdrivers (the tool, not the drink) and used the handle of one as a hammer and the other as a chisel.

First, we poked one of the coconut's eyes out (nyuk nyuk) and drained out the milk. We were surprised that the coconut milk was clear; we expected it to be... milkier.

Once drained, we attempted to crack the coconut open. Years of research and millions of dollars have gone into modifying the coconut genome to grow an "easy-open" groove on the shell. Unfortunately, this groove only gives you a place to stick a tool with reduced slippage, and does not weaken the shell to any discernable degree. When working with substandard tools, as we were, the coconut will not budge.

Now I wish I had watched that Tom Hanks movie.

After five minutes of tapping, I realized that I had other tools in the trunk of my car, including a hammer. Once we started using the hammer to drive the screwdriver, we began making progress, albeit slowly.

Soon, Wayland had had enough of proper procedure. He chugged some VIT-RX and snapped the coconut open like a large, fibrous-shelled egg.

Qapla'! The coconut has been defeated, providing its meaty goodness as a condition of surrender.

Wayland picks out a small piece of coconut and tastes it.

Yikes! This isn't what coconut is supposed to taste like. It's not really bad, but it's certainly not the flavor that The Establishment has convinced us we would find within. After all the effort we've just expended, the coconut mocks us.

Perhaps the flavor is in the milk, then? I decide to find out.

Blech. Coconut milk is sour. We're starting to get an idea of why Hanks went crazy and started talking to sporting goods.

We forge ahead regardless, scooping out chunks of coconut meat for the infusion.

We'll give this a week or two, testing it periodically. If it does turn out sour, we'll try adding some sugar later on, and see if that helps. In the meantime, we're hoping that the coconut flavor we know and love will escape from the oddly-flavored fruit which imprisons it.

Friday, February 9, 2007

More cocktails: Kapitan Morganov, Chocolate Orange, Gini-Tini

Just in time for the weekend, we've got three new cocktail recipes for you!

Kapitan Morganov

1 oz. Mad Scientician™ caramel vodka
1 oz. Mad Scientician™ strawberry vodka
1 oz. Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay coconut rum
1 oz. sour apple schnapps

We considered writing the title as "Капитан Морганов," but decided to make it pronounceable to our readers without anyone having to scramble around with Omniglot to figure it out.

This quasi-tropical drink is very tasty, as the coconut rum and strawberry vodka strike a nice balance. If you're really into coconut, replace the strawberry vodka with the more subdued Pop Rocks vodka and let the Captain run buck wild.

Brendan's score: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Wayland's score: 3 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Chocolate Orange

2 oz. Mad Scientician™ orange vodka
1 oz. Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay coconut rum
1 oz. Crème de Cacao

In this drink, the coconut rum plays a much more behind-the-scenes role, accentuating both the orange and chocolate flavors. It tastes much like the Chocolate Oranges they sell at Christmastime. Delicious.

Wayland's score: 4 flasks out of 5
Brendan's score: 4 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

The Gini-Tini

2 oz. Mad Scientician™ apple vodka
2 oz. Mad Scientician™ cinnamon vodka

This drink came about due to the surprisingly positive review of our apple vodka by The Ferrett. We decided to give it another try ourselves, both on its own and in combination with the cinnamon vodka. This drink is named after its original creator, Ferrett's wife Gini. Of course, we are aware that this is not really a martini, which I'm sure will aggravate Ferrett to no end.

The drink tastes like a simpler version of the Apple Pie Martini, which is essentially what it is. Unfortunately, even in this higher ratio, the cinnamon is not strong enough to overcome the "aged" taste of the apple vodka. I found that the apple and cinnamon vodkas took turns being overpowering, alternating with each sip. The drink is all right, not great, but it contains great potential. We intent to repeat the apple experiment this weekend, along with our new experiment; once this is done, we will try this drink again, and expect much better results.

Wayland's score: 3 flasks out of 5
Brendan's score: 2.5 flasks out of 5
Overall score:

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Ferrett reviews our experiments: Part 3 of 3

Today, The Ferrett's review of our vodka infusions to date concludes with the cinnamon and apple vodkas, followed by the celebrated and dreaded Pop Rocks vodka. For those just joining us, you can read Part One and Part Two.

Cinnamon Vodka
"I bet the Cinnamon and Apple would go well together," Karla says brightly, even though we have yet to taste the apple. "I bet you could shoot that straight into cider."

"An excellent way to spike your cider," Jen agrees.

Once again, the scent off the cap catapults us straight back into childhood, but this time it's all about the breakfast foods. "Apple Jacks," Gini proclaims, and indeed it does have the sugary-cinnamon tang of a freshly-opened Kelloggs box. "Apple Oatmeal," says Karla, and she too is correct.

Whatever its exact placement, it's really quite intense; Karla catches the smell from the other side of the table within seconds after we open the bottle. It's far stronger than the coffee, and this is an angry ruby color.

We drink it, and thump our glasses to the table.

"THE WINNER!" I scrawl in my notes, and everyone around is shocked by how goddamned good it is. Some of the other vodkae were solidly good, and others needed some help, but this is the first drink we're actually sad to see go.

"Where can we get more of this?" Gini cries. "I don't want this to be gone!"

It's a total spice heaven - rich and lush, the cinnamon seems to have blossomed into several different kinds of spices in the vodka, blooming into a constantly-mutating palette of flavors that never seems to get dull. I take another sip, and it tastes different - it's got the autumn bite of mulled cider, but the hot burn of vodka enhances it in some way, and fuck, I don't want to think about this, I just want to drink it...

"Oh my God!" Jen cries. "You don't have any cider, do you?"

"Forget it," Gini says, clutching her drink to her chest. "We're keeping this one."

"I wanna know how much a bottle is," Gini says.

"I would totally pay for that," Karla says. "And I don't pay for a lot of alcohol." (She gets it at parties, folks. No worries.)

We agree wholeheartedly that this is just good on its own... And it's viciously deadly. "You could sip at this stuff until you just fell over and your heart stopped," Gini says.

"But die happy," Karla smiles.

We sigh in agreement. It'd be worth it.

Apple Vodka

"Happy," clarifies Karla. "We have reached that borderline where you can either stop and tip back into sober, or stop and tip back into...."

"Tipsy?" Gini says. And she has to offer the word, because we have been knocking down shots of vodka for the past forty minutes, and it is starting to get to us. It's true, we're not drunk, but to call us "sober" would also be a misnomer.

The Apple Vodka smells like apples. There's no hint of vodka - it's a pure, clean scent, as if someone had just sliced an apple open with a sharp knife and held the glistening flesh up just under your nose. It is astoundingly clear, somehow more apply than apples.

A brief debate breaks out over what kind of apple it is. Macintosh, perhaps? Not Granny Smith, that's too tart. We throw about five or six different types of apples, a little amazed that we can actually smell it so clearly that distinguishing this is possible... But it's a soft, sweet apple that has completely replaced the vodka smell. It's not a cider smell, but it has a slight baked apple twist, as if you'd just heated an apple in the microwave.

(As it turns out, it is Granny Smith, meaning that the tartness has mellowed quite beautifully in the alcohol. Well done, fellows!)

The sipping shows that this is the most dangerous brew of them all.

I could not tell that this is alcoholic. There's a tartness there, but it's like a very light cider, beautiful and high at the tip of your tongue that fades gently to a shimmer of apple that resonates around your entire mouth. You could drink a whole glass of this and never know that it contained a drop of alcohol up until your brain stopped working.

"How much is this?" Karla asks. She's so excited by the glory of this drink that she almost leaps out of her seat - but as I said, we're all a little sloshed by now. But not so sloshed that we do not recognize quality. "I wanna buy it right now!"

"They don't sell their vodka," I inform them. "They just do experiments."

"They don't sell them?!" Jen cries, looking like someone just squashed her puppy. "How dare they! We'll run out! How can we not have this?" At which point I spend the next few minutes defending the Infusions laboratory techs, explaining that selling their vodka hasn't been the point until now.

They are not happy. They want more of this. And Gini - remember I told you that she was smart? - decides to combine the apple and cinnamon.

"This smells like strudel filling," Karla says. "This is heaven in a plastic cup. This - is dangerous."

It's like drinking pie - glorious, liquid pie. Everyone stands around, shell-shocked by the perfect beauty that has just exploded wetly across their throat as they down the apple and cinnamon vodka.

"I could take the two bottles and pour them together and just drink that all night," Karla says seriously. "And I would make sure that I kept the glass upright so that when you fell over you would not lose this at all."

The yummy noises are in surround sound, rivaling our THX-certified sound system. We are all purring with happiness. I'd normally find it arousing, three girls purring at me, but I have a drink that's better than porn. I tell them this.

"If you know Ferrett, that says something," Karla says, awestruck. And then more debates break out over why are they not selling this stuff?

Pop Rocks Vodka
Okay. After the Apple Vodka and the Cinnamon Vodka, we weren't expecting much. This was the joke vodka, the one that they did because, well, you're not supposed to do Pop Rocks Vodka.

The point was not that it tasted good or bad. The point was that we were drinking fucking Pop Rocks Vodka. This was something we would be able to lord over our friends for years to come.

"I went to the moon," Neil Armstrong would say, taking a bite out of a chip. "Flew there, walked on the surface of an alien rock, and flew back."

"Yeah?" we'd say belligerently. "Well, I had Pop Rocks Vodka." And Neil fucking Armstrong would lean back and demand to know how it tasted.

So how good did it taste? Does it matter?

Oh, all right.

It was a more chemical Tang, like the orange and strawberry flavors, but more so. We could smell the artificial sweetener coming off of the rim.

"Okay," Karla says. "So - I work for a chemical company? And I have visited quite a few of our plants. And one of our plants that we divested early in 2006 made perfumes. And I smelled this when I was there to do a physical count. This smells like Kalama."

"Kalama" is the city in Washington where the perfume is made. Karla does not sound particularly happy about this, but she's willing to drink it because hey. Pop Rocks Vodka.

"You can't be too harsh on this," Karla commands me as I lift the glass to my lips, "Because they made this just for you."

I wince. Sorry, guys. I gotta call it like I see it.

But as I down it, I discover that... Well, it's actually not bad. It's like the strawberry, but the sugar in it boosts the strawberry flavoring, ironically diluting the strawberry while raising the burn of the vodka. It lacks the complexity of the strawberry infusion, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, because what it loses in depth it gains in simple pleasure. It asks less of you, which given our current state isn't a bad thing.

We decide that our friend Kat would love it. It's a silly drink that requires an umbrella.

But then I recall the one fatal thing about Pop Rocks - the thing that killed poor Mikey. As we all know from other children on the playground, to combine Pop Rocks and soda is to ensure a certain death. The Pop Rocks and the soda will combine in your stomach to cause your whole body to explode, like giving Alka Seltzer to a seagull...

...But what about Pop Rocks Vodka and Soda?

I had to try. It might be fatal, but I am on the cutting edge of drinking technology. I am willing to give my life to the cause.

Note the clever way the camera skews to the side here to indicate the severe danger I am in! I pour the liquid, waiting for signs of my impending doom as my very shirt mocks the predicament I have placed myself in...


As it turns out, Pop Rocks Vodka and Soda? Not fatal. But strangely delicious, like a Cherry Coke with a kick. Quite a nice ending to quite a nice day.

With that, we go off to the couch to collapse, happy and satiated. For we have had the glory that is Apple Vodka, and we have had Pop Rocks fucking Vodka, and we have combined the Apple and Cinnamon to get a little liquid taste of heaven.

Now we just have to find more of it.

Mad Scienticians' note: We are shocked, shocked that The Ferrett and his associates would suggest that we use our experiments for financial gain. We began Infusions of Grandeur to further the scientific feild of alconomics, not to become sellouts. Or maybe it's just because North Carolina blue laws won't allow us to sell our vodkas.

We are nearly as surprised that our apple vodka was reviewed so favorably. We find that the taste is a bit off, like apples that have been sliced and then exposed to the air too long (which, in fact, they were during the infusion). We've been meaning to repeat the experiment now that we have better controls in place, but we're quite pleased that The Ferrett and his fellow tasters found so much pleasure in the first batch.