Cocktail Lab, Winter 2011

Last summer I started out the Year in Vodka with some herb infused spirits with fresh floral notes.  In the autumn I experimented with dried fruit and nut infusions.  This winter I tried my hand at some spices and grain flavored vodka.  Cinnamon vodka turned out to be a huge success and it pared nicely with homemade creme de cacao as well as, surprisingly, orange juice.  Star anise vodka pared nicely with pomegranite juice creating something that tastes a lot like an old fashioned Good n' Plenty candy.  Ginger turned out to be a big disappointment and came out rather dull indeed.  A friend picked up some dried persimmon which made a delicious subtly sweet brew, better served alone so as not to mask its subtleness.  The surprise concoction was the sweet and satisfying honey and oat vodka.  Don't turn your nose up just yet.  I found the recipe on Chowhound and it was something they picked up from Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Star anise floating in vodka

Every season I experiment with a different batch of flavored vodkas.  When I'm done I gather some mixers I think might be appropriate, make lots of ice and make sure I have plenty of clean glasses.  Then I host an evening with a few women friends which we've come to call Cocktail Lab.  All three invited guests - Diane Fargo, Lori Firpo and Rebecca Winzenried - are all well-traveled, been wined and dined and do their fair share of cooking.  They are Foodies with sophisticated palettes, a pretty tough crowd.  Together we compose a drink which I then shake up for us and split into four short glasses.  Then we all taste and discuss.  Alterations are made and the next cocktail is attempted and so on and so forth until the recipe has been perfected.

Come and sample the finished creations at the next tasting on Saturday, February 12 from 4 - 6pm at Prospect Wine Shop, 322 Seventh Ave. in Park Slope, Brooklyn.