Thursday, August 18, 2005

She Wore A...

I've been playing around with infusing my own vodkas this summer, and so when I saw Stephanie's announcement for the inagural round of The Blog Party, I decided to let you all in on some of the fun I've been having.

I've randomly seen chunks of fruit soaking in jars of vodka at various places in the City over the years; during the dot-com madness, there was this fabulous spot in {then} hot hot hot South Park called Infusion that specialized in infused vodkas: Pineapple. Ginger. Lychee. They may still be there, but the last time I stopped by, the scene was so sadly diminished from what it once was that I had to exit straightaway. But I digress.

I've never been terribly inspired by infused vodkas. I was, however, over the course of several evenings spent in the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris, charmed and delighted by the head bartender there, Colin Peter Field. To call him merely the "head bartender" doesn't do him justice. He mixes the most incredible cocktails, creates an atmosphere that combines comfort with glamour, and is a fabulous person besides. Every drink that he serves to a lady is accompanied by a fresh flower - a rose, or an orchid, or some other delicate hothouse bloom. Two years ago, he wrote a book called The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris, which occupies an enviable spot on my cookbook shelf. Whenever I rifle through the pages, it inspires a rash of brie-and-brioche-scented daydreams.

The last time I picked up the book, I happened to flip to page 106, where Colin describes the Raspberry Beret, made with vodka that he infuses on the premises with fresh, ripe raspberries. I remembered having that drink, and loving it. And, wait: raspberries are in season. 'Nough said. The following week, I procured a bottle of Chopin and a pint of organic raspberries from the farmer's market and proceeded to drop them into the bottle, one by one, just as Colin instructs. Actually, I poured about 1/3 of the vodka out first, to use with something else, because I thought that the raspberries might take up a bit of space. Interestingly, the entire pint went into the bottle without any perceptible rise in volume.

I set the bottle back on the cocktail cart, with no small amount of anticipation, and peeked at it every day to see if I could discern a change. Within about 3 days, a faint rosy hue began to hover just above the berries. Within one week, tongues of bright pink were curling towards the surface of the bottle. I was very, very excited.

Colin says to wait 3 weeks, but after 2 weeks, the vodka was the color of deep fuschia, and I was dying to try it. And so, late one night, I poured a generous stream of the stuff into an ice-laden martini shaker, shook it very hard, and poured it into a chilled glass.

It was, dear reader, everything I was hoping for. *insert contented sigh*

I'm now working on my second batch, this time using Ciroc. The picture above shows the progress after 8 days. Isn't it gorgeous?! And no, I haven't been sneaking any premature sips. I poured half of it into another bottle and tossed in a big fat vanilla bean. Possibilities abound...

This tastes incredible chilled, just as it is, but I was in the mood for something different yesterday, and so I pulled out a jar of sugar that I had been saving for something special. A few months ago, I realized that one of the big, bushy plants around the house was a pineapple sage, and so I plucked off a bunch of leaves, whirred them up in the food processor, and stirred them into a cup or so of sugar. It smells wonderful, and beautifully rounds out the berry notes.

Jennifer's Raspberry Beret*

• 1 tablespoon pineapple sage sugar
• 1/2 ripe orange, peeled
• 2 ounces raspberry-infused vodka
• metal shaker
• ice cubes to fill shaker about 1/2 full

In a shaker, muddle the orange together with the sugar until the orange is thoroughly macerated and the sugar has blended in with the juice. Add the ice. Pour the vodka over the top. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Sip slowly for maximum enjoyment.

*With a shout-out to Prince, from whom this name was surely derived. You da man.


At 5:04 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Jennifer...thank you so much for joining in!

Believe it or not, we're hurting for cocktails, so your recipe is most welcome.

Even though my husband and I don't drink, I'm very intrigued by infused-alcohols. I'm considering doing at least one, to have on hand for holiday guests.

Thanks again for being a part of the first Blog Party!

At 11:04 AM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Well, now! That's real purty!
Jennifer, pay a visit to Rae at BunnyFoot for some further suggestions:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Jennifer...the round-up has gone up!

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Welcome to Novato.I too have a restaurant background.I commuted to S.F.from here for a lot of years.I have read and enjoyed your blogs. Novato has a long history of not producing or supporting very good restaurants.Sad to say.Hopefully things will get better. Happy blogging.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous kudzu said...

Jennifer-- Have been trying to get in touch with you re: Novato. You can't believe how amazingly better Marin is now than when I moved here from Manhattan decades ago. Still, it can be a challenge to a city girl. You can contact me at Thanks for your blog -- I'm really enjoying it.

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