Recently, I was tasked by the kids at Off The Grid (in conjunction with the folks at Belvedere) to craft a vodka cocktail. Though I’m more of a brown spirits kinda gal, thoughts of infusions and bitters immediately blossomed. With some ideas rolling around, I decided to pick up the gauntlet and hoped I wouldn’t PK as I ran with the challenge.

Despite my interest in cocktail-making (mostly in the consumption of the end-results), I’d never considered creating my own recipe and I worried that my concoction would go rather badly. So to hedge my bets, I made two very different infusions: clove-anise and a lavender-vanilla. Over the days the infusions sat steeping, possibilities were fleshed out. The spiced infusion would clearly do well in a holiday drink, and the lavender-vanilla would work nicely with citrus fruits. More research on cocktail components ensued and a rough framework for my cocktail emerged; I would aim for an eggnog flavour profile.

When the infusions were ready for use at last, I gathered my gear: cocktail shaker, bar spoon, jigger, and a glass. In my pot, I had just finished making a 1:1 (sugar : water) simple syrup by only barely warming the water enough to dissolve the sugar. The rest of my ingredients were already collected: vodka, infusions, an egg, ground nutmeg, and some ice.

I dove right in and began with a mix of the anise-clove infusion, (more) vodka, an egg white, and the simple syrup. After a minute or so of dancing around the kitchen with the shaker, I poured the results into the glass. Once the foam had a chance to rise and the rest of the shaker’s contents were transferred in, things were, at least, looking right. It was topped off with a dusting of nutmeg, both for the visuals and the aromatics of an eggnog. I took a tentative sip. Immediate thought: too watery. Then the realization that it was really one-note. But there was potential.

Round 2 was better – I added more syrup and used only a single ice cube – but I found the flavour still to be lacking. I didn’t want to add cream, as it would mute the flavour and I find creamy cocktails too heavy. I could throw in some cinnamon, but I didn’t feel like that would actually do enough to bring the drink around. What to do?

My eyes fell on the back-up infusion I’d made. The vanilla would be nice, but …lavender?

Strangely, this combination didn’t result in the expected train-wreck. Incorporating the second infusion really rounded out the cocktail without overpowering it. I sat there, sipping away and trying to analyze the flavour profile. Was the lavender too pronounced?  Did it need something else? Maybe a few drops of chocolate bitters? An orange twist? A burnt cinnamon stick? Continued sampling convinced me I didn’t need to monkey further with it. This was a cocktail reminiscent of eggnog without the heaviness and cloying sweetness I’d come to associate with the festive drink. Moreover, my guests seemed to think it was a nice sipper, eggnog-like or not.

All the prep work aside, it seemed a little too easy, having come to my final results so quickly. I’ll be doing some further taste-tests with a wider group (read: I’ll be featuring this cocktail at my next party), but I don’t think I’m too far off. If you make this, let me know your thoughts!

Blanche Nog

A cocktail that hints at eggnog, without the cloying cream.  That makes it healthy, right?

  • 1 white from a large egg
  • 1 tbsp of simple syrup (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp of lavender-vanilla infusion
  • 1 oz of anise-clove infusion
  • 1 oz of vodka
  • dash of nutmeg

In a cocktail shaker, combine egg white, simple syrup, vodka, and both infusions with a cube of ice. Shake for 1-2 minutes. Strain into a glass. Use a spoon to gently add the foam remaining in the shaker to the cocktail. Add pinch of nutmeg. A small stick of vanilla or cinnamon can be used as garnish.

Clove-Anise Infusion

  • 4 oz of vodka (120 ml)
  • one segment of star anise
  • three cloves
Leave mixture in a bottle for at least 3 days. Shake before using.

Lavender-Vanilla Infusion

  • 4 oz of vodka (120 ml)
  • 1/3 tsp of food-grade lavender (or extract)
  • one stick of vanilla

Leave mixture in a bottle for at least 3 days. Shake before using.

Thanks to the kids at Belvedere and Off The Grid! Would have never even thought of trying to make my own cocktail with out your prodding. You can see my post (along with others) here: