… from the Perspectives’ Happy Hour (or Candy) Bar
How you doin’? After Cooking Lesson #78: Strawberry-Infused Vodka we received a lot of comments on how many of our readers tried the Fresh Strawberry Collins and loved it. So, I thought let’s see what other liquors we can infuse and with what. Here’s a few new tips to brighten up your boozy happy hour and save your kids from a few cavities. Ready, set, go.
Quick, look over both shoulders. Are the kids out of the room yet? Great. Then listen up—you don't have to let the kids take all the candy from you anymore. Sure, let the little whipper snappers put on scary masks at Halloween time and go begging across the neighborhood for penny taffy. You can even wear a smile while you help them do it—that'll be your own disguise.
Once the kids are asleep, your caper really begins with these awesome and somewhat strange candy-infused spirits. The basic idea is to take popular candy, drop them in a jar full of hooch and wait until it tastes good. Whereas many store-bought flavored liquors tend to taste flat or chemical-like from an overabundance of artificial flavors and sweeteners, you can make any of these homemade booze infusions to perfectly fit your taste in just a short time.
You'll need a few things to accomplish these boozy science experiments, but it's likely, if you have kids or a sweet tooth, that you've already got some of this stuff in the house. It’s just the alcohol and candy of your choice. I have a few combinations to recommend below, but feel free to experiment with like-minded flavors—apple and cinnamon, vodka, gin or anything that suits your tastes.
You don’t have to use expensive branded liquors—the cheap stuff will do. Make sure you have all the “chemistry” paraphernalia required… be sure to have some 16-ounce mason jars on hand with nice tight-fitting lids. When it comes time to strain out the remaining candies at the bottom of your jar, a fine mesh strainer works well, or you can opt for a thin sheet of cheesecloth and just take your time with it. No sense in spilling your infusion all over the counter just because you couldn't wait to drink it fast enough.
So, go dust off your inexpensive bar bottles on the back shelf, sneak some candy out of pantry and get to work: We've got some makin’ and drinkin' to do.
Hot Tamales and Vodka
Hot Tamales are the candy for the kid who wants more than a stick of Big Red but can't handle the Atomic Fireballs. With emphasis on cinnamon flavors and a little tongue-tickling heat, Hot Tamales have been a candy aisle staple for years and years.
Pour enough whole hot tamales into a 16-ounce mason jar to cover the bottom in a single layer—about 12 to 15 candies should do. Add two cups of vodka and seal. Because the slightly tacky Hot Tamales exterior breaks down quickly you won't have to wait long... 10 hours or will do it and your magic infusion is ready.
The color you're looking for is bright hot pink. That's how you know it's working. Once you've achieved a maximum warm glow from the jar, strain off the candy dregs at the bottom.
Try it with anything slightly fruity. The thin cinnamon backbone gives enough woodiness and warmth to the infusion, so punch it up a touch with something bright and clean, like apple cider, orange juice or a fizzy lemon lime soda.
Hershey's Milk Chocolate and Good, Old American Bourbon
Of all the candies we tested in booze, the Hershey's bar maintained their shape and relative size the longest. That's a good thing, since our goal was a delicate chocolate flavor that doesn't overpower the bourbon.
Start with two half-ounce snack size Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars in the mason jar and fill to the top with bourbon. Let them steep for 24 hours. While it may not look like much the flavor is working, eventually those Hershey's bars will be bullied into submission, and surrender that sweet, sweet chocolate flavor.
Try it with a little fresh mint. If you've infused the chocolate correctly, you should have some seriously smooth bourbon with just a hint of darker sweetness. Muddle a few mint leaves gently in the bottom of your glass, add ice and your chocolate bourbon, then slowly sink into your leathery couch as a fire crackles nearby and your faithful puppy brings in your slippers.
Candy Corn and Gold Rum
Sugar vs. sugar! When you infuse two cups of rum with about two ounces of candy corn, it ends up being—well, different, but you and the Bacardi Bat have gotten into worse troubles together—remember all those Mojitos at Margaritaville last year? Mostly, the sweet sting of rum is as present as ever, but there's a nice undercurrent of candy corn that will sit on your tongue long after your hangover has passed.
Really, this one depends on your preferences for candy corn. If you're a fan, you might find this one an intriguing and a fun seasonal beverage. But if you can't stand the tricolored triangles, mixing in rum will be as disappointing as your kids finding out that Easter Bunny isn’t—Santa ate him for Christmas dinner.
Assuming you're OK with the idea of candy corn, load up on the candy corn in this infusion, with 2 ounces of the confection. Add two cups rum on top. Let the jar rest for about 36 hours, strain away any remaining candy corn nubs that might be stuck to the bottom and enjoy. They should come out easily if the infusion is run through a mesh strainer.
Try it with some coconut milk, to really embrace the sweet sugary flavors, and a touch of Angostura bitters to help take the sweet edge off.
Junior Mints and Tequila
Mint, chocolate, and some white tequila? What could go wrong? A lot! Which is why you've got to be extra careful with this infusion. The three items can work together, but it's all about the timing. If you want this infusion to turn out right, you're going to have to watch it closer than your own kids.
Pour in a small pile of Junior Mints, enough to line the bottom of your mason jar and then a few more. DO NOT cut open the individual Junior Mints, or you'll risk releasing an over-abundance of mint. Top with two cups tequila. Then, let the chocolate slowly filter off the Junior Mints until the white fleshy insides just start to be revealed. You should be safe to let this happen overnight, but don't sleep in too long in the morning or you'll end up with a big jar of spiked mint water. Check after 10 hours and leave the jar no more than 12 hours.
If you've done your job correctly, the remaining little pods should just have some white sticking through, and they won't fall apart when you strain them out. What's left is a brown-tinged mason jar of then, gently minted, smoothly chocolate tequila that still carries some bright alcohol afterburn.
Try it in iced coffee or serve it with a splash of citrus soda or tonic for a bitter, bubbly edge.
Werther's Hard Candies and Applejack
Applejack—I haven’t had that since college, but apple and caramel are natural allies, so expect the same sort of fall flavors you'd get from a real candy apple in this infusion (an ode to Daffy Apple). If you only use 4 hard candies, you'll get a crisp fruitiness, smooth, sweet caramel and a little depth from the alcohol at work.
No matter how long you let this mason jar sit, you're going to have some creamy, frothy stuff at the top and a pretty thick texture. Your mason jar will get syrupy, your mouth will feel lined with a sheet of sugar, and the liquid on the sides of your glass will take their time falling away back down to the bottom of the tumbler. Don’t let this put you off.
For best results, use no more than 4 Werther's hard caramel candies. Top with 2 cups applejack, and strain after 36 hours. There will be some candied pellets still stuck to the bottom of the jar. You may want to filter through a coffee filter if you have the patience to wait.
Try it with slice of a real tart Granny Smith apple and a little ginger ale to keep things light and to thin out your drink so you don't need a spoon to consume.
Marshmallows and Cachaça
No, my friends, cachaça is not the name of the booty dance that got Miley Cyrus in all sorts of trouble. It's the purest representation of organic sugarcane, fermented in the rustic hills of Brazil.
You know it’s going to be sweet so what better to add to the mix than marshmallows?! You know, the pillowy white cylinders that are basically pure sugar anyway?
Cachaça has a lip-smacking flavor that reminds us of bananas and citrus with a hint of salt—the final result was sugary and a bit funky. If you don’t have a REAL sweet tooth you may want to pass on this one.
Cachaça is delicious on its own. The infused cachaça is, well, different. The marshmallows disappear inside the alcohol basically instantaneously, and no matter how many marshmallows you keep adding into the mix, they will all disappear. Start with 5 large marshmallow and add to that if required. If you do attempt this infusion, wait two days for any remaining sugars to collect at the bottom before you give it a sip. Strain through a coffee filter before sipping.
Try it with bitters and tonic, just for the sake of science.
ChefSecret: You don’t have to be limited by my imagination. Go to the candy aisle and see what’s popular and then start to innovate on your own. I am not liable for anything that you dream up or the consequences of consuming.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “I found the longer I’m isolated the easier it becomes. The other day, someone asked me what I was doing, and I said, NOTHING. It didn’t mean I was free to talk, it meant I was doing NOTHING.”
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