There are gin lovers and there are vodka lovers. My husband and I happen to tilt toward gin, though we keep a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka around for good measure. We didn’t think that the two would cross paths. But this past week, we put the vodka to use to make bathtub gin. The pale yellow result is what you see above.
My husband read an LA Times story by Greg Easter on using his family's Prohibition Era-bathtub gin recipe. Easter actually used his concoction to doctor up moderately priced gin. The result was supposed to be more "natural tasting gin." We were so intrigued by the idea of using vodka and white wine to create a gin-like spirit that we had to try it. Actually, we tried it twice in the past several days.
If you enjoy gin, give this a whirl. Use a scale as some of the measurements are pretty subtle. What we used:
1/2 ounce fresh cilantro, use stems and leaves, and weigh before washing and drying
3/8 ounce lemon or lime peel, use a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel (we used Meyer and Bearss for the two batches; the color of the citrus is what mostly colors the alcohol; the Meyer lemon peel above photographed a little orange but it was in fact a super deep yellow)
3 grams fresh marjoram leaves, use no stems (2 lightly packed tablespoons)
14 to 16 juniper berries, available at health food stores and specialty markets
2 to 4 green cardamom pods, crushed (use more if you like cardamom’s menthol qualities)
10 white peppercorns
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
8 1/2 fluid ounces vodka (we used Smirnoff)
3 3/8 fluid ounces Trebianno white wine (a nearly bone dry Italian white wine typically used for blending; it’s known as Ugni Blanc in France)
Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbles appear at the edge. Lower the heat to medium and put the timer on for 2 minutes. This opens up the aromatics.
Turn off the heat, transfer everything to a quart-size glass jar and cap. Leave it to steep at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. Strain through a paper coffee filter. The gin is ready to drink.
This homemade concoction is aromatic and full of character. It says something back to you, whether you sip a little or a lot of it! Try the bathtub gin out on its own over ice; give the glass a stir to dilute and chill the gin a bit. If it’s too rough, add a hefty splash of your favorite gin (assuming you have some in the house already). We had Beefeater and Plymouth. The extra real gin rounds out the edges. The result is an unusually fragrant and flavorful gin. It’s fancy tasting and smelling. It’s made from low-priced vodka!
We nibbled on olives while sipping the gin and realized that gin is a very savory type of spirits. The salty olives paired swimmingly well with the gin. We then enjoyed it with Vietnamese pickled shallots and the pairing was delightful. The Martini was explained.
One of the most interesting discoveries was the use of marjoram, which I don’t usually cook with. However, the herb imparts a piney fragrance and flavor that echo fresh juniper berries. Dry juniper berries are sweet and have just a touch of that conifer quality left.
The other find was Trebianno d’Abruzzo. It’s a white wine that a good liquor store should carry. We paid about $10 for the bottle at K&L Wine. What you don’t use, drink. Trebianno is a terrific everyday wine that goes well with food.
This was a rough week full of deadlines as we’re gearing up to polish the videos for enhanced eTofu. Having this little DIY hooch project made it all move along. My husband says that he's not running to switch from his preferred brand of gin, Plymouth, but this experiment with bathtub gin was loads of fun.
Feel free to tinker with the aromatics. Easter used allspice instead of juniper berries, for example. Lightly crush the juniper berries to see how that affects your results. The bathtub gin will steep while you sleep!