Words and recipe by Ren Behan
Aside from the odd splash of sun, the Easter holiday weather has begun on something of a grey note and the hazy days of summer still feel a long way off.
I’m yearning for sunny days in the garden with the barbecue fired up and a nice, refreshing mojito to hand, made with the heaps of fresh garden mint and good rum – or perhaps a lemon grass mojito for something a little different. Excess summer fruits also mean I’ll be making plenty of homemade flavoured vodkas – a practice I’ve acquired thanks to my eastern European roots, where seasonal fruits are often used to create sweet, sticky liqueurs and infused vodkas.
Citrus fruits are not the usual stars of the British seasonal garden calendar; California is the largest producer of fresh oranges, and I generally look to the famous Amalfi coast of Italy and the lemon groves of Sorrento whenever I want a lemon that really packs a punch. If I spot fresh Amalfi lemons at my local Italian deli, I will often make a homemade version of the classic Italian liqueur, limoncello, but you can use most citrus fruits to make a clearer, slightly sharper citrus vodka inspired by the Polish Cytrynówka vodka drink. Infused vodkas are so easy to make, and are great when served to party guests as ice-cold vodka shots or as part of longer, citrus-based cocktails.
Homemade citrus-infused vodka recipe
Makes 1 litre
- zest of one unwaxed lemon and one large orange
- 1 litre good quality vodka, such as Grey Goose
- 3 teaspoons caster sugar or vanilla sugar
- Sterilise a funnel and two 500ml preserving bottles (or a one litre preserving bottle).
- Using a speed peeler, zester or paring knife, peel the orange and lemon skins, taking care not to include the white pith. Slice the peel into very thin strips. Put the orange and lemon peel into the bottles, pour over the vodka and add the sugar.
- Shake together well and leave the vodka to infuse for 3-4 days, or longer if you prefer.
- Before serving, strain out the used peel and chill the vodka and your shot glasses in the freezer. Pour into shot glasses and garnish each shot with fresh, thinly sliced citrus peel.
- For a longer drink, mix a measure of citrus vodka with lemonade or cola and plenty of ice.
Here’s Jamie’s 1 minute tip for zesting and juicing lemons: