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Stores often like to hype up the prices of their flavored vodka, as if infusing your alcohol were somehow difficult. There’s no need to pay extra for cucumber vodka though, as you can make it on your own. It’s actually shockingly easy, and the result is something that you could happily serve over ice, or use to make a wide range of refreshing drinks like Moscow Mules, Bloody Marys, or Negronis. In fact, it’s no more difficult than infusing water, and follows just the same principles—though there are a few differences. Once you know how to infuse vodka, you can do it with a range of flavors, including berries, fruits, and even peppers (ew, I know, but it’s a thing).
Gather your ingredients.
The first thing you need to do is decide on and gather the ingredients you’ll be using. In terms of ingredients proper, that is, the things that go into the final product, all you really need is a couple of cucumbers (or just one, depending on how much cucumber vodka you’re making), and, of course, vodka. You can use any old kind for this, whether that be the cheapest Smirnoff or your favorite top shelf selection. Frankly though, given how tasty the end result is, there’s no real sense spending too much money on the vodka base. I also recommend going with a vodka that doesn’t have too much of its own distinctive flavor, as you want the cucumber to do all the talking in the end. Stolichnaya is my personal favorite for any kind of infusing or adapting when it comes to vodka, but again, any ole vodka will do, and it does retain its original flavor to some extent, so you may as well use your favorite. It’ll only make it that much better.
Besides the cucumber and vodka, all you need is a sealable container, like a mason jar, and a strainer of some kind. This too is somewhat up to you, but I find coffee filters and cheesecloth are both excellent options if you don’t have a standard mesh strainer. Just don’t try to do this with a course-grained strainer like a pasta sieve unless you want to end up with cucumber bits in your final product (which is really not a problem, but it’s up to you). Lastly, you’ll just need a knife for slicing the cucumber, and a peeler.
Prepare your ingredients.
Once you’ve gathered everything you need, you’re ready to get started. The first thing do to is to peel your cucumbers, if you like. This step is really optional, but it does change the way the cucumber flavors come out in the final product. Many people find that leaving the peel on creates a more bitter cucumber vodka in the end, and most people prefer a smoother, fresher drink. But, for more of a kick, you’re welcome to leave the peel on.
Once you’ve peeled your cucumber(s), if you so decide, it’s time to slice them. You don’t need to be particularly precise, but moderately thin cucumber slices work best and will leave you with stronger cucumber flavors in a shorter amount of time. Don’t worry too much about it though, you can still do this if you’re terrible at slicing things—trust me, I’d know.
Let it sit.
Once your cucumber slices are prepared, put them in your sealable container. It doesn’t matter too much what your cucumber-to-vodka ratio is, but you should be filling your container at least two-thirds full of cucumber slices. Then, pour in your vodka of choice, up to the top, and put the lid on as tightly as you can. Make sure you give the jar a good shake, and loosen any cucumber slices that might be stuck together so the cucumber flavors can get to work. Then just find a dark, cool place, like a cupboard or pantry, to store it.
The amount of time your cucumber vodka takes to be ready to drink will depend on how much you’re making, your cucumber-to-vodka ratios, and most importantly, your own personal tastes. After a couple of days, take the jar or container out and have a sip. If the cucumber flavors aren’t strong enough yet, put it back, and taste it again in a day or so. It shouldn’t take more than two weeks, maximum, and should be ready well before then, as soon as three or four days.
Once your vodka is fully infused and just to your liking, you’re ready to use it! Take it out of the cupboard or wherever you’ve been keeping it and let it chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before using it; unless you’re impatient, then you can certainly just pour it over ice instead. In the summer especially, cucumber vodka is the perfect base for a refreshing mixed drink, which just requires this infusion and some seltzer or club soda. An alternative and equally refreshing drink you can use this for is a classic Gimlet. To make this drink, all you need is a bit of seltzer and the cucumber vodka, as well as a dash of simple syrup and lime juice. It’s easily one of the most refreshing summer vodka cocktails, and has a light, healthy taste that won’t leave you feeling ill at the end of the night. Frankly, whatever your preferred drink, you can’t go wrong with the combination of lime juice and cucumber vodka, which combine just enough kick with all the freshness you could want.
Cucumber vodka is also the perfect ingredient in a Moscow Mule, which combines ginger beer (or ginger ale, if you prefer), lime juice, and, of course, your vodka of choice. Cucumber-infused vodka is also a great substitute for gin, for those of you who aren’t big gin drinkers. In fact, gin (especially cheaper ones) is just vodka infused with juniper berries and other botanicals. Because of this, classic gin-based drinks like Martinis and Negronis are also delicious with this infusion as a substitute, and make for a slightly lighter, refreshing drink.