Inspired by the recent publication of a homemade green tea vodka in Bon Appétit magazine, we decided to put some of my tea to work.

One of the great things about my husband working from home is that when I plop down on the couch after a muggy, sweaty, and stinky commute from the office, he knows just the thing to cheer me up. “Want a cocktail?”

He couldn’t decide on which of our fruit liqueurs to use, so combined them all with a Peach Apple Crisp Black Tea-infused vodka we had started making over the weekend. After topping with some ginger ale it smelled like a delightful, fresh sangria, and it was just as refreshing.

If you haven’t tried infusing your own spirits, I encourage you to! It’s incredibly easy and fast. When trying out new flavors, you can try just a cup or two at a time to ebb some apprehension.

Homemade Ume Shu (Plum Liqueur)


Sorry for the long lapse in posts, things have been crazy here recently! Not only did a take a long (and well deserved) vacation to Montréal (more  on that later), but I recently got engaged! If you care to see all of my wedding-related inspiration, you can hop on over to my “Wedding Ponderings” board on Pinterest.

The perfect drink for a celebration, and for the summer is ume shu (梅酒). Translated as plum wine or plum liqueur, this drink can be served on its own as a cordial, on the rocks, or used more like a syrup and mixed with soda water. Ume shu is one of my favorite drinks because it reminds me of my time spent in Japan as a student, and later a teacher. It was the prefect drink to cool off with during the hot, muggy summers at the end of a long day. Even the cheap ume shu in Japan seemed to taste better than whatever I could find here, so I would always stock up when I was there. Now that I know I can make my own for less than the baggage overage-fees, I’ll be on the lookout for ume in the store constantly.

7898_10100987043368986_2069828772_n If you can find ume (green plums) in your local supermarket, it’s not that hard to make your own ume shu–all you need is soju/shochu, rock sugar, and ume plums. The hardest thing is waiting 3 months for your concoction to be ready!

If you want to buy plum wine, it’s pretty affordable and readily available in stores. My favorite is Hakutsuru, but a good backup is Takara or Kinsen. Those are both a bit hard to find, but I know Choya and even Gekkeikan are available at wine shops, Cost Plus World Market, and Asian groceries.

The recipe I used is from Kitchn, but other bloggers such as Miss Mochi have their own tutorials as well. I had already made my ume shu by the time I saw this video, but it’s also a great way to learn too.

Drinks Using Gourmet Spices from Marx Foods

I was given some exotic ingredients from Marx Food and challenged to create a cocktail and mocktail recipe. I often make cocktails based on drinks I’ve had at local places or weird flavor profiles that I think up in my head. It’s easier to think of cocktail recipes because you set yourself down a path based on what spirit you choose to start with. It’s actually harder to make a non-alcoholic drink because the possibilities are endless and overwhelming. Sometimes you don’t want to have alcohol in your drink due to lifestyle, medication, age, or just to be family-friendly. In the end, our house liked the mocktail better because we could drink as much as we want and share it with everyone.

Update: The poll is now open! Feel free to see the other contestants & vote for your favorite!

Community Garden

Makes 1 drink. This drink is a mixture of herbs and vegetables you might find in your backyard garden. It’s very fresh with a slight savory note. Because it’s not too sweet, it stays light and you can taste all of the flavor layers. Saffron adds an exotic spice while the dill pollen sprinkled on top is the first thing you smell before sipping.

  • 1 ounce cucumber vodka
  • ½ ounce cointreau
  • ½ ounce RHUBY
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • 1 teaspoon yuzu juice
  • 1 pinch saffron leaves
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1 dash dill pollen
  • cucumber slice for garnish
Muddle basil, saffron, and cucumber vodka. Add remaining ingredients except for dill pollen and club soda and shake until combined. Add to glass filled with two handfuls of ice. Top with club soda, stir. Sprinkle top with dill pollen and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Pacific Shrub

Makes 2 drinks. This drink is a more complex version of iced tea. This black tea from Hawai’i is spicy and has citrus notes and is inspired by the island’s volcanoes. It is brewed hot and then allowed to chill while being infused with dried pineapple and saffron. The club soda helps to keep this from getting too sweet and too muddled. Note: Bitters range in percentage of alcohol. Fee Brother’s has no alcohol % on its label so I am assuming they are alcohol-free.

Add tea leaves to hot water. Brew for 5 minutes and then strain tea leaves. Add to refrigerator-safe container and add saffron and dried pineapple. Refrigerate until cold (2 hours to overnight). Take two glasses, fill with two handfuls of ice, put half of the iced tea in each glass (½ cup), reserving the pineapple. Add ½ tablespoon of strawberry shrub to each glass, followed by ⅛ (2 tablespoons) of ginger drink and ⅛ cup club soda in each. Add 2 dashes of Fee Brother’s Aromatic Bitters to each glass and stir. Top each glass with a pinch of fennel pollen and a no-longer-dried pineapple wedge.

The Cucumber-some Brother

This was my response to my boyfriend’s brother’s request for “something refreshing”. With recent power outages and temperatures of over 100 degrees, something crisp, clean, and refreshing is definitely required. The problem is that so many mixers and even liqueurs are so sweet that it makes the drinks themselves heavy and quite the opposite of refreshing.

I used some homemade cucumber vodka in this drink, but there are cucumber-infused vodkas on the market if you choose not to infuse at home (Square One comes to mind). The use of a metal straw keeps this drink cold from the glass to your mouth.

Note: I made this drink, then made two more and combined, for a grand total of around three portions in the picture shown. The actual yield of this recipe is about a third of what you see.

Homemade Infused Vodkas & Gin

After making vanilla extract this past winter, we decided to try out hand at infusing booze with some other things. We have been using the results of our experiments in some delicious drinks which you’ll see here soon.

First we tried blackberry vodka and blackberry gin. The gin tasted better than the vodka, like a very clean and fresh sloe gin, but we didn’t like the amount of sugar that was used. We tried three other infusions without any sugar: Apple, Cucumber, and Honeydew, in order of successful-ness. The honeydew tasted fine, but the smell was a bit off-putting. The cucumber and apple tasted great, but the complexity added by the spices of the apple infusion earned it the #1 spot in our infusions race so far.

These recipes all yield small amounts (except the blackberry) because we wanted to test the recipe before making larger batches.

Blackberry Vodka/Gin

  • 2 cups vodka/gin
  • 300g blackberries
  • 150g sugar

Using a needle, prick each blackberry a few times. Combine sugar, pricked blackberries, and vodka or gin in a jar and shake it until combined. Store in a cool dry place, shaking every day for: Gin – 3 weeks, Vodka – 5-6 weeks. Strain the fruit out (you can keep them in the refrigerator in a separate container for garnish or other uses).  You can use this to replace wherever sloe gin is called for, or regular gin/vodka.

Cucumber Vodka

  • 1 cup cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 strip lemon peel
  • 1 cup vodka

Put cucumber in jar, top with lemon peel and cover with vodka. Store in cool place for 4-7 days, shaking daily. Strain, reserving the cucumbers for garnish or use in other drinks (particularly good muddled in Pimm’s Cups).

Honeydew Mint Vodka

  • 1 cup diced honeydew melon
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • 1 cup vodka

Put melon and mint sprigs in jar, top with vodka. Store in cool place for 4 days, shaking daily. Strain and discard the fruit and mint.