I realize your first thought about infusing fennel into a cocktail may be “ew”.
That’s fair. I don’t hold judgement. This is a safe space, my friend.
Which is why I know you won’t judge me either when I say this: Other things that have also been known to inspire “ew” as a first impression but actually turn out to rock my boat include such phenomena as grilled cheese sammiches dunked in chocolate milk, eating pickles naked and the occasional Cadbury cream egg (don’t tell anyone).
Fennel isn’t for everyone. But dude. Fennel infused vodka, is. Except alcoholics. And Mormons. And maybe some vegans too. Because a lot of the vegans I’ve met don’t consume alcohol.
But if you aren’t an alcoholic or Mormon or a particular strain of vegan, you’re gonna dig this.
So let’s get back to what you’re gonna dig, err, drink: Fennel vodka.
I haven’t always enjoyed the peppery, anniseedy flavour of fennel. But over the years I’ve found with minimally processing – like roasting it or pan searing it – the sharp licorice taste dissipates and softens into something butterly delightful.
…Yes, I did just use the word butter as an adjective. We should really use butter more, in all situations. Don’t you think?
It’s amazing to me how our tastes change over the years. Butter not included; I’ll always love butter.
When I first started this blog 4 and a half years ago I barely knew how to put more than a can of tuna fish together with a box of KD. When I did actually attempt to properly cook a meal, I’d throw everything in the pantry into the pan, trying to make it taste good.
Now, as time has gone by, my skills have sharpened (much like my knives – always important), my palate refined, and I’m much lazier in my old age; I keep it simple.
An ingredient. The best cooking method I can think of to showcase it. And accent flavours to compliment the star of the dish.
Fennel is one of those ingredients.
And just as roasting or pan searing it enhances its vegetable-likability factor, so too does gently infusing it in vodka. Vodka is the perfect booze to mix with any infusion because it’s so subtle in flavour itself, it allows for the steeped flavour to shine. Or in this case, be guzzled right down the hatch.
I call this bevy the Fenhound. An evolution of the classic Greyhound (aka a Salty Dog). Because while vodka and grapefruit juice are great together as is, our drinks must adapt and change over time. Just like our tastes, cooking skills and liquor tolerance.
…Is that just me? Eek. Note to self: You can’t do belly-button shots like ya used to.
The Fenhound is a celebration of the bounty (albeit limited) you can find at the farmer’s market right now. Not quite Spring, not quite Winter; Not quite sunburn weather (though I did get a sunburn the other day = SPF 100 for me baby), not quite fit for scarves. It’s a happy, delicious, drinkable marriage of pining for longer days, yet at the same time sadness that comes from tucking the cozy woolies away for the year. An homage to our growing sensibilities and refinement, to the changing seasons.
…At least until we’ve guzzled the batch. And then, all bets are off. Where are belly buttons??
Yield 4 drinks
For the infusion:
- 2 C decent vodka
- 2 Small fennel bulbs, fronds removed and chopped into quarters
For the drink (measured for one drink):
- 1 shot of fennel infused vodka
- Dash of grapefruit bitters
- 1 C fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1/2 C organic cane sugar
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
- Optional: Tbsp of honey or simple syrup
- To serve: Slice of grapefruit
For the infusion:
- Put the fennel inside a clean, dry mason jar (or air-tight container). Top with vodka. Cover and place in a dark, cool place for 7 days and 7 nights. Each day, gently turn the jar to help the flavor infuse. After 7 days, remove the fennel from the infusion and strain the vodka. This will keep for a week in the fridge but I guzzled mine.
For the cocktail:
- Place the sugar and fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. Bash together until the seeds are fragrant. Pour mixture onto a shallow plate.
- Use a wedge of grapefruit to wet the lip of a glass and then dunk said edge into the sugar/fennel to rim. Set aside.
- Pour the infused vodka, fresh squeezed juice, bitters and (if using) sweetener into a cocktail shaker (or mason jar), top with lots of ice, cover and shake until it seems silly.
- Pour (strain if desired) into prepared glasses. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit.
This cocktail does take a bit of planning and preparation as it infuses. Sadly this means you can't throw it together tonight when a case of the Mondays hits. But it also means you can throw a couple ingredients in a jar and look forward to NEXT Monday night. Or Tuesday night. Or any damn night you want because sometimes we just need a little boozy simplicity in our lives, right?
Do you drink your vegetables? What tastes of yours have changed over the years? Ever do an infusion? Tell me what I’m missing!