Last weekend I posted about infusing vodka with grated horseradish. The inspiration came from Aquavit, the Scandinavian restaurant in Manhattan, and an article last year in the Wall Street Journal.
Aquavit’s beverage program under Keri Levins includes a big list of infusions, and two of the best — the horseradish infusion and a fig and cardamom infusion — were referenced in the Journal article with instructions.
For the fig and cardamom infusion, I started with Luksusowa, a Polish potato vodka that retails for about $15 a liter. The infusion is in two stages: a week with the cardamom pods and then four to five days with the addition of figs.
Day One: I toasted the cardamom pods in a small skillet on the stove top for just long enough to brown them a bit. Within a relatively short time, the toasted pods have turned the vodka a nice pale amber. Maybe an hour.
Day Two: The infusion is now a deep amber color, all from cardamom. Makes me wonder how much the toasting contributed to the color. When I read this recipe I thought the color was coming from the black mission figs, but it’s already dark just days into the cardamom stage.
Day Five: I opened the jar to taste the infusion — I wanted to see if the flavor was as bold as the color. It was, and the scent of cardamom blasted my nose as soon as I opened the lid. There’s a surprising amount of depth to the cardamom flavor, even without any other spice or sweetener. It’s easy to see where you could go from here to make a nice liqueur.
Day Seven: I took about a half cup of dried black mission figs and washed them off with water. As I dry them with paper towels, a lot of orangey-brown color is coming off. I can see how the figs will add both color and flavor to the infusion. I cut them all in half and drop them in. I’ll shake the infusion daily and then taste it again in two days.
Day Nine: The infusion is now twice as dark. The flavor has sweetened, but the cardamom is still stronger than I’d like it. It needs more time to balance out.
Day Twelve: The balance between the fig and the cardamom I was hoping for has more or less been achieved, with the cardamom still strong but the fig flavor and sweetness coming through. I was surprised to find a tannic aftertaste though — as if this were a slightly over-steeped tea. There are two ways I could try to combat this: first by adding a little straight vodka and second, by adding a little simple syrup or agave syrup.
Next time I’d definitely strain out the cardamom pods when it was time to add the figs. It just doesn’t need such a long cardamom infusion.
I’m drinking it straight but also trying it as a cocktail ingredient. I made an apple brandy old fashioned with 2 ounces of Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy and a half ounce of my cardamom/fig infusion and it was pretty good.