The SuperScience in Making a New Infusion: Tangerine-Infused Vodka

I had hoped to do this with blood oranges. However, after checking FIVE different rather snooty produce markets, I’m still coming up empty. Instead I prowled around looking for something extra pretty. Enter, the tangerines.

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

What the crap is a tangerine anyhow, besides a small orange? Thank goodness we have wikipedia to scratch such itches. You can suddenly be knowledgeable about anything, uncover the deepest secrets and nuances of any field of study.

Apparently, a tangerine is a small orange.

They do tend to be less acidic (which means less sour/tart) and a bit sweeter. This post details the steps followed, with photos, to develop (hopefully) a brand new infusion . A note of warning, my kitchen is painfully small and old. Properly photographing everything was a challenge. I managed, sort of. I also cut myself twice.

Step 1: Address your spirits before addressing others

Whiskey sour hanging out with a tangerine. Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010.

You can’t really be expected to produce a fine spirit, unless your spirits are properly calibrated from the beginning. However, the act of opening the fridge and freezer, shaking ice and pouring liquids can draw attention to yourself, which brings me to step 2.

Step 2: Distract cohabitators

Photo by Michael Paydos

Noodles (on left) in particular seems to know exactly when I have sharp objects in hand, which is precisely the best time to weave between feet. Also, as that half gallon plastic pitcher used as a scale reference shows, it’s somewhat hard for these cats to fit into a parking space, never mind between feet.

The sounds of a drink being made also attracts another, more difficult pest to cope with: the wife. Generally she prefers a cocktail of her own as opposed to a bowl of crunchies.

Step 3: Prepare Equipment & Ingredients

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

I bought this brand of vodka because it was heftily on sale with a rebate on top of that. Overall I approve! With oranges and grapefruit, I find using a veggie peeler much quicker than a zester, so I figured tangerines could also handle the treatment.

Step 4: Devise plan of attack

Previous sciencings showed that orange-infused vodka generally works well using a ratio of 1 tbsp zest per cup of vodka, then infused 3–5 days. That sounds like a good starting point. Also, a key element of the tangerine’s appeal is its sweetness, so I think I’ll also throw some of the fruit in there to help enhance the flavor.

Step 5: Peel off the zest

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

That white is not what you want to see–pith = bitter. Let me further illustrate:

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010
So, from this single 6″ peel, I have about a half inch of usable stuff. My peeler is not terribly precise (I just ordered a better one). For now, lighter, and gentler.

Step 6: Peel off the zest, correctly

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010
I started to worry as the rest of the tangerine didn’t zest very well–too thin skinned! (It’s hard not to throw a joke at my wife’s expense here.) Thankfully, the second one was perfect (see above).

Step 6: Gather pith-free zest peels

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

Step 7: Report to supervisor on progress

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

Step 8: Combine zest & vodka

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

I ended up with about 2.5 tbsp of zest, so I also added 2.5 cups of vodka.

Step 9: Cut all the peel off the fruit

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

Be certain to remove alllll the white pith. I’m not sure what the seeds would do, so I also removed them. For some reason, the tangerine was designed to have 49 seeds per fruit, which is really annoying.

Step 10: Make sure the fruit is suitable for infusing

Never just fling an ingredient into an infusion without tasting and smelling it first. Zest should be highly aromatic, but generally if it looks lush and vibrant you’re a-ok. For the fruity flesh, there was a bit remaining on the cut peels. Considering I ended up scraping every last bit (I had to be certain) I think it’s good to go 🙂

Step 11: Store in a cool, dark place

Photo by Michael Paydos, 2010

Light can discolor infusion ingredients and sometimes impart bad flavors. Sunlight can also heat the thing up, creating a mush and most likely adding nasty flavors. I label all of mine with the date, time, and ingredient. Sometimes I will document the amounts, especially if I do multiple formulas to see which would work best. I’m pretty confident this is going to be amazing, and “pretty confident” is actually one of the exclusions to having a control in science. I’ll give it a shake once a day, and taste it after 2 days and every day after until it’s perfect.

Step 12: Enjoy!

Clearly, any decent 12 step program ends with a cocktail. Will update with the results in a few days.

QUICK UPDATE: As noted in a later post, this quickly turned into a house favorite. In the end, I gave it 3.5 days of infusing, but I think 3 or 4 would work just fine. We mostly have just enjoyed it with either soda water or tonic, but I plan on making some spicy margaritas with it soon.


About Dazed & Infused

Failed science major turned to creative writing which led to a job as a bartender hack turned mixologist turned book editor turned writer who then went on to the world of International Corporate Communications. This is a bit getting back to his roots--that would be booze & science & rambling.
This entry was posted in fruit, General Tips, Vodka. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The SuperScience in Making a New Infusion: Tangerine-Infused Vodka

  1. Rachel Bradshaw says:

    I’m a good wife.

  2. yum! i’ve been looking for a way to make some infused spirits for Christmas gifts….then I found you 🙂 it was meant to be! hehe thanks for the advice…the “boos” were very helpful in illustrating the importance of zesting

  3. Sarah P says:

    As an enthusiastic “tester” of this recipe, I have to say–delicious!

  4. Pingback: Blood Orange Infused Vodka | Dazed & Infused

  5. Pingback: Grapefruit Infused Vodka | Dazed & Infused

  6. I love your humorous and very useful post as I am getting ready to prepare my own concoction. I use tangerines in my back yard which are a bit tart, so I need to add some simple syrup. Thanks for the tips on correct peeling and nesting. Cheers!

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