This delicious and naturally slightly sweet aperitif is amazing straight from the freezer but would also pair nicely at room temperature with dark chocolate, Jamón serrano, or with a bit of manchego, pecorino romano, or other hard, salty cheese.
Every year, St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga, CA holds a two-day Slavic Festival. This year, we ran a Vodka Bar that was wildly successful. For the festival, I made a number of homemade infused vodkas, all of which sold out quite rapidly. One of the most popular was made from mission figs, which I decided to make on a whim, as they were in season and the stores were full of them. Sometimes infused ingredients lose something aromatically during the infusion process. But figs, it turns out, make a spectacularly authentic vodka that both smells and tastes EXACTLY like figs.
Traditionally, infused fruit vodkas are made from fresh fruit exclusively, but I decided to add dried figs to this recipe as well. The addition of dried fruit to vodka infusions, particularly in the case of fruits that have a mild and delicate flavor (figs, blueberries, apricots, etc) is done primarily to ensure that the vodka captures the scent of the ingredient, but it also adds complexity and a depth and concentration of flavor that cannot be achieved using fresh fruit alone.
For this recipe, I used both dried organic and fresh local Black Mission Figs. The fresh figs were so ripe that those that had cracked were oozing clear, thick sugary sap. The dried figs, which are quite dense, must be sliced thinly to ensure that the vodka reaches them and is able to extract their flavor.
After 2 weeks, the figs had imparted a deep eggplant-like purple color, along with a bit of their naturally slippery mucus-like juice that increased the viscosity of the vodka slightly and cleverly concealed from the palate the fact that it was still nearly 80 proof. They also gave it a perfect level of natural sweetness. I added a bit of lemon juice to brighten the fruit flavors; there was no perceptible smell or taste of citrus in the final product.
For vodka infusions, aim for the middle of the road in terms of quality —not so cheap that you would not drink it straight, but not so expensive that it would be a waste of money to use it for cocktails. For me, this falls in the $15—$20-a-bottle range. In my version, I used “Ruskii Standart” (Russian Standard), a decent-quality wheat vodka a found on sale at Safeway for $16.99 per 750 ml.
I infuse all of my flavored vodkas in an airtight container, in the dark, at room temperature.
- Yield: 700 ml
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 2 weeks
- Active: 10 minutes
- 2 cups fresh ripe black mission figs, chopped
- 1 cup dried black mission fig, thinly sliced
- 1 750 ml bottle good 80-proof vodka
- 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- Combine chopped fresh figs, thinly sliced dried figs, lemon juice and vodka in a airtight container, seal, and store in a dark place at room temperature.
- Infuse vodka for two weeks, shaking occasionally.
- Strain through a coffee filter, and enjoy. A bit of the vodka will have been lost through absorption by the dried figs.