Vanilla Vodka cocktails

After the great news that over a thousand people had, this month so far, looked at the blog, I thought I deserved a celebratory drink.

Yes, I know it was a work night but some things deserved to be celebrated. It was time, I thought, to try the vanilla vodka. I’d had great success with the basil vodka and tomato essence cocktail  so maybe the vanilla vodka would prove to be as much of a triumph.

I’m very lucky in that all of my lovely friends know how much I love cooking and when they travel I am often the happy recipient of some local delicacy. Far better that than a teeshirt with the name of a resort on it, I always think. I have had gorgeous cheeses from Catalan, spices from Istanbul, chorizos from Spain, sweets from South America, bush herbs from Australia, strange herbed alcohol from Germany, delicious vodkas from Poland, salamis and cheese from Italy… but possibly the most luxurious of all was a gorgeous bundle of vanilla pods from Flores, Indonesia.

Friends of ours, C & C, had gone on a wonderful trip, island hopping round Indonesia and when they returned they sent me a parcel through the internal post at work. I’d collected the post from the post room and walked back to my office, wondering what the parcel addressed to me was… and why it smelled so deliciously of vanilla.

I couldn’t believe it when I opened it… all those pods. Now THAT is luxury on a grand scale.

There were 25 plump, juicy and aromatic pods.

You know how expensive vanilla is…I’d never had so much vanilla. This was my chance to experiment.

Apart from cakes and sweet things, I had wanted to try infusing vodka with vanilla.  All I needed was a bottle of vodka and I was ready to go.

When I slit open the pods they were absolutely crammed with glistening black vanilla seeds.

They just had to be dropped into the bottle.

Within half an hour the vodka had started to take on a gorgeous golden brown tint as the essence of vanilla seeped into the alcohol.

And that was it. I left the bottle in the larder, with the pods releasing their flavour, for a couple of weeks. I was saving it for a special occasion.

And now, it seems, was a special occasion.

I’d been looking around for cocktail recipes involving vanilla infused vodka and a recurring theme involved using ginger ale. According to what I’d read it tasted like “creamsicles”… now I haven’t the faintest idea what that was but it sounded good to me.

When I called in, on the way home from work, to buy some ginger ale, I saw Fever-tree Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer so I bought that. Fever-tree mixers are probably the best I have come across (and yes, that is an independent choice by me. No bribery here.) Their tonic is my favourite to have in a Gin and Tonic

I thought I’d see what was best, ginger ale or ginger beer.

First of all, we tried ginger beer.

One generous measure of vanilla vodka was poured over ice

And then topped up with Fever-tree Ginger Beer.

Verdict? The Ginger Beer is a powerful drink with a hefty kick of ginger, which rather overpowered the smooth and luxurious vanilla vodka. You could just about tell it was there but, as the Bear said, putting the vanilla vodka in there was probably just a sneaky way to get someone tiddly. As a ginger beer by itself  though, it was fantastic with a gorgeous bite to it. And I say that as someone who happens to be a ginger beer connoisseur.

On with the experiment… well I was entitled to celebrate, wasn’t I? Ginger Ale next.

More vanilla vodka, poured over ice

… and topped up with ginger ale….

It was delicious. It was creamy and smooth with a gorgeous overlay of vanilla and a bright tang of ginger. very more-ish.

As to whether it tastes like a creamsicle or not, I have no idea. Whether I will do it again?  Yes, I definitely will.

Vanilla vodka is a winner whether you drink it neat, poured over lots of ice or add it to a mixer.

And to think it is as easy to make as that. Get some vanilla pods and a bottle of vodka and invent a reason to celebrate yourself!

Thanks, C & C… or, as it should be,  CHEERS!


One thing you should know about me is that I (obviously) come from a great family and there’s none more brilliant and inventive than my little brother. OK, so he’s not so little anymore and has family of his own now but I still think of him as my little brother.

He came up with this recipe and it has rocketed straight into the family collection of favourites. It is, in essence, loosely based on Nigella’s Ham in Coca Cola, from her book, “Nigella Bites”. In it Nigella cooks the ham in Coke then glazes it with black treacle and cloves. Problem is. we don’t really like Coke, cloves or treacle.

We do, however, absolutely adore ginger beer. So….. first get some gammon

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I always rinse the gammon because you never know how much salt has been added, and, quite frankly, if I just wanted to just taste a salted ham, well, I wouldn’t go to all this bother, would I?

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You’ll see a salty, fatty sort of scum on the water and then you’ll be glad you did it. Anyway, you want it to taste of ginger beer….lovely Old Jamaica Ginger Beer           

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You need to make sure there’s no plastic round the rolled joint – cut it off before you put the ham in the pan

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Then.. into the pan with it, and pour that lovely ginger beer over it. I slice the skin off some ginger root and add that as well to give it an extra gingery boost. I’ll be using the peeled ginger later in the glaze.

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 Lid on, heat up and bring it to a boil.   Then, let it simmer gently for an hour and a half or so, gently bubbling away with the ginger beer infusing the gammon.   Prod it with a sharp knife to see if it has some give to it. The actual simmering time depends on the size of the gammon so just check it now and then till you know it is done.

Get it out and put it on the board. Don’t throw the ginger beer out, you’ll need some of it later. Put the oven on now to get hot –  200 degrees  or thereabouts.

You can see that it is beautifully cooked and that all it needs now is a lovely glaze

Roasted pumpkin seeds 021 Carefully remove the rind, making sure you leave some of the fat on

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Remember you peeled the ginger? Grate that and smear that over the mustardy coating

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Then coat the whole lot with  sugar 

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Put it in a baking tin that you have lined either with tinfoil or a silicon sheet (this saves you hours of scrubbing afterwards) and add some of the ginger beer simmering liquid. Not much, maybe just enough to keep the base of the ham wet. This keeps the ham moist as you roast it on a relatively high heat to glaze it beautifully.    

After about ten minutes the sugar has melted and bubbled and gone beautifully brown and you have….

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Deeeeeeeelicious! Thanks Lil’ Brother!

Try it. It’s good, honest.