I dig a good cocktail. It’s a great transition from work to play, it’s an expression of new and classic tastes, and it adds celebration and class to the otherwise mundane act of putting toxins in our bodies. Alcohol is an incredibly huge industry in the United States, and although we might not think of it that way, it does quite a bit for our economy and stability. The best part about it is that it comes in so many different forms, and that means that it is sure to continue flourishing as an enterprise. There are, of course, a terrible amount of drawbacks about it, but we’re usually too tipsy to worry about those. I should say here, before going any further, that if you do partake in drinking, please do so responsibly.
In the world of spirits, the continent of liquor (my hometown, as it were) is really a very basic thing: grain alcohol distilled from a fermented base product that’s thrown into some special vessel, often with some other ingredients for taste. Bourbon basically comes down to boiling corn, adding yeast, removing the waste and then putting it in wooden barrels so it tastes good. Once you have the grain alcohol, the process of making it taste good is really the challenge, and the fun of enjoying spirits. If you’ve ever tasted untreated moonshine, you’d know why that process is so important.
This month I will be turning to a pastime of my own and attempting to envision it as something much larger than it is. That pasttime is infusing vodka. Now, vodka is a bit of an exception to the rule in terms of spirits, in that it is most often prized for being as clear as possible, achieving this through several filtration and distillation processes. Vodka connoisseurs would be aghast if I were to say that they actually attempt to remove the flavor from their spirit, but for the most part it is as neutral an alcoholic beverage as you’ll find. With that understanding, it has a very wide scope of possibilities for imparting flavor, though I should certainly state that fine vodkas taken neat are a true delight on their own.
I began infusing vodkas several years ago, in long batches, with different ingredients, and often with unpleasant results. I recognized that commercial vodka producers had made a push for “flavored” vodkas around that time, and after tasting some of them I felt a little let down. They tasted unnatural and forced to me, and the real soul to a flavored vodka might better come across if it tasted more real. The way the commercial producers went about this push was clearly for sales, leaning on the versatility of their spirit to have a customer choose not one bottle of the standard clear stuff, but to “class it up” with … apple flavoring. I was skeptical.
About two years have gone by and I’ve tried everything from nutmeg and rhubarb all the way to my own (hopefully more natural) apple flavorings. I’ve gotten a handle an amounts, length of time to rest the infusion, and what to do with it after it’s done. This month, I’m going to envision this pastime as real business, and though I use standard clear vodkas as my base, this business would clearly be distilling their own product, and infusing them with their own materials. I’m calling this company Fuse for its simplicity, it’s relevance and hopefully its pleasing tone. One of the things I’ve loved most about my concoctions is how natural and fresh they taste to me. I attempt to seek out rich and real foods and flavors, unique and underestimated combinations, and then spring them into something truly characteristic in their final forms as cocktails. A common final product, however, is when the infusion is complete, it often needs very little more than ice and a fancy glass to make it a delightful beverage.
Though my pastime is more of the client than any real, or fictional person, I’ll still be in the world of make-believe, where Fuse is a company that has hired me to brand their product. They’ll eventually expect packaging ideas, a logo or mark of some kind, and probably promotional materials by the end. They’ve got a lot to say about what makes Fuse a delicious experience, and although their descriptions are a tad bit slurred, they’ve summed up their identity with these five words:
It almost sounds as if they’re selling water, which is funny because that’s in the etymology for the word vodka in the first place. It’s certainly not water though with an identity that is unexpected, but putting antonyms in a brand list is going to make for something interesting hopefully. So, off I go to pour ideas into my head for a month and see if the liquor of design comes out sweeter on the other side.
Photo of apple fall cocktail by Martha Williams