Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Skittle Vodka

J here, with the promised write-up of our flavored vodka exploits. Let me start with a little disclaimer: This project in no way endorses consuming alcohol to excess. In fact, this very product has resulting in at least one case of cracked ribs that I'm aware of. Please, taste the rainbow responsibly.

That having been said, you want liquor that tastes like childhood, so let's do that.

You will need:
  • Skittles. A lot of Skittles. This small amount took over a pound. Scale up from there.
  • Vodka. A reasonable amount. I'll give the ratio in a bit, but the amount pictured above took approximately two full bottles of vodka.
  • Empty containers. I use two sets so I don't have to clean them in between filtration (so, 10)
  • Funnels. One or many. More is better.
  • Cheesecloth
  • Coffee filters
  • TIME. Skittle vodka takes a while to make. Be patient and don't drink it while making it.

Start by sorting your Skittles acccording to flavor. If you didn't, the drink would be a mouthfull-of-Skittles-flavor, and a grimy brown color. Not as much fun. "How many Skittles do I need, J?" Funny you should ask, dear reader. You need 10 Skittles per shot of vodka later, so do it that way. In an oddity of the candy world, Skittles weigh almost exactly one gram, so if you have a digital scale (and really, oughtn't you?) you can just pour Skittles into a cup until you hit 80 grams for 8 ounces (~240 mL) of vodka.

The Skittle flavor does take up space in the bottle. It varies a little by flavor, but about 10% of the volume of the final product is Skittle, so plan ahead when you pick containers. A twenty ounce bottle should not be used to make much more than a 150-gram Skittle/15 ounce of vodka batch. In a fit of madness years ago, we made a full 750 mL bottle of vodka for each flavor. The process was... intense. So, for our example, the final Skittle vodka volume is in the neighborhood of 9 ounces of product.

So, you have 80 Skittles and a cup of vodka. What do next? Pour them into an empty container. I use washed 20 oz. bottles, but you may need larger for your purposes. Give them a thorough shaking, note that the color comes off almost immediately, and then leave them alone for a few hours. Shake, observe, leave alone, repeat. It will take a whole night's worth of time to dissolve. There are suggestions online that putting the bottles through your dishwasher agitates them and heats the vodka and dissolves the candy faster, but my experience with that is you get a wet bottle of Skittle goop with a fused sugar mass in the bottom that takes even longer to dissolve. I just leave them over night.

Bam, raw Skittle vodka. Note that a good bit of a Skittle is wax and other solids that are good in candy and icky in drinks. We need to strain that off. I've experimented with different combinations of filters, and this time found my favorite so far: cheesecloth and coffee filters at the same time! Unfold about 15" of cheesecloth and fold it down to a five inch square (lots of layers). Lay this packet of cheesecloth in the center of a standard drip-style coffee filter. Place this in a large funnel:

I'm draining into the A & J standard 22-oz cup that we use for drinks, crafts, paint cups, sorting, and small trash cans. Anything notably larger than what you will pour at one time works fine. When pouring the raw Skittle slurry into the filter, aim for the middle. The cheesecloth layers trap the largest waxy bits and lets the vodka trickle through the filter to remove the last of the oily sheen that collects on top. In the olden times, we would triple-filter through multiple cheesecloth passes and coffee filters, but doubling them up like this results in a clean product in one pass.

This takes time. Pour some in up to the edge of the cheesecloth layer, preferably a few flavors at once, and then walk away. Let it do its thing. Decorate, paint something, watch your neighbors fight, whatever you do for fun. This is not something you can speed up. When you come back in a few minutes, pour in more, repeat. Once it is all in there, I pick up the whole bundle and squeeze out the last portion by hand, careful not to force hard enough that I rupture the coffee filter. This gets the last of the vodka through and isolates what I call Skittle curd:

You were gonna drink that in the raw version. No shot should have a head when poured. Granted, it's food safe and harmless enough in the candy, it just looks gross in a drink. Take a look down in the funnel when you remove the filter: Most of the crud gets through later in the process and floats, so you should have a good idea if it needs another pass through a coffee filter at the end.

Take your cleansed vodka and funnel it into your final containers. A and I make this stuff a few times a year, so we sprung for nice little growler-style bottles that hold about 9 ounces at a time. There are two things to keeep in mind with this stuff. 1) The purple color fades over time. I do not know why. Label it and add a drop or two of blue food coloring before an event if it has gone too red. It will eventually look just like the strawberry, so watch out for that. 2) According to my math, this stuff is about 72 proof, or ~36% alcohol, compared to vodka's usual 80. This is no sissy flavored liqeur (20%/40 proof), so do not treat it like one.

I have known a few people who have opted to "shoot the rainbow" and line up 5 shot glasses in color order. Note the disclaimer at the beginning of the article and then also note that I respect those people no less for their achievement.

For our party, our hostess made some labels for our growlers. Skittle vodka is best enjoyed cold, in either one ounce increments rapidly, or poured over ice and a mixer in the traditional vodka fashion. I like it too much to have experimented beyond these most obvious of options, so if you create an elaborate Skittle lime-mint-mojito business, you are obligated to let us know.

Make your own, enjoy it responsibly, and let us know how it goes for you. Just don't add to the cracked ribs total and we should all get along fine.

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