So Vanilla.



Vanilla is one of those words that has become synonymous with unchallenging. Fin describes anything cream coloured as vanilla. Like magnolia paint, blonde wood, and Boden, vanilla describes the safe choice, the one that won't offend anyone - but won't set off any fireworks either. We happily dribble it into anything from banana smoothies, to carrot cake and chocolate bars - why I even saw Nigella tossing some into her mincemeat the other day with camp abandon. Because vanilla gives warmth and depth to so many flavours and can be added without fear of spoiling a dish, we sometimes forget that vanilla is a flavour all of its own, something unique and mysterious - multi layered.

Vanilla vodka is my eulogy to the delicious pod - a celebration of everything that is mellow and fragrant, sweet and powdery about the singular taste of vanilla. Because vanilla so often has its top notes smoothed away by something creamy, immersing the pods in vodka brings out a tinkling top range of bright notes that are easily missed in a dish with something heavier. Now you may wonder whether it is possible to taste the vanilla at all once your taste buds have been subjected to that 38% alcohol kick, but I promise you will!

Before even tasting the vodka, your nose detects a powdery Turkish delight aura, rising from the glass. Then alcohol burns your tongue a little and as it passes away, out comes an earthy, chocolaty, pudding cake flavour, giving way to raisiny fruit and a long round shortbready finish. Bear in mind that this is without sugar. We're used to tasting vanilla with lots of sweet swaddling and this is purity, un cloaked by sugar or honey.

If you're a fan of vanilla or vodka I urge you to try making this simple and elegant drink. Your vanilla martinis will kick those sugary liqueur based mass produced versions to the curb. Drink it long with sparkling water and a spoonful of honey for a very grown up cream soda. Or simply pour a shot into a pretty sherry glass and sip it slowly - just like I'm doing right now.

Vanilla Vodka (SCD)



Couldn't be more simple really. Buy some of the best vanilla pods you can afford - the kind that make you go weak at the knees when you open the packet. Add them whole to a bottle of vodka and leave to steep for about 3-4 weeks. Drink joyfully.

I used 4 large vanilla pods to 1.5 litres of vodka. When I took the pods out, I chopped them roughly and popped into a smallish jar, topped up with more vodka (or brandy would work) and left for another month or two. Hey presto, vanilla extract!

Use your palate to judge when the vodka has just the right amount of vanilla flavour. If you find it too dry then add a little honey to the bottle and shake every day until it dissolves - this will change the flavour substantially though, purists enjoy sans sweetener.