This flavoured vodka, introduced to me by Gravetye Manor’s head gardener Tom Coward is the best I’ve ever tasted, because the flavour of the fruit is front and centre. Traditional recipes work by volume – one third alcohol, one third fruit and one third sugar. Tom’s does the same, the difference being that you don’t add the sugar until later, giving you the chance to taste as you add and stop at the point where the balance is just right for that particular fruit. This is a brilliant recipe to try if you only have a small amount of fruit to play with – just scale the quantities down accordingly. You could even make it in a jam jar. Once the vodka is ready, strain it, decant into bottles and keep it in the freezer.
Fruit, such as forced rhubarb, fresh currants, alpine strawberries or raspberries
Decent-quality vodka – the better the quality, the better the results
Caster sugar, to taste
Wash and pick over, trim or chop the fruit as needed (you can leave currants, alpine strawberries and raspberries whole).
Place the fruit in a warm, sterilised clip-top jar, then pour over vodka until you have equal layers of fruit and vodka.
Leave to steep or as long as it takes for the fruit flavour to seep out into the vodka – at least a week.
When you are happy that the vodka is fruity enough, add sugar, a little a time, shaking or stirring to dissolve, and tasting every now and again. Stop adding sugar when you’re happy with the balance.
Leave to stand for one month, upending the bottle every now and again, to make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved and the flavours melded. Strain through a muslin (cheesecloth)-lined funnel into warm, sterilised bottles, reserving the infused fruit to use to make a fool, or freeze them for another time.
Serve the vodka really, really cold – I like to store it in the freezer. It will keep for months.
Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.