Making flavored liqueurs or liquor infusions is frugal and very easy, basically you just need a type of liquor such as vodka, and 1 or more types of flavoring. Infuse each flavor to suit your own preferences and if it ends up tasting too strong, you can always dilute it with additional liquor.
Here are some ideas of flavorings.
Fruit: Orange zest, lemon zest, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, apples, or sour cherries. Whole fruit should be sliced or smashed to allow the juices to escape. Leave the skin on for maximum flavor.
Herbs and spices: Vanilla beans, peppercorns, hot chiles, lemongrass, cinnamon sticks, whole coffee beans, thyme, basil, tarragon, rosemary.
Try combining a couple of different flavors in the same batch: such as apple-cinnamon, chile-lemongrass, lemon-tarragon, orange-cranberry, or raspberry-vanilla. Don't try to pack too many different things into one bottle as flavors will get muddled.
Once you've chosen your flavorings, simply combine them with inexpensive vodka. There eis no reason to use expensive brands.
- Put flavorings right into the liquor, or any glass jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid.
- Keep the container in a dark place and leave it at room temperature.
- Depending on the strength of the flavorings, they will need to steep for anywhere from a day to a few weeks. Most fruit needs a full two to four weeks for all the flavor to be transferred to the alcohol, however chiles and most fresh spices only need a couple of days.
- Smell and taste to decide when it is ready.
If you've used smashed fruit, the infusion is now going to have bits of sediment in the bottom. To get rid of it, line a strainer with a coffee filter and slowly pour the liquor through.
When sweetening your liqueur, make a simple syrup of two parts sugar to one part water. Combine in a saucepan and simmer on the stove until the sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and then sweeten the infusion to taste. Once a liqueur has been sweetened, most of them taste better after they've had a chance to "age" for a month or so. Aging allows the flavors to blend.
Any homemade liqueur can be substituted in a traditional cocktail with wonderful results. Make amazing tasting martinis with your infused vodkas, or try inventing your own drinks.
For fun and festive cocktail party ideas, see http://www.delish.com/entertaining-ideas/parties/cocktail-parties/