Cleaning with Vodka

Mrs. NH and I are expecting the 4th member of our family in February.  The lead up to that occasion has caused me to reflect on some of the ways our life changed way back when were expecting Little NH a few years ago.  I remember the biggest bummer for me was that I had to take a more active role in house cleaning.  Mopping floors was a more physical activity that Mrs. NH convinced me wasn’t advisable in late pregnancy.  That I could handle.  But I also had to switch from Mr. Clean, Ajax and 409 to vinegar, baking soda and vodka.  Well, maybe the vodka wasn’t that much of a stretch.  But I preferred it in a glass, not on a sponge.

The reason we did it didn’t have anything to do with the environment.  Instead, it’s the feeling you get on your hands after scrubbing a counter with 409.  I don’t know about you but after using that stuff I always washed my hands.  With vodka, I don’t have to.  Yeah, I may smell like a martini but some of you know that’s commonplace anyway.  I’m not as big of a fan of using vinegar but Mrs. NH uses it all the time to clean fruit and vegetables.  Finally, I’m struck by how well baking soda works on a dirty tub.  It requires no more elbow grease than Ajax and you don’t end up smelling like a pool after you use it.

Sure, I’m sure our mom’s did plenty when we were in the womb that didn’t totally deform us.  But if stuff works this well and is considerably cheaper, why shouldn’t we use it.  Not to mention, if some sort of natural catastrophe hits, you’re going to have a hard time pickling anything in Mr. Clean, much less kicking back with a tumbler of 409.

Vodka on Ice

It has been below freezing for several weeks now in the Czech Republic.  It is becoming demoralizing as the days progress and the forecast calls for highs in the 20’s and “snow flurries.”  My serotonin levels are bottoming out and the once snowy sidewalks have become a continuous network of cobble-stone and black-ice death traps as I make my way to the metro in the morning.  But as the old adage goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  For the purpose of this post, I’ve modified that to, “When Central European weather fronts give you freezing-ass temps and crusty piles snow, chill your vodka.”  Beat’s whining about it, doesn’t it?

Here’s the view from my living room on to my balcony:

Rhubarb Infused Vodka

The rhubarb infusing with the vodka.  By the time it was finished, the rhubarb was colorless and the vodka, bright pink.
The rhubarb infusing with the vodka. By the time it was finished, the rhubarb was colorless and the vodka, bright pink.

My fascination with rhubarb continues. I decided to take it a step further by infusing about 1 liter of mid-level Smirnoff vodka with about three stalks of rhubarb sliced three times lengthwise and cut into thirds. I had read all sorts of different theories on how to best infuse vodka but one thing that stood out was exposing the spirit to as much surface area of the item doing the infusing and to stir and test regularly to avoid over-flavoring. My concoction was done in about 6 hours. By the time friends came over for dinner, the vodka had leeched all of the pink out of the rhubarb and the liquid was now a bright rose color. The flavor helped to mellow the vodka and the bite of the spirit mixed perfectly with the tartness of the rhubarb.

Now, with a beautifully successful pink infusion on my hands, I needed to invent a perfect drink. I came up with an iced vanilla-rhubarb vodkatini. The recipe is simple: 2 parts rhubarb vodka, 1 part Absolut vanilla vodka poured over lots of ice and garnished with a raw flared stalk of rhubarb. Beautiful. Not at all sweet but rich, fruity and floral. Our guests agreed.

On the heels of this success, I just started a batch of ginger infused vodka. This should be excellent mixed with a little seltzer and maybe a squeeze of lime. I’ll keep you posted…