Vegan Hazelnut Nougat Vodka

Not wanting to be left out from the fun of Mars Bar Vodka I instead tried hazelnut nougat vodka earlier this year. The result was an instant success, so I tried a larger batch. This time however I scrimped and used standard dark chocolate to bulk it out, which once finished I thoroughly regretted - I now have a litre of quite bitter dark tasting chocolate vodka.

Thus today I made another batch of the 'good stuff'. It's easy to make and is the only recipe I've found so far that uses a dishwasher.

Using an air tight jar in dishwasher without detergent keeps the mixture hot but below boiling point for 2 hours, which seriously speeds up a process that would otherwise either involve a bain-marie and weeks of shaking.

I used Smirnoff Blue Vodka, which I bought back when it was certified vegan. I'm not sure it still is though, I remember seeing an email floating round forums a while back saying that Smirnoff no longer state whether their products are vegan or not.

Tear up hazelnut nougat bars (I used 7) and put into a dishwasher safe air-tight preserving jar. Pour in enough vodka such that it just covers them.

Close up and place in an empty dishwasher without detergent on the top shelf and put on a hot (but not boiling) cycle.

Open the door a couple of times during the cycle, take out and give a vigorous shake. When complete allow to cool and strain into a bottle. It should keep (given the high alcohol content) for a few months.

Tastes great blended with vanilla icecream and white chocolate syrup (add soya milk to taste if too strong).

Vegan White Chocolate Syrup

After discovering that Routin 1883 white chocolate syrup is vegan a few months back we've managed to get through a whole litre of it. White chocolate syrup is great in (ice)cream cocktails, but £6 a bottle (exc postage) is a little steep.

I waited years for vegan white chocolate to come available in the UK (in the meantime conducting several experiments with cocoa butter, which whilst resulting in some great white chocolate massage bars wasn't overly edible) and when it did (Organica) was quite disappointed.

The new Dairy Free White Chocolate Buttons in supermarkets are both a lot nicer and cheaper than Organica. Thus I decided to have a go at making some white chocolate syrup myself to save on cost.

The results are pretty good, and worth blogging.

It should be noted that this doesn't create a litre of liquid that tastes like melted white chocolate, it tastes like syrup (i.e. mega sweet) with white chocolate flavour in. It should be used as an ingredient not drunk neat and should be used sparingly!

  • 275g white sugar
  • 600ml boiling water
  • 150g white chocolate, broken up

Simple - put all ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil whilst stirring. Immediately take off the heat and stir until disolved. Decant into a clean bottle and allow to cool. Should keep for several months in a cool place. Some of the chocolate may start to solidify if kept in the fridge.

Christmas Vodka

It's not too late too start off a batch of Xmas Vodka. The longer you leave it the better, but 1 month should be enough.

I've made this a few times now and the process is very simple. Mix in an infusing jar:
  • 1 litre vodka
  • 4 cups cranberries, pricked
  • 2 sticks of cracked cinamon bark
  • 2 cracked nutmegs
  • 20 cloves
  • 2 tsp corander seeds
  • 4 inches of split vanilla bean
  • 220g castor sugar
The taste of the vodka you use will be present in the finished product, so use a medium quality vodka rather than cheap and nasty stuff. If the cranberries have been frozen they should be thawed first. The exact combination of spice you use is up to you.

Close and shake the jar for several minutes, then each day during the first 2 weeks violently for a few seconds.

The end result is sweet, dark red, alcoholic and like Christmas in both taste and smell. It can be drunk neat, but is better in cocktails; giving a Christmas taste in place of regular vodka. Mix it with red vermouth (such as Nolly Prat; Martini is not vegan), Cointreau and orange juice for a mulled wine cocktail.

Vegan Baileys

Baileys is (according to their website) a combination of Irish whisky (produced from whey), cream, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, caramel and a vegetable oil based agent to prevent separation in storage.

There's no absence of recipes on-line for Baileys, however almost all contain ingredients not in the original, such as condensed milk, eggs, coffee, coconut milk, rum, kahlua, Scotch whisky, American whiskey and vodka. Whilst (some) may be great tasting drinks in their own right, their accuracy must surely be questioned - despite popular misconception Baileys is not a coffee based liqueur.

Unimpressed by recipes that I've tried (really I should have known better than to even try the coconut milk version), I have in my latest attempt gone back to basics and produced something from the actual ingredients (or as close to as possible), with Jameson's Irish whisky (produced from grain not whey) and Alpro fresh soya cream in place of dairy cream (as it's by far the closest I've found in taste and consistency).

The quantities of each ingredient isn't specified by Baileys, however the finished product is 17% alcohol by volume, which means that it must contain 38.6% whisky (if information from Wikipedia that 44% alcohol by volume whisky is used).

Using this knowledge and mixing 1 shot whisky, 1 shot cream and 1/2 shot cocoa-glucose syrup gives a drink that is far more like how I remember the original than anything else I've tried.
It's not right though - too chocolaty and not smooth enough, with a harsh alcoholic after-taste that some might like but would certainly put your average Baileys drinker off.

After a few attempts using part cocoa-glucose syrup, part simple syrup, a few drops of vanilla and varying the quantities I found what seems to be the closest to the original I've ever tasted:
  • 1 shot Jamesons
  • 1/3 shot chocolate syrup
  • 2/3 shot simple sugar syrup
  • 2 drops bourbon vanilla
  • 1.5-2 shots alpro cream
I wouldn't like to claim it's a 100% reproduction of the original, as both my lovely assistant's memory and mine are probably slightly off. I'm also well aware that all alcoholic drinks taste better the more you sample! It is though honestly pretty good.

I used simple syrup purely as it's what I had to hand - we always keep a bottle made up in the fridge for emergency mojitos. I think it may be worth making syrup up for the purpose, using water, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in appropriate quantities for a more accurate taste.

I'm looking forward to trying it out in some cocktails / food. As it's Christmas the first cocktail that I tried was:
  • 2 shots 'baileys'
  • 1 generous scoop vanilla soy ice cream
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
The cinnamon in it really works! It was a creamy, smooth, luscious consistency which went down very well drunk with some heated home-made mince pies and custard:

I'm excited by this as it means I can now start playing with cocktails and recipes that call for it, which for the past 10 years I've not been able to try. Kahlua is one of my favourite liqueurs, but Baileys it isn't.