I have lived in this, for the most part, rural area of the Rocky Mountains now for six and a half years. It's charming and people are friendly, but at times I crave just a little anonymity. Just once I would like to walk into the grocery store without my neighbors checking out my stash (which is usually high in alcohol conent and Pringles). And speaking of alcohol, it sure would be nice to go out to a drinking establishment that requires a put-together outfit and doesn't involve a local wheat beer. No offense to wheat beers, but how rough and unrefined does a drink need to be?
This leads me to a pleasant memory of a great little cigar and martini bar in Indianapolis, Nicky Blaine's. (If you're in the area, http://www.nickyblaines.com/ ) In the good old days, I used to play a gig downtown, do to Nicky's, and then stumble home for a nightcap and some overly philosophical discussion on the future of the arts with random art-makers and musicians. Good atmosphere, great drinks, but most importantly, Nicky continues to provide me with inspiration amongst my beer-swilling bretheren.
In my mind, the highlight of NB's are the in-house, infused vodkas. Sure, you can purchase Absolut limon or orange and try not to imagine you're drinking window cleaner, but this place served the real deal--they flavored their own vodkas with real, edible ingredients, and the taste was remarkably different from the crap you could purchase in the liquor store. I thought it was pure genius at the time, but I have since realized that infusing your own vodka is the easiest thing to do; even rotgut will taste good after dumping some fruit in it. So, if you're isolated from hip bars like I am, or just too cheap to pay $10 for a martini (there's no shame in it), follow these simple guidelines:
For citrus flavored vodka: choose your fruit of choice (I always keep a bottle of lemon and a bottle of grapefruit at hand), chop fruit into small pieces. PEEL GRAPEFRUIT FIRST TO AVOID BITTERNESS. Fill a sealable container with half chopped fruit, half vodka (so, approximately one Texas ruby-red grapefruit for 1 Liter of vodka) and leave it out on your kitchen counter (out of the sun) for 1 week. Give it a good shake once daily to distribute juice. After one week, keep it in the freezer indefinitely (well, I've never kept it around for longer than 6 weeks, but this is my guess).
For stone fruits and berries, follow directions above, but limit the time on the counter to 3-4 days, depending on size of fruit chunks. For a quick dessert drink, add 1/4 cup sugar per liter with the fruit and you'll have a sweet liquor for after dinner.
Ever have leftover cranberry sauce in November that you are sick of eating? Infuse it into some vodka (add a little extra sugar to make sure it doesn't get bitter), drain before freezing, and you'll have a memorable homemade drink at your New Year's Eve party.
And seriously, forget your notions of "digestible" vodkas that cost an arm and a leg; the plastic bottle on the bottom shelf of your liquor store picks up the flavor at least as well as Grey Goose. And the fruit flavor is brilliant and real! No cleaning chemicals here!!