For sipping or mixing in cocktails, namely Bloody Marys and martinis, vodka infused with roasted green chiles has an unforgettable smoky herbie flavor.
For years before moving to the Southwest I knew of only two green peppers. Green bell and jalapeno. The chile peppers for this recipe are the pride and darlings of the Southwest with names like New Mexican, Hatch, Anaheim, Big Jim. They are about the size and shape of bananas. Mild, medium, hot or extra hot. Your choice. I prefer mild or medium for this recipe.
roasted green chiles chile roasting drum
They need to be roasted first to create that distinctive smoky flavor. I char mine on an electric stovetop with my stovetop grill. You can also use the flames of a gas stovetop, a bbq grill or oven broiler. During chile season in the Southwest (mid-August through September) people have one of the quadrillion drum roasting vendors flame-roll a big batch all at once. Then we freeze them in baggies to thaw and use. Whichever method, you want nice blistered blackened chiles with some green still showing, but not burned.
Roasting also makes it easy to remove the skins. I cut off the stems and remove the seeds, too. Although I like to leave some seeds in there, and inevitably there will be some char bits and that’s fine. I’ve never infused with the skins on because I’ve heard that can result in a bitter taste. If anyone knows differently, please share. (Update: yes! you can infuse with the skins on and it’s charry delicious.)
I generally choose a medium quality vodka. With cheap brands, even charred chiles can’t hide that telltale sinus clearing alcohol bite. For me, infusing a pricey vodka is for special occasions and sipping, not for mixing cocktails.
My formula is 2 cups vodka to 4 chiles. Some people infuse for a week but I find that the more time you give, it just gets better and smoother. I would suggest no less than four weeks. Two months even better. I store it in my refrigerator door so I’ll see it and be reminded to turn and shake it every few days. If I were to forget about it for several months it would be fine, if not more amazing.
I don’t mind little black flecks and pieces of green floating in my glass, they’re tokens of my beloved chiles. If you like a cleaner look, strain it through a sieve or coffee filter.
You may be asking “How did you get the pieces of chile out of the top of that bottle?” Great question. Use a glass jar or bottle with a large opening or you’ll need a set of chopsticks to pry them out as I did. This bottle had a nice shape with a wooden stopper, I’d forgotten about getting them out. Be sure to save them for mixing or blending into Bloody Marys, and Dirty Green Chile Martinis.
There is something about a good green chile infused vodka that gives me that chilly Santa Fe evening with Mr.D by a kiva fireplace feeling. When you take that first sip and place a piece of saturated chile on your tongue, that’s a hello from the Southwest warming you up.
Note about Infused Tequila: Tequila infused with green chile also has a wonderful unmistakable flavor. I use the same formula of 2 cups liquor to 4 chiles, and prefer the clean bright taste of silver tequila. Reposado (aged) or anejo (ultra aged), absolutely fine.