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Infused Booze

It's not hard to get your hands on a craft cocktail these days—one of those works of art with floral infusions, flamed orange peel, and at least two ingredients you've never heard of in the description. But they'll cost you, and I've run up quite a tab this year. Funnily enough, my 2013 New Year's resolution was to learn how to make a signature cocktail (read: something more alluring than a whiskey soda). With less than 20 days before 2014, I'm finally making good on my resolution.

I like to use flavored alcohol to customize seasonal drinks, but for me, the trouble with most store-bought options is the blatant artificial taste. I can't be the only one who doesn't like their cinnamon whiskey to taste like liquified Hot Tamales, right? The easy solution is a homemade infusion—a process as laborious as gathering ingredients and dumping them into a jar of liquor. Seriously. I'm actually angry at myself for not doing this sooner.

How to do it: Combine ingredients and alcohol in an air-tight jar and store in a cool, dark place. Infusion time depends on the ingredients you use and the amount of flavor you're hoping to achieve. Spicy items will only take a day or two while fruit can take up to a week. Shake your concoction a few times daily and taste often to track your infusion's progress. Once your infusion is ready, remove your ingredients and strain alcohol into another jar with a coffee filter.

Get started with these recipes: Anise Vodka: Vodka + star anise + anise seeds Lemon-Coriander Vodka: Vodka + crushed coriander seeds + slivered lemon peel Infused Rye Whiskey: Whiskey + vanilla bean + pear + sage Pumpkin Spice-Infused Vodka: Vodka + pumpkin + vanilla bean + nutmeg Bacon-Infused Bourbon: Bourbon + bacon grease

Over the upcoming holidays, I'll be sipping on apple cider with orange-spiced honey whiskey. The flame throwing and advanced mixology will have to wait until next year.