DIY or BUY: Apple Cinnamon Infused Bourbon

It’s all about the jars.

Photo credit: Mark Hardie, CC BY 2.0.

If you are a person who enjoys the occasional libation, there’s a point in your adult life at which you start to give and receive alcohol as gifts. I, as it turns out, only hit that milestone this year. For the entirety of my 20s I was in practice a teetotaler, but living abroad changed me profoundly. It made me the sort of person who would go on, see a recipe for apple and cinnamon-infused bourbon, and think, “Ah, that’s the stuff.”

It seemed so simple. Get a bunch of apples and a handful of cinnamon sticks, chuck ’em in a jar, pour some bourbon over the mess, leave it in your bedroom closet for two weeks, and presto chango, you’ve got a Christmas gift.

Trust the presto changos of life at your peril.

My first mistake was thinking I could get three gifts out of a single infusion. Seduced by cuteness, I bought a set of four eight-ounce jam jars (the fourth would be for some homemade vanilla extract, which is as uninteresting as it sounds), not really understanding how jam jars worked. That jam jar lids involve two pieces. That jars of any sort are a ridiculous way to gift alcohol and I should have just shelled out the cash for a bottle with clamp lids because, if one is going to ape a hipster, one should ape a first-rate hipster, right?

The jars aren’t merely ill-lidded. They’re also super tiny, which does not make them ideal for this-is-what-I-got-you-for-Christmas-and-that’s-it gifts. They are more third-night-of-Hanukkah-sized gifts. But are they third-night-of-Hanukkah-priced?

Well, that depends on if cutting up six apples drives you clean out of your head and you go to Target specifically to acquire an apple wedger as a form of self-soothing. It also depends on if you buy a chalk sticker set so you can illegibly write “bourbon” on the stickers that won’t stick to the jam jars anyway because the jam jars are too bumpy with those oh-so-cute glass fruits jutting out of the side. And it finally depends on if you think the jars also need a little ribbon to holiday them up a bit because there’s nothing particularly holiday about a jam jar with an amber liquid in it that, without a label that sticks, could quite easily be mistaken for you-should-get-that-checked-out urine.

If you buy all of those things, dear reader, such gifts are not third-night-of-Hanukkah-priced. But they are adorable. In fact, they end up looking like this.

So first time out I made poor choices, clearly, but the bourbon came out so deliciously I felt compelled to start over and try it again so you would know that not only can you make this very nice infused alcohol for actually almost zero effort, you can also do so affordably.

Here’s how: Although cored apple rings are prettier to look at than wedges, I don’t think making the former is either necessary or conducive to DIY sanity. So buy that frickin’ apple wedger if you don’t have it. Yes, it costs $10, but not only did the wedger reduce the pain and time of cutting apples by heaps, I now NEVER HAVE TO CUT UP AN APPLE AGAIN. When DIY projects give you an excuse to buy something that will make the rest of your life pure luxury, lean in and never look back. All that’s behind you are people trying to slice up Gala apples with their steak knives and cutting off their thumbs instead.

Next, go cheap on the bourbon. I selected the lowest-priced bourbon available ($14!) from my local alcohol merchant because ultimately the quality of the bourbon doesn’t much matter. The drink is going to taste like apples and cinnamon. Go for a nicer bourbon if you want, but try not to want.

As for cinnamon sticks, you may need to shop around. If you don’t care if your cinnamon sticks are organic or non-GMO, for crying out loud, don’t pay more. I initially shelled out over $7 for mine, went to a second location, and found store-brand sticks for $4.26. For $3 in savings, I wouldn’t care if my cinnamon sticks were half frog DNA, and neither should you. This is a gift. It’s not for us; it’s for people who need us to give them things to show them we care and we won’t forget about them when they die.

Just remember to count how many cinnamon sticks are in your container before you check out.

Another area where I course-corrected the second time around was, naturally, by not putting alcohol in containers designed for jam. Instead I purchased cute holiday-themed glass milk bottles, which were $2.39 each and 50% larger than their predecessors. Though this means getting two instead of three gifts out of the infusion, you’re actually better off. These bottles are less the size to give to the person who works three desks down from you whose name is either Marion or Miriam, but you couldn’t which tell to save your life, and more the size you give to your stepdad’s brother’s wife whom you see two to three times a year and who knitted you a really decent gray sweater last year that would actually fit if you lost a couple of pounds.

Finally, the best way to save money when making this infusion is to know someone who has a really big glass jar, because those things are not cheap. I was lucky. My mom had a dusty glass jar just sitting on my old dresser in her office closet (I know none of that made sense, but the truth rarely does) that I washed out and have used now twice for the infusions.

The cinnamon sticks are camera-shy, but I assure you they are in there.

So, DIY or BUY? Well, infused alcohols aren’t exactly available for purchase at your local package shop, so let’s just compare the price of the project to a decent bottle of bourbon (and you have to go decent when the recipient can actually read the bottle label), which should set you back around $30. Our infusions, on the other hand, when done right, will cost you (apples, cinnamon, bottles, and wedger) a mere $38 for two nice gifts. If you aren’t fortunate enough to already have a large glass jar, but you do already own the wedger, you will still be at a similar price point if you do a little switcheroo. If you have neither the large glass jar or the wedger? Then you will either have to pay more than this is really worth or cause yourself some anguish.

Because I cannot stress it enough: cutting up six apples in a row sucks. A lot. Do not do it FOR ANYONE. Meghan Markle, I’m talking to you now. A princesshood is not worth the nightmare of manually segmenting a half dozen apples.

Next week: A GNOME! I know. I can barely contain my excitement either…

Enjoy more of Kati Stevens here, here, here, and, I know, I know, this is madness, here.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.