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How to turn leftover sweets into a boozy infused treat

<span>Photograph: Tom Hunt/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tom Hunt/The Guardian

There’s no sweet or candy that’s too sugary, sour, colourful or flavoursome to infuse with vodka, so if you’ve ever got a half-eaten packet of marshmallows, toffee or jelly beans, say, try infusing them with a spirit and turn them into a homemade, candy-infused drink. Once bottled, they make a great gift, and are perfect for a secret Santa or dinner party present.

In fact, all sorts of store-cupboard ingredients infuse well with spirits, too. I’ve had a jar of stem ginger in sweet syrup sitting at the back of the cupboard for a couple of years now, well out of date and without any discernible use, so I mixed it with vodka and a spent vanilla pod, and was surprised by how delicious the result was, both neat and super-cold from the freezer and mixed with soda, ice and a wedge of lime. I’ve also recently made marshmallow vodka to use up a packet of deflated and slightly crusty marshmallows.

Sweet-infused vodka

I really don’t like sweet cocktails, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this infused vodka really quite palatable, either cold from the freezer or mixed with soda and a wedge of lime. But maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, because most cocktails need a little sugar to balance out the flavours.

Excess sweets aren’t a commonplace waste product, admittedly, but it’s easy to build up a surfeit at Christmas, especially if you have a house full of children. Any sweet, candy or chocolate will work; in fact, defunct sweets such as whitened chocolate, moist rhubarb and custard, bonbons and gnarly old marshmallows are the perfect ingredient for an infused vodka.

Here are a few guidelines to ensure you get the best results. There’s no need to use a high-quality alcohol, because the crude additives in most sweets will taint any subtleties of flavour. Stick to one type of sweet per batch, so you don’t muddle the flavours. Some sweets will dissolve entirely into the spirit, but others won’t, so strain them out and serve as delicious little alcoholic sweets – I’m planning on coating the stem ginger I used to infuse my vodka in chocolate, and turn it into boozy truffles.

50-200g sweets – for example stem ginger, toffee, marshmallows
Optional spices – vanilla, star anise, cloves, etc – all to taste
75cl vodka, or another spirit (tequila, brandy or grappa, say)

Tip the sweets into a large glass bottle or jar (or a range of small reclaimed bottles and jars). Add any spice you think will work as a flavour combination, if you like, Then pour in the vodka to cover. Seal with a lid and leave to infuse for at least 24 hours. Check the flavour every day until you are happy with it, then store in the freezer, where it will keep for up to a year. Serve neat and super-cold or mix into a cocktail.