First off, let’s dispense with imitation vanilla — and when we say dispense with, we mean ‘throw in the trash.’ Not only does it taste as artificial as it is, it’s made from a chemical derived from wood pulp, and stored in the same chemical used in the antifreeze in your car.
Throw. It. Away.
Vanilla extract is something to behold. Real vanilla beans, steeped in neutral grain alcohol, with dozens of aromas and flavors melding into a flavor that can’t compare to anything. The scent alone can immediately transport you back to your grandmother’s kitchen and a fresh batch of cookies.
Wait…neutral grain alcohol? Well, yes, that’s what they typically use, so as not to interfere with the flavor of the vanilla itself. But what if you didn’t interfere — what if you accentuated?
That’s exactly what Kate Banks and Charlie Hammond of Vain Foods of Kansas City, Mo. did. By pairing the flavor profiles of vanilla beans from specific regions with different spirits, they created an assortment of extracts that can raise your baking game in amazing ways. Tahitian Vanilla in Cane Rum. Mexican Vanilla in Apple Brandy. Indian Vanilla in Ginger Spirits.
You can see why people rave about them.
But then they got really creative. They put the extract — some in Kentucky Bourbon and some in Irish Whiskey — in a bottle with an eye dropper. So you can more easily put a few drops in your morning coffee. Coffee Drops. How clever is that?
Available at Larder & Cupboard in assorted flavors, $14-15 for 3.75 ounces, and $8 for 2-ounce Coffee Drops.