Our December issue contains a bunch of DIY edible presents offered up by F&W staffers. The gift list runs from savory to sweet and every excellent recipe was given from the heart (aww…)

Except one, perhaps: my own. My original idea was to create a recipe for ersatz aquavit  (mockuavit?), a vodkalike spirit flavored with caraway and favored by my Scandinavian kindred. But the affably stubborn Emily Kaiser convinced me to create homemade gin instead, in part because “gin is so hot right now” (though I’d argue that aquavit is staging a comeback) and it could also be paired with Marcia Kiesel’s own cocktail onions for that much-needed holiday Gibson.

Fair enough. So I read up on infusion methods (since it’s illegal—and dangerous!—to distill spirits without a permit, and I’d never do anything illegal or dangerous) and consulted a few guys who make booze for a living. I decided on a method that involves making a concentrated, gin-flavored infusion (“essence”), then cutting it with the most neutral spirit I could find: vodka. Dozens of experiments and hooch-filled Mason jars later, I had made a “gin” decent enough to win a martini and G&T taste-off against some popular brands. (Though tasted on its own, my gin—with its light amber hue and astringent edge, two things that (illegal!) distillation would fix—was easily fingered in the lineup).