How to Infuse Vodka, Bourbon, Brandy and Gin
It's surprisingly easy to make infused vodka and other liquors at home.
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Walk through any grocery store liquor department and you’ll find all sorts of flavored vodkas, whiskeys, brandies and more ready for all sorts of over-the-top cocktails. While it’s tempting to stock up on some of these intriguing flavors, your bar cart can’t hold them all! To get these great flavors without stuffing your liquor cabinet full, how to infuse vodka and other liquors yourself.
The Basics of Infusing Spirits
The process for how to infuse vodka (or any other spirit) couldn’t be easier. It only takes a bit of planning to infuse spirits with all kinds of ingredients:
- Sliced fruit and vegetables like oranges, strawberries and cucumbers
- Whole spices like peppercorns, cinnamon sticks or cloves
- Fresh herbs like rosemary, lavender and thyme
- Extracts, flavorings or syrups, like real vanilla extract or loose-leaf tea
Then, use this fun DIY project as a thoughtful gift for family and friends—or stock your home bar!
How to Infuse Vodka and Other Spirits
- Your chosen herbs, spices, vegetables or fruits
- 750mL vodka or another spirit
- 1-2 tablespoons superfine sugar, optional
Editor’s Tip: If you’re nervous, start with vodka. It’s a nearly tasteless base to play with.
Tools You’ll Need
Step 1: Grab a container
To start, grab a Mason jar, the liquor of your choosing and all the accompanying flavor enhancers. (Unsure of what flavors to use? Keep reading for some great combinations below.)
Step 2: Combine your ingredients
Place all of the flavor-enhancing ingredients in the jar. Then, cover ingredients completely with your liquor. Once submerged, seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dry place.
Step 3: Wait—and taste, taste, taste
Depending on the combination of ingredients, the infusion may only need to sit for only half a day; this is a good rule of thumb for extra spicy or pungent ingredients.
For fruits and vegetable infusions, feel free to wait a bit longer and start checking after a few days.
Smell and taste, as needed, to check. The more you experiment, you’ll learn some of the tell-tale signs. For example, strawberries lose their color once the infusion is complete, while the pulp in citrus fruit will start to break down.
If the flavor isn’t there yet, no problem. Just seal the jar back up and check it again later. Whatever flavors you decide to create, your infusion should be ready within a month, at most.
Step 4: Strain
Once the flavor has developed to your liking, strain the contents of the container. Use a double layer of cheesecloth or line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth to make sure all sediment is removed.
Strain the finished spirits into a clean container.
Step 5: Bottle
Use a funnel to portion the spirits into your Mason jars or signature bottles. Once full, seal tightly and beautifully label each bottle with its flavor and key ingredients.
As with other liquor, store bottles in a cool, dark, dry place. Your infusion should last indefinitely, but hopefully, your flavors will be so good, it will barely have a shelf life!
Tips for Infusing Vodka
Pick flavorful ingredients
As you probably know, high-quality ingredients—especially in a simple recipe—make all the difference in the final product. Your herbs, spices, vegetables or fruits need to be at their peak of flavor and freshness. For example, you want the firmest, most aromatic cinnamon stick you can find, not an older cinnamon stick that resembles a twig.
Then, make sure you thoroughly wash the ingredients. No need to rinse cloves, of course, but it’s a good idea to rinse fruits and fresh herbs.
Select a high-quality liquor
Whether it’s vodka, bourbon, brandy or gin, you want a spirit that is drinkable as a standalone so the additional flavors are complements, not meant to cover or “fix” the taste a cheap version could present.
To find the right spirits, taste test a few small bottles and decide what liquors present a smooth, delicious mouthfeel, as well as lingering taste. (Check out our guide on the best vodkas for every occasion!)
Use the right container
The key is to use a vessel that has a large opening and a secure sealing cap/lid. Make sure it’s big enough to hold plenty of add-ins and a sufficient amount of liquid to make the endeavor worthwhile. You want at least a quart or larger, though I personally prefer two quarts or larger.
If you are out of large Mason jars at home, take a look online for local sales or check out World Market.
Flavor Combinations We Love
Look for good-quality vodka that’s smooth and virtually tasteless to provide a wonderful backdrop against which your flavors can shine.
- Strawberry: Mix this with lemonade for a summer drink perfect for patio weather.
- Pickle vodka: This is really tasty in a Bloody Mary!
- Lemon vodka: Tart and refreshing on its own and delicious in Martinis and more.
Bourbon and Whiskey
Bourbon and whiskey often have lovely notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, honey or even brown sugar. Play upon its natural elements and enhance the flavors with these combos:
- Apples and cinnamon: Craving a drink that tastes like fall? This is the combo you’ve been waiting for.
- Orange peel: Orange and bourbon are a great duo. Steep orange peels in bourbon and add extra warming spices like cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg.
- Vanilla: Wondering what to do with the vanilla bean pods leftover from your recipe? Use them to flavor your favorite spirit.
- Cranberry: This is a great sipper around the holidays. Start a batch early in the fall and enjoy over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Brandy is also a phenomenal liquor to warm up with on winter nights. It’s also what Wisconsinites love in their version of an Old Fashioned.
- Tart cherry: Steep dried cherries in brandy for a mix that’ll go perfect in any Old Fashioned.
- Apple: While apple brandy is a liqueur all on its own, you can make your own version with whatever type of apples you like best.
Let’s talk gin. Made with juniper berries, gin has a distinct pine scent and flavor. Build upon this note with more botanicals and fresh produce.
- Cucumber: Fresh cucumber and crisp gin is a match made in heaven. Use it in a Cucumber Gin Smash for extra crisp flavor.
- Lemon: Give your Tom Collins a citrusy head start by infusing lemon peel with your go-to gin.
- Rosemary or thyme: Try a gin martini infused with herbs.
How to Sip Your Infused Spirits
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Keep in mind that infusions are bursting with flavor, thanks to your hard work. Serve your spirits in any of these classic ways:
- Neat (from the bottle right into your glass)
- Straight up (shaken with ice, poured into a glass, like a martini)
- On the rocks (on ice)
- Mixed with soda or tonic water
Cheers, newly-minted mixologist! Go forth, have fun and create delicious infusions to share with the ones you love.