Vodka is my favorite liquor because it’s so versatile (and because APPLETINIS!!!) But seriously, it doesn’t have it’s own super strong flavor so it mixes well with pretty much anything without making it “taste” like alcohol. Maybe I’m weird but I don’t actually like the taste of alcohol. I split drinks into “tastes like alcohol” and “doesn’t taste like alcohol”, and the latter is basically malt liquor, most things made with fruity liqueurs, and of course, most things made with vodka. And non-alcoholic drinks. Of course.
Suffice it to say, vodka holds a special place in my heart 🙂
So I was super excited when I found out how easy it is to make delicious, flavored vodka simply by infusing regular, boring vodka!
Infusing your own vodka is very easy, but it does take a little while so it’s not the greatest last minute project. If you absolutely MUST have blackberry vodka tonight you’re better off going to the liquor store and buying some. But if you can wait 4-7 days then this is the project for you!
And, to make this project even cooler, you can infuse vodka with anything. That’s right, any flavor you want! You can make berry vodka, apple vodka, orange vodka, or go with spices and make cinnamon or vanilla vodka. Or if you want to get really crazy you can make black pepper vodka, garlic vodka, or chile pepper vodka. Or if you’re really creative you can make orange-black pepper vodka, or apple-cinnamon vodka; the possibilities are endless!!!
Here’s what you need:
- whatever you want to use for flavoring
- airtight glass container(s) (this is important, glass AND airtight)
- fine mesh strainer/colander
I reused two tiny Schweppes bottles for the infusing part, and then used two fancier swing-top bottles for storing the finished vodka, but you can use the same container for both if you want.
The first step is simple; pour vodka into a glass container and add whatever you are using for flavoring (I used raspberries in one and blackberries in the other). Close up your container and let it sit; that’s it for Step One!
Ok fine, I’ll elaborate a bit…I wasn’t lying when I said all you do is stick vodka and some “flavor” in a container and seal it up, but there are a few tips and tricks I can share. 🙂
- Don’t use cheap vodka. If you just went “Pssh, whatever, I drink cheap vodka all the time and it’s fine”, I’m not kidding here! Cheap vodka might be fine when it’s plain, but when you infuse it with flavor the “cheap vodka” bite will NOT sit well with whatever flavor you’ve infused. Do yourself a favor and spend at least $20 on a 750 (Absolut, Stoli, or better), you’ll thank me later.
- Make whatever flavor you want. The reason I didn’t give you an exact ratio of flavor to vodka is because it depends on what you are using for flavor and how strong you want your vodka. Here are a few general guidelines (per 750ml of vodka):
- Berries: Use about 3-4 handfuls of berries
- Fruits/Veggies: It depends on which fruit or vegetable, but use 1 if it’s large (like a grapefruit), 2 if they’re medium sized (like oranges or large apples), and 3 or 4 if they’re small (like plums or apricots).
- Herbs/Spices/Pepper: Use 1-2 fistfuls (assuming you’re using fresh herbs). This also depends on the strength of the herb. Just use your judgement (and make sure you taste test every day while it’s infusing). If you use dried herbs or spices, cut the amount in half.
- Make whatever strength you want. The strength of your finished vodka depends on two things: how much of your flavor you added, and more importantly, how long you let it sit. Less flavor and shorter infusing time means a lighter flavor. At least 3 days of infusing time is a good rule of thumb, but if you want to be more accurate just take a little taste each day and stop whenever it’s where you want it.
- For the flavor, it’s all about surface area. Whatever it is you use for flavor, the important thing is that it has a lot of exposed surface area so more flavoring can seep out. Meaning if you want apple vodka, don’t just stick a whole apple in a jug and fill it with vodka. But don’t puree the apple before adding it to the vodka either. You want somewhere in the middle, like fruit salad sized chunks. Berries and herbs can just go in whole if you want. Maybe not strawberries though…as a rule of thumb, slice anything that won’t fit whole into the mouth of a 750 🙂
So, back to step one again. Once you have chosen a flavor and figured out how much of it you’re going to use, put it into your container and add your vodka.
Pro tip: If you can get your flavoring small enough, you can just stick it in the glass bottle your vodka came in! (It did come in glass, right? You didn’t ignore the warning about cheap vodka, did you?)
Close up your container so it’s airtight and put it somewhere cool (room temperature is fine) and out of the sun.
In general you should let your vodka sit for at least 3 days. We let ours sit for 7 and it was AMAZING! This part all depends on how strong your original berries/herbs/spices/whatevers are, how strong you want your finished vodka to be, and how patient you are.
Every day you need to stir or shake up your vodka to make sure all the flavor doesn’t just sit at the bottom. We just shook ours each day, but if you’re using a bigger container you can take the lid off and stir. Taking the lid off also gives you a good excuse to taste it and see how it’s progressing!
The picture above is from the next day (Day 2). You can already see how the vodka is turning colors and some of the berries are getting lighter.
By Day 3 the vodka had definitely leeched a good amount of color out of the berries. They were getting whiter and the vodka was getting darker. The berries had also swollen up a fair bit because of all the vodka they had soaked up; the berries take up about an inch more room in this picture than in the first one.
Once you’re satisfied with the strength of your vodka’s new flavor you need to strain out whatever you used for flavoring. I used the gold metal coffee filter that came with our coffee machine. You can use a strainer or colander or cheesecloth or whatever you have handy as long as it’s fine enough to strain out whatever bits you don’t want.
Look at how white those raspberries got! That isn’t a trick of the light or anything, those suckers were albino!
Another pro tip: If you had to force your flavoring into your container of vodka in the first place, it’s going to be even harder to get back out at this point! Some of our berries needed some very slight…persuading to get into the bottles on the first day, and at the time I didn’t think of how much they would swell. So I actually had to use the handle of a spoon and sort of “smush” the berries against the side of the bottle and drag them out. It was a pain and I don’t recommend it.
Just make sure you cut your pieces small enough to fit through the opening of your bottle with room to spare! Or make sure you use a bottle you don’t want to keep later. I could have just tossed the whole thing, berries and all, once I poured out the vodka, but I wanted to keep the little bottles. Cuz, little glass bottles! With lids! …don’t laugh…
So, pour your vodka out through your strainer into some sort of temporary container. It’s easier to use a bowl or something temporary here in case you want to strain it a second time before putting it into its final container. I wanted to get every last drop of vodka back from the berries that had soaked it all up, so I used the back of a spoon and smushed all the juice out of the berries through the strainer.
A third pro tip: You might be thinking “Hmm, these berries look delicious, and they’ve been soaking in vodka! I should maybe eat a few!” Well don’t. Please please don’t. They’re gross. Think about it this way…what has been going on for the past week? That’s right, the vodka has been leeching ALL OF THE FLAVOR out of your berries. You now have raspberry vodka and slightly alcoholic shells of what were once raspberries. Blech.
Try them if you don’t believe me, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Then just pour your flavored vodka back into the container and close it up! You now have delicious delicious vodka, perfect for mixing or drinking straight.
A fourth pro tip: (Man I’m just full of these today!) Don’t freeze your infused vodka. Just stick it in the fridge if you want it cold, or it’s perfectly fine to just leave it out if you’d rather it be room temperature. If you put it in the freezer IT WILL NOW FREEZE! Yeah. Found that out the hard way.
Our vodkas turned out great! They were very strongly flavored; clearly 7 days is more than enough for berries. But it was yummy nonetheless, so I’m not complaining. 🙂
What’s your favorite vodka flavor? Have you ever infused your own vodka before? Or infused your own anything? I know you can infuse water with fruits and other fun stuff, so I imagine you can probably infuse most liquid things. (JM tells me tea is technically an infusion, so I suppose there’s that).
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