Flavored booze is a good time, it’s a great way to add flavors and create more complex cocktails. It’s also really easy and you don’t need an alcohol infusion kit to get it done.
Today I’m going to show you how to take a basic bottle of booze and turn it into a delicious infused alcohol with a few basic supplies and a little bit of patience.
Why You Should Be Infusing Alcohol
One of the biggest reasons cocktails are better than wine is the variety of flavors available to experiment with. A quick trip to the liquor store will show that.
But why rely on pre-made stuff when you can do it yourself and really create something special?
The sky is the limit when it comes to flavor combinations. You can infuse fruit, herbs, spices floral or vegetable flavors. You can even mix it up more to combine several flavors for something truly unique.
And unlike the flavored stuff you can buy on the shelf you’re promised a natural flavor without having to worry about off or artificial flavors.
As long as it’s not toxic or poisonous you can try your hand at making it into a flavored alcohol.
It pays to keep good notes when you’re working on a new recipe, everything from the amounts to the time spent steeping can make a huge change in the final flavor.You never know when you’re going to hit gold.
Basic Supplies for Infusing Booze
For all of these recipes you’ll need a clean jar with a lid, I use mason jars with plastic screw top lids. They are cheap, sturdy and easy to find. Not to mention you can use them for just about anything from canning to leftovers and of course flavoring alcohol.
You will also need a strainer to get whatever your flavoring your booze with out when you’re all done. A metal mesh trainer is a good start, sometimes I’ll use a tea towel or cheesecloth but you lose more of the booze in the process.
If you want an extra clear infusion you can run your alcohol though a coffee filter. It’s going to add quite a bit of time to your straining process so make sure you’ve removing all the large bits with a mesh strainer first to keep the filter from getting constantly gunked up.
The last thing you’ll need is a jar to store the final product in. I like using fancy flip top bottles but you can use the original bottle from your base spirit or keep it in the mason jar.
Any kind of infused alcohol will start with a strong base spirit. The most common base is vodka. Vodka is clear and should be flavorless. It allows the flavors you’re adding to the booze to really shine.
You can also use tequila, rum, gin or whiskey. Unlike vodka those spirits have a lot more flavor. That’s great if you’re adding in a complementary flavor but can get really strange if you don’t think it through.
Middle-shelf booze is a great place to start, you’re less likely to be fighting against an undesirable flavor in something really cheap but you absolutely shouldn’t be wasting anything high end and expensive.
If you’re not sure about a particular base spirit mixing try a simple test of muddling a small amount of spirit in a shot glass with a bit of your flavoring agent. It’s not going to exactly replicate the flavors you’ll get from infusing but you’ll know if you’re on the right track.
That is also how I try out my new cocktail recipes, a little of this and a little of that in a shot glass until I’m happy with the flavor profile; then I make a full version. I’d be way too drunk and poorer than I am if I tried everything full size from the get go!
Speaking of small batches, you don’t need to start out using a full 750ml bottle. I like to experiment with one or two cup batches. You only use 1-3 ounces of booze in a mixed drink so you can still get quite a bit out of a small batch.
If you find something you love it’s not hard to scale up the recipes. This summer I’ll be making a half gallon of Honey Blackberry Whiskey when the berries are in season.
It also comes in handy when something goes wrong and your booze ends up tasting like an old shoe or a long dead Christmas tree.
How to Infuse Alcohol
The basic steps are to shove your flavored items in a jar, top with your base spirit, close the lid and wait. You can shake it up from time to time. Then strain and bottle.
How do you prep the ingredients?
I’m going to give you a few general ideas but there are always exceptions.
- Berries (black currants, raspberries) – Use whole
- Citrus (lemon, lime) – Use the zest or slice thinly
- Flowers – Leave whole
- Fruit with hard skin or rind (cantaloupe, banana) – remove skin & chop roughly
- Fruit with soft skin (apple, plum) – Remove pits or seeds & chop roughly
- Ginger Root – Peel & slice thinly
- Herbs (basil, lavender)- steep whole attached to the stems if you have them, it’s much easier to remove them when you’re done
- Spices (Cinnamon, Star Anise) – Crush roughly
- Vanilla Bean – Slice lengthwise
- Vegetables – Remove skin & chop
There are some exceptions to these, for example I have a recipe for Damson Vodka made with whole tiny plums, vodka will not penetrate the skin of a cranberry so you need to slice it and if you’re making anything with pomegranates you’d be crazy to try and remove the seeds!
Flavor to Booze Ratio
There area few guidelines on where to start but the real fun is experimenting. You’ll find there is a difference in how much flavor different ingredients give up.
- 1:1 ratio: Berries, Fruit, Vegetables
- 1:2 ratio: Citrus, Ginger, Herbs, Hot Peppers
- 1:3 ratio: Dried spices
A good starting point for vanilla is 1 split bean per cup and 10 inches of cinnamon stick per cup.
Again it’s easy if you’re mixing ingredients in the same category, 1/3 cup total of dried spices to 1 cup of alcohol. If you’re mixing, like an apple cinnamon flavor, you’ll need to experiment a bit to get the flavor right.
How do you know when it’s done?
That’s going to depend on the ingredients themselves. I make Jalapeno Tequila and left it over night and it was almost too infused. Hot peppers are very good giving up their flavor and it’s only going to take a few hours. Vanilla beans, tea and herbs are in a similar boat.
The best way to get a flavor you enjoy is to taste it as you go but here is (another) general guideline:
- 1 – 3 days – Citrus, Herbs, Hot Peppers, Ginger, Vanilla
- 3 – 6 days – Berries, Melon, Stone Fruits
- 5 – 7 days – Fruits, Vegetables
- 8 – 14 days – Spices
If you want to make a custom blend, for example, Cranberry Lime Vodka, you’ll want to stagger adding the ingredients to the alcohol. Berries take longer to give up their flavor than citrus, so you’d add the cranberries a few days before the limes.
Just like with the timing you should be tasting as you go, if one ingredient in your mix is taking over you can pull that out and leave the rest.
You don’t have to worry about that as much if you’re mixing the same category, like two herbs or two berries that take the same amount of time to infuse. Another option is to make separate infusions of single ingredients and combine them after.
Shelf Life of Infused Alcohol
It won’t last forever, even plain old bottle of booze have a shelf life after all. But your strawberry vodka will outlive those strawberries without a doubt.
Oxygen, light and the addition of, well, not alcohol will lead to the inevitable downfall of your home made infusions. The tiny bits of fruit or spice left behind to flavor your booze will eventually break down in a less than tasty way.
How long that takes is anyone’s guess, it depends a lot on how clean you kept things to begin with and how much of the flavor providing ingredients you removed when straining.
I prefer to keep mine in the fridge, the cool temperature helps the alcohol to keep unwanted mold and bacteria at bay. You might see some sediment laying on the bottom and that’s completely normal but if you see white stuff floating on top or it starts to smell bad toss it.
Small batches are a great way to try out a new flavor and even better, you’ll use it up before it has a chance to go bad!
Infused Alcohol Recipes:
I highly recommend you head to the kitchen and start experimenting but if you want to dip your toe into the world of flavor infused alcohols with a less mysterious outcome I’d like to share a few recipes:
Elderberry Vodka from Beyond the Chicken Coop
Honeysuckle Vodka from Champagne Tastes
Strawberry Vodka from Delicious Everyday
Strawberry Basil Vodka from The Farm Wife Drinks
Pomegranate Vodka from Family Spice
Raspberry Mint Gin from Craft Invaders
Black Currant Gin from Practical Self Reliance
Cherry Infused Bourbon from Burrata and Bubbles
Vanilla Bean & Orange Bourbon from Burrata and Bubbles
Check out my Recipe Index for more ideas or start here: