Updated November 2015

You can infuse a variety of flavors into vodka - fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and berries, herbs and spices, vanilla beans, coffee or espresso beans, peppers and even garlic cloves can all be used to give your vodka a new flavor profile. There are even rose, bacon and candy flavored vodkas out there!

The key to creating the best home-made flavored vodka is quality. Fresh ingredients, the highest quality dried ingredients or spices/herbs, and a good quality vodka. You don't have to buy the most expensive designer vodkas, a medium quality vodka will do - but don't get cheapo and buy the discount brands. Don't used canned or frozen fruits or vegetables either.

If you're using fruits you will want to slice them (berries remain whole) to allow more of the fruit flavor to infuse into the vodka. Remove any seeds or pits or rinds. 

The same concept applies to peppercorns and herbs, garlic, coffee beans, or whatever flavor profile you're going for. Smashing these up a bit releases the oils which are where most of the taste resides.

Be sure to wash your fruits, remove stems from herbs and any leaves from berries or peppers before you place them in the vodka. I often put my flavorings into cheesecloth bags. Since I like to use the original vodka bottle for my container (for gifts I get some fun decorative bottles) - I make these bags small enough to fit into the bottle opening. In the case of larger elements like fruit slices I forgo the cheesecloth bags but when my vodka has reached the flavor peak I'm going for I will pour it through a fine strainer and/or cheesecloth or even a coffee filter to remove any solids then pour it back into the bottle.

When infusing with herbs, most can simply be gently placed in the vodka and their flavor will infuse over time. If you want to speed up the process, you can chop or lightly mash the herbs, but be gentle, you don't want to release bitterness of the herbs.

The main thing to remember is the more of the flavoring element you use and the longer you let it infuse in the vodka, the stronger the flavor will be. I generally start checking the taste after 2 days and 2 weeks is the usually longest I let them distill though for certain items, like vanilla beans, I've let them work longer. Just be careful not to let certain flavorings (coffee, some herbs, etcetera) start bringing bitterness to the party. This is where daily taste tests help.

Once you have added your flavor enhancers, seal the bottle up and leave the container in a dark, cool place. Shake it once a day, if possible. When your vodka has reached the flavor level you want you will want to strain it (even if you did use cheesecloth bags) to remove all the solids. You can then pour it back into the container you want to store it in. After you strain the vodka you can let it age for a few more weeks, this sometimes allows the flavors to continue to enhance the vodka, many flavors get richer and more mellow in the second aging.

If you're using dried fruits you can use the actual fruits separately for other purposes, like topping ice cream, pound cakes or as a sauce for savory or sweet dishes. I make Drunken Cherries a lot - I love eating the cherries straight out of the bottle - and I get the cherry flavored vodka at the same time. The one thing I will tell you - I prefer the dried fruits after only a day or two of infusion. If left longer they get overwhelmed by the alcohol flavor of the vodka and aren't as pleasant to eat - but the vodka gets a deeper flavoring.

Here's my recipe for bacon flavored vodka - no, I'm not kidding and I'm going to try this one myself! Wow, pig and booze - how can you beat that combo? Be still my heart has a whole new meaning now.

You can use candies as well as fruits, nuts, vegetables, Skittles and Jolly Rancher infused vodka was a big thing some years ago. Not my cup of tea (and speaking of tea - it makes delightfully subtle flavored vodka), but they are easy, all you do is drop the candy into the vodka, shake every so often and wait until the candy pretty much dissolves.

Experiment and have some fun. Think of flavor profiles you like when you eat or cook. Because vodka is (or was traditionally) a potato based alcohol it does not carry a strong flavor of it's own which makes it ideal for flavor infusing. Other liquors have been flavored too, such as rums, brandies, whiskeys and wines but you will have to watch that the flavoring element does not clash with their unique tastes.

Can you infuse other liquors? You betcha! Check out my yummy Toasted Walnut Maple Bourbon. You just have to be more discriminating in your flavoring elements because most liquors other than vodka bring a lot of their own flavor to the party.

Use your flavored vodkas as gifts or just hoard them to drink yourself - either way you will have discovered a whole new world of cocktail creation and your Happy Hour will have some extra happy in it!


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