Homemade infused vodkas are the perfect gift to give -- they're relatively affordable, they're personalized, and they're booze! Who doesn't love a little liquor during the holidays? Whether you give a bottle or two to a close friend or a stranger whose name you drew for Secret Santa, it's a gift that's pretty sure to please.
The best part? Flavored vodkas are incredibly simple to make, even if you have no skills in the kitchen. We've got some step-by-step instructions for you to follow, and you'll be well on your way to some flavored merriment. And make sure to check out our slideshow of infusions below!
Plan AheadThe key here is to remember that stronger-flavored ingredients take less time to infuse, and milder flavors take longer. It's always a good idea to taste the infusions every couple of days to see how they're coming along. Here are some general guidelines:
3-4 days: Fresh herbs, vanilla beans, citrus
1 week: Tree fruit (apples, pears, peaches), berries, and other conventional fruits with mild flavors
2 weeks: Whole chili peppers (halve the time if you cut them in half), cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger and similar ingredients
Gather Your Materials
Canning jars or glass hermetic bottles: These can be whatever size you'd like -- adjust the amount of alcohol you use according to the size of your bottle or jar. Keep in mind that several infusion ingredients are too big to fit through the spout of a bottle, so you may want to stock up on extra jars, even if you end up making your drinks in a jar and later transferring the liquid to a pretty bottle for gifting.
Vodka (or, if you're being creative, any neutral-flavored liquor of your choice): You'll want to choose a good, neutral-flavored vodka -- the cleaner the vodka, the better it will take on the flavors of your ingredients. It's recommended that you choose vodkas that have been distilled more than three times.
Infusion ingredients: This is the fun part. You can use almost anything you want -- fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices ... some have been so bold as to try bacon. It's common practice to fill your infusion jar or bottle approximately half-full with your infusion ingredients, and then to fill the rest with vodka. But for strong or spicy ingredients, such as jalapenos or dried chipotle peppers, you'll obviously want to tone it down a bit. Use your own discretion -- there's really no right or wrong.
- Make sure your containers are thoroughly washed and dried.
- Wash all produce you intend to infuse to remove pesticides or coatings.
- Insert infusion ingredients in your container. For milder ingredients, fill the container halfway full. For stronger ingredients, use your discretion. Small fruits like berries may be left whole, while bigger fruits (citrus, pears, etc.) can be sliced thinly.
- Fill the rest of the container with vodka, and seal the lid.
- Let the containers rest in a dark, cool place (closets and basements work well) for the desired time. Check on them every few days and shake up the bottles.
- If you're giving infused vodkas as a gift to be immediately enjoyed, feel free to leave the infusion ingredients in the jar. But if there's any chance your recipient will wait a while to drink them, it's best to strain the ingredients out and re-bottle the vodka. If the ingredients sit for too long, they can turn bitter or unpalatable.
- Make sure to label your flavored vodkas, and enjoy! Bottles can be kept for up to two months in the refrigerator.
What's the best infusion flavoring you can think of? Leave us a comment below!
One whole tangerine is sliced up in this 16-ounce Ball jar and left to infuse for one week. Try mixing it in a sidecar instead of orange liqueur.
In this small 8.5-ounce bottle, we cut one jalapeno in half, removed the seeds, and let it sit for one week. This would make an amazing addition to your next Bloody Mary.
Nearly one whole pear is sliced up and steeped for one week in 16 ounces of vodka. This makes a fantastic pear martini.
Five cinnamon sticks steep in 17 ounces of vodka for two weeks to lend a warm, autumnal flavor. Pair with eggnog or your favorite holiday cocktails.
Half of an English cucumber is sliced up and steeped in 16 ounces of vodka for one week, creating a fresh concoction. Mix this up with tonic for a refreshing cocktail!
Half of one lemon is sliced up in this 17-ounce hermetic flask, and steeped for one week. Try this as a shortcut in a lemon drop.
Three days and two tablespoons of red-hot candies is all it takes to give 8.5 ounces of vodka a spicy kick! Spike your hot chocolate or coffee with this infusion.
One generous sprig of fresh tarragon steeps in this 17-ounce bottle of vodka for 3 to 4 days. Try replacing gin with tarragon vodka in a Tom Collins.
Being as strong as it is, one dried chipotle pepper is enough to lend a spicy, smoky flavor to 16 ounces of vodka after steeping for two weeks. If you're not a big fan of spicy flavors, try letting it steep for just one week. Try adding it to a Mexican Michelada for a dose of smoke!
Two vanilla beans, each split down the middle, are just right for this 8.5-ounce bottle. Let it steep for 3 to 4 days, and mix it into your favorite drinks -- it makes an especially interesting twist to your classic rum and coke.