With a mason jar, vodka, and pretty much any flavor you’d like to drink, you can customize your libations in a few simple steps. Infused booze is all the rage these days – liquor stores have shelves of it, and you may or not have seen more than one margarita lately with cucumber or jalapeño tequila. We at NoshOnIt love flavorful alcohol and cocktails as much as the next guy, and loved the idea of creating infused vodkas ourselves – without the mixologist behind the bar or $30 commitment at the liquor store.
While store-bought flavors can often be one note and overpowering, the DIY version gives you a chance to moderate strength of flavor and create combinations that suit your tastes. For us, that meant the opportunity to use seasonal produce and embrace farm-fresh ingredients not only on our plates, but in our glasses as well. And so, with empty mason jars and a hankering for summer cocktails, we set out on project infuse-a-booze.
Vodka has very little taste on its own so it’s a great liquor to infuse – you’ve basically got a blank canvas at your disposal. But you can essentially infuse any spirit you can get your hands on. Just keep in mind that, if you use a spirit like gin or rum, you will be building flavors on top of the natural flavor of the liquor itself.
So how to choose what you infuse?
Fresh fruit, spices, and herbs are all fair game. Citrus zest is also a great option. Try using ripe, seasonal produce to get an awesome flavor burst in your drinks. Pretty much anything you can get your hands on at the market, you can put in your vodka. Right now in late July, imagine how great all those ripe berries would taste in vodka form. As with cooking, think about layering flavors and getting balance in your infusion experiments. It may sound basic, but think about flavor profiles you already like, and how they would transfer to a cocktail if you need a starting point.
Let’s talk quality!
As for the liquor itself you’re infusing, no need to dedicate a top shelf bottle to the cause, as you’re adding a whole bunch of yum to your alcohol. Go for a middle range vodka. Cheap vodka, afterall, will always taste like cheap vodka. Worse, we all know what cheap vodka regret feels like the next day…
For our experiments, we chose a couple of combos with cooling future cocktails in mind. We also wanted to choose flavors that would allow us to test out various types of ingredients – herbs, fresh fruit, and zests. Cucumber-basil and grapefruit-ginger fit made the final cut. We also went with a classic strawberry for that seasonal goodness and additionally to test out a purely fruit infusion.
With our important flavor decisions made, we set out to get that booze infusing. Here are our how-to’s of DIY flavored booze creation, broken down into steps and type of ingredient. Recipes at the end of the post!
Step 1: Measure
The ratio of alcohol / fruit does not demand a precise formula. In fact, one of the great advantages of infusing your own vodka is that you can make smaller batches and experiment with a couple of varieties at once. Here’s what we recommended for infusing cucumber vodka. As a (very) general rule, fill one fourth to one third of your empty jar with fruit, and pour vodka up to the brim.
We used a quart jar (947 mL). So, given the ingredient add-ins, a quart is the perfect size to infuse a standard 750 mL bottle of vodka with add-ins.
For Zests & Herbs:
As for zests and herbs, a 5% weight ratio of zest to alcohol should do the trick. A 750 ml bottle of vodka weighs 690-700 grams, so you’re looking for 35 g of zest. We used a scale to measure our grapefruit zest, and found that the zest from one medium grapefruit is about 32g – which we thought was good enough in terms of ratio.
But what if I’m using more than one ingredient?
We decided to not cut each ingredient in half by volume when making our combos, but rather used the amount that we would use for one ingredient for each to make sure that the flavor of each ingredient wasn’t diluted in the final infusion. For example, in our cucumber basil infusion we filled the jar ¼ of the way with cucumber pieces and then added 35 g of basil (which ended up packing the entire jar).
For grapefruit ginger, we contemplated what ginger classified as on the herb or fruit scale– and ultimately decided to treat it like a fruit in terms of volume (aka, go for ¼ volume of the jar. This ended up being a 4 inch-ish piece of ginger, or about 81 g if you’re a scale fan. On top of that, we added the zest of one large grapefruit.
Yep, we’re kind of herb fiends. But always feel free to play with proportions! It’s your infused booze, after all.
Step 2: Prep
Wash that produce! Slice or chop larger ingredients — the more surface area you create for the liquor to hit, the more flavor will be transferred and the more quickly flavors will infuse. Remove anything you wouldn’t want to eat – throw those stems, pits, peel, rind, and seeds in the compost bin.
We got to utilize one of our favorite tricks, peeling ginger with a spoon.
Wash herbs and tear larger leaves into pieces. Give your herbs a little twist or smash before throwing them in your jar to release flavor.
Use a peeler to get strips of the flavorful zest while avoiding the bitter white pith. For extra bitterness-avoidance, you can blanch zest in boiling water for 30 seconds. Our grapefruit zest came off the fruit without a hint of pith so we decided to live on the wildside and skipped this step for our batch. Give your zests a good twist and rip before throwing in the jar.
Step 3: Combine
Pour in your vodka, and give your ingredients a good old muddle – we used a wooden spoon to do the job. Screw your lids on tight and your vodka is now ready to do some serious infusing!
Step 4: Rest & be patient!
Store jars in a cool, dark place. Give them a little shake every day or so.
When it comes to timing, we have some guidelines to offer, but the strength of your home-infusion is truly a matter of personal preference. So, tasting along the way is encouraged! Just carefully remove the lid and dip a spoon in, avoiding floating objects. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, pull a true bartender move, stick a straw in your jar, put your finger over the top and remove your straw – liquid will be trapped in the straw by air pressure.
Fresh fruits generally have milder flavors and may be infused up to 2-3 weeks. Again, much of infusion time is your personal preference with regards to the strength of flavor, so monitor it via taste-tests!
4 days will do the trick – any longer and they start to taste funky. So what if you’re doing a produce-herb combo? You can start soaking your milder-flavored fruit for a few days before adding in your herbs. In the case of our cucumber basil, we decided to start the milder cucumbers soaking in the vodka until it was about 75% of our desired flavor strength before adding the basil.
Less finicky than herbs, but around 4 days will give you a flavorful infusion. Our ginger-grapefruit vodka had distinctive ginger flavor but not burn-your-mouth off spicy after 4 days, with a nice hint of grapefruit.
Step 5: Strain
When you are satisfied with the flavor, strain your creation through a coffee filter into another jar, and refrigerate for storage for several months.
Step 6: Serve!
Your homemade flavorful creations are delicious enough to enjoy on their own over ice, or go simple by mixing with a bit of soda or tonic water and perhaps a squirt of lemon for a citrus burst. They will also jazz up any mixed cocktail recipe.
If you want to mix more:
- Try using homemade strawberry vodka in place of regular in Kitchen Treaty’s Watermelon Vodka Spritzer
- We thought our cucumber-basil vodka would be great used in this Cucumber Ginger Fizz we featured from Sweetsonian, originally made with cucumber vodka.
- Use grapefruit-ginger vodka in place of regular vodka in this Sparkling Lemon Drop from Pastry Affair.
Get the Recipes
Happy infusing! Have you infused your own vodka before? What do you want to try out? Let us know in the comments!