How To Infuse Vodka

With a little time, you can funnel your energy into creating colorful and flavored vodkas, offering a taste that is all your own.

Step 1: Gather the essentials

Ingredients: It can take under a week for citrus fruits or strongly flavored ingredients to infuse. Softly flavored or fibrous ingredients such as strawberries, pineapple or fresh ginger, can take between one and two weeks.

Infusion Jar: Basic, tall or round glass jars with tightly fitting lids, preferable complete with pouring spouts are the only initial outlay required for your new in-house vodka infusion center.

Base Vodka: Choosing a suitable vodka base is key to effective flavor infusion. Rye or potato based vodkas are not conductive to effective flavor and color infusion, as they detract away from the taste you are trying to create. The more times vodka is distilled, the clearner and purer it becomes. So try choosing vodkas that are distilled more than three times.

Step 2: Choosing your flavor

The choice is almost infinite and stretches as far as your imagination. You can choose between either fresh fruit, or more alternative ingredients.

Mellow flavors include cantaloupe, peach, strawberry, cherry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, pineapple, mango and vanilla beans.

Lemon, lime or grapefruit flavors offer a sharper bite to the palate.

If you're seeking more darling flavours, look to fresh ginger, lemongrass, herbs, garlic, or chili peppers. Try mixing them with tomato juice for a Bloody Mary with a difference, a "Bloody Maria."

Step 3: Time to infuse

Fresh fruit and produce should be washed thoroughly to ensure they are free from presticides and any unwanted party guests. Berry-like fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, should be left whole. Fibrous fruits like pineapple or mango should be chopped into small chunks and strawberries or citrus fruit, cut into thin slices. Thin-skinned juice oranges or Meyer lemons work best, as excess pitch quickly creates a bitter taste. Vanilla beans should be cut lengthways and herbs left on their stems. Chili peppers can be left whole, or cut i half if you want to increase the rate of infusion.

The glass jar should be filled full with the infusion ingredients and then the remaining space filled with vodka. Tighten the lid securely over the jar and place in the refrigerator or at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.

Infusion time:
Approx. 3 - 4 days: Vanilla beans, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, mint, garlic, tarragon, basil, oregano, dill & thyme

Approx. 1 week: Cantaloupes, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, pitted cherries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries

Up to 2 weeks: Whole chili peppers, pineapple, fresh ginger and lemongrass

These are only guidelines. Just remember that stronger flavored fruit and herbs/spices take less time to infuse, whereas softer flavor and fibrous fruit take longer. The most accurate method is to continually taste them, adding more or diluting, until the flavor reaches your preferred intensity.

It's easy to infuse your own vodka

Homemade infusions are done with a process called maceration, or soaking an ingredient in a spirit until the spirit reaches the desired flavor.

You can infuse any spirit, but vodka is favored because of its neutral flavor. You can infuse vodka with almost anything, but summer fruits - melons, berries, apricots, apples, pears, even chili peppers - are a logical choice this time of year.

I recently made what I think of as the granddaddy of all infusions - a fruit cocktail infusion.

I went to a farmer's market and bought ripe watermelon, honeydew melon, strawberries, peaches and kiwi fruit - but you can add any fruit you want.

Peel the kiwi, peaches and melons and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the strawberries.

Place all the fruit in a tall glass jar. It's nice if the jar has a spout, but not necessary. Don't pack the fruit, but fill the jar to the top. Pour good-quality vodka to the top of the jar. Screw the lid on tightly, give it a good shake and store in a dark place.

Check your infusion 24 hours later and every 24 hours after that, tasting it until it reaches the flavor you desire. Give it a good shake every day, too.

I infused my fruit cocktail vodka for 48 hours - I couldn't wait any longer. If your jar has a spout, you can simply pour your vodka from it. I strained mine through a kitchen strainer. It wasn't entirely clear but that didn't bother me. For clear vodka, strain it through a double layer of cheesecloth.

The vodka drew out the color of the watermelon and strawberry and ended up a pretty pale pink. I poured it over ice in a shaker, then drank it straight. It was fresh, fruity, slightly sweet with a dominant flavor of the watermelon. You can store the leftover vodka in the refrigerator or the freezer to preserve the freshness.

Do-it-yourself infusion recipes

Apricot Vodka
1 dozen apricot seeds
1 pint vodka
--> Place the seeds in a jar and pour in the vodka. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Taste. Strain it or let it sit another 24 hours and taste again.

Pepper Vodka
2-4 jalapeno peppers
1 quart vodka
--> Place peppers in jar whole or cut in half for quicker infusion and more intense flavor. Let it sit for 1-2 weeks, tasting for desired flavor.

Blueberry Martini
1 quart vodka
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and dried
1 cup raspberry liqueur
Juice of 1 lime
1 twist of lime zest
--> Put a small nick in each of the blueberries and put in a glass jar. Pour the vodka over the blueberries then add the raspberry liqueur. Let sit in a dark place for 2 weeks.
--> To make martinis, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Put 2 parts blueberry vodka, 1 part raspberry liqueur and a dash of lime juice in the shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. Garnish with the twist of lime zest.

Pear Liqueur
3 large pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar
2 cups vodka
--> Place all ingredients in a jar, cover tightly and shake to blend. Store for two weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking it every other day. After two weeks, strain the liquid through a strainer or cheesecloth into a glass bowl. Transfer to a bottle. Cap tightly and store in a cool, dark place for another 2 weeks.
--> Yield: 2 1/3 cups liqueur.

Chocolate Mint Vodka
1 bottle vodka
4 cocoa beans
Sprig fresh mint leaves
--> Combine vodka and cocoa beans in a sealable container and store in a warm, dry place. Agitate the mixture 2 or 3 times a day for 1 week. Six hours before serving, add the mint leaves. Strain through a coffee filter into a bottle, seal and store in your freezer.
--> Serving suggestion: Serve ice cold without a garnish.

Infusion tips

Wash all fruits thoroughly. You don't want pesticides or dirt in your infusion.

Chop fibrous fruits, such as pineapple, peaches, melon and mango, into small chunks.

Slice strawberries and citrus fruits.

Leave blueberries, raspberries and blackberries whole.

Never use canned fruits - the result isn't as good.

As a rule, strong-flavored fruits and herbs or spices take less time to infuse vodka; softer, fibrous fruits take more time.

Make citrus vodkas by infusing with the peel - not the fruit. Be aware that the peel is intense and the vodka will get bitter if infused too long.

The most accurate method is to continually taste the infusion until it is right for you.

How To Infuse Vodka

This is my own set of instructions on how to infuse vodka with any flavor.

Step 1: Flavor
Flavor is an important choice. You can always go wild and go farther and farther from what people call the 'standard,' but you should remember that infused alcohol has been around for a very long time. What has become standard is usually the best bet. You may sneer at making lemon or cranberry infused vodka, since smirnoff and other brands have already done all of the hard work for you. However, you may create undrinkable swill if invest two weeks in something "unique," like pepperoni infused vodka. Although some people out there probably would love that.

Step 2: Preparation
--> The drink (vodka)
You should buy 750ml or 1 liter of a clean vodka. Preferably fine a 100 proof (50% alcohol) vodka, but you can always stick to 80 proof if you cannot find anything else.
Start off your infusing adventures with cheap vodka! If you want to get better quality from cheap vodka I recommend filtering it through a carbon filter (Britta or no name brands work fine) a few times, but that is another story. Cheap vodka is fine for infusing purposes, especially when you plan to test out new flavors you have not infused before.

--> The flavor (infuser)
Try to use the freshest ingredients you can find, if you live on a farm or villa all the better for your drinking pleasure.

--> The container (jar)
The final important part is getting a container that can seal the drink and let the flavors mingle with the vodka.

Step 3: Infuse I mean, wait.
Place the ingredients into a glass container, seal it tightly and place away from direct sunlight (your refrigerator should work fine).

The infusion process takes up to 2 weeks to complete, depending on what you are infusing into the vodka and how much infused vodka you want to make.

The rule goes, the more flavorful the infuser the less time it takes, Vanilla, Citrus, and basil take less than 4 days to infuse; melons, and berries should take around a week, and pineapple, peppers, or ginger should take almost 2 weeks to infused 1 liter of vodka.

How To Infuse Vodka With Chocolate

One cup of cocoa powder infused in a 750 ml bottle of vodka for 2 weeks to a month will get you a nice chocolate vodka. Once it's done infusing, strain twice, discarding any solids and then add simple syrup to taste. Pour it into a bottle and then age in a cool dark place for a month.

I imagine you could also use whole cocoa beans for this as well. Looking at recipes from Infused and the Food Network, it looks like you only need 4 or 5 cocoa beans and you can infuse them for about a week. Seems easier than the cocoa powder method.

I have been observing as my mixmaster husband create his infused liquors and I have to say, it doesn't look that hard to come up with your own combinations. Then it's just a matter of experimenting and monitoring to find the out when the flavor is right.