How to infuse vodka and other spirits with various fruits, vegetables herbs and spices.
It’s Friday, you know what that means right? It’s cocktail time, so may I offer you a drink?
But before we get to that perhaps we should talk about what’s going into it - the liquor.
From vodka to brandy, infused spirits are a great starting point for a variety of cocktails. Your infusion options are endless and surprisingly easy to make.
Vodka is an ideal spirit to start with since it has very little flavor of its own and offers a wonderful medium for creative concoctions but any number of spirits like rum and gin can also be infused. Pick your favorite and have fun experimenting.
When deciding what to infuse your spirit with, start with combinations you know you already like. Like cooking, a good infusion is about the balance of layers of flavors so play around and create infusions with ingredients that cater to your tastes. I like to add spices to fruit infusions and use cocoa nibs and even tea leaves. Leftover citrus rinds and fresh herbs from the garden find their way into my infusions as well.
Here are a few I might suggest you try if you are looking for ideas:
- Fruit: citrus fruit (use the peel which contains the essential oils), cherries, cranberries, pears, pineapple, pomegranate, figs, watermelon, dried fruit.
- Vegetables: cucumber, fennel, peppers
- Spices: (use whole not ground): vanilla beans split in half, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, fresh ginger root
- Herbs: rosemary, lemongrass, mint, lavender, thyme, sage
- Fresh figs with cinnamon and vanilla beans (I like this with brandy)
- Dried apricots and cranberries with cardamom and star anise
- Fresh pears with vanilla
- Cocoa nibs and coffee beans
- Fennel and cucumber
- Lemon peels and ginger
- Watermelon and mint
- Tea leaves and dried fruit (I’ve used Earl Grey and Darjeeling but I’d venture to say a jasmine infusion would be excellent as well)
- Pick out some clean air-tight jars that will accommodate your chosen ingredients. Using a few smaller jars rather than one large container gives you the ability to experiment and create a few different infusions at once.
- Now I don’t have a recipe to offer you here, since it isn’t an exact science but I would start out by using a modest amount of ingredients based on the intensity of flavor and check them often. If after a day or so the taste seems weak you can always add more.
- Wash and prep your infusion ingredients making sure to slice or chop larger ingredients into chunks to create more surface area for which the liquor to come in contact with. Once your jars are filled, add your liquor seal and wait.
- Remember to give the jars a little shake every day to help the process along. Keep in mind that darker spirits like brandy and dark rum may take longer to infuse while lighter one like vodka will be faster so it’s important to taste the infusion every day to check the flavor. (And let me tell you, I take this whole taste testing thing seriously so I’ve been sipping steadily for the past week; all in the name of research.)
- Your infusion time will also vary based on the strength of the ingredients used. Strong flavors like cocoa nibs and tea leave infuse quickly while milder flavors like fresh fruit and vegetables can take up to a week to develop.
- Once you’re happy with the flavor, strain the infusing agents from the alcohol through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter to remove any sediment, re-bottle and store in the fridge or freezer.
Infused spirits are outstanding served chilled on their own or added to mixed cocktails for an extra layer of complexity. They make beautiful gifts as well dressed up in a pretty bottle with a handmade label and a recipe card.
So how about that drink now?
Sylvie Shirazi is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Gourmande in the Kitchen. For the last 10 years she's been making eating more healthfully easy and accessible with gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan recipes that are free from processed ingredients.
Beautiful post. I'm just getting ready to do a limoncello with a spice combo I stumbled across making muffins last week. I usually just make lemon muffins for my other half because I'm not a big fan, but I ate nearly all of these and just made some more. Got me thinking how else I could use the combo and I thought topping one of the muffins with berries in some limoncello with the same flavors would be pretty good. Been a while since I'd made limoncello, so I thought I'd better refresh my memory.
Your post is by far the most mouthwatering, and has enough diversity of suggestions to satisfy even my flavormania. Will be putting this to good use--be making the fig for my other half. Thanks!
Hello! I have a question - if you're using a fruit or vegetable, do you have to refrigerate the liquors or are they okay in a cool, dark pantry?
I've done with ginger for a great ginger drink over the holidays (ginger-infused vodka, ginger beer, and a piece of candied ginger) but I wasn't worried about it spoiling!
I've left fruit to soak un-refrigerated without any problems as long as they are completely submerged in the alcohol and tightly sealed but you can certainly store them in the fridge while they infuse if you'd prefer and you have the space.
I've been experimenting with various fruit-infused vodkas and rums, but now that fall is here I want to do something like cinnamon/vanilla/pear. How many vanilla beans and/or cinnamon sticks do you recommend using per cup of alcohol? I want to make sure I don't over or underdo it!
Thanks! This is a beautifully photographed post.
1 cup isn't very much alcohol to infuse, I'd start with just a couple cinnamon sticks and maybe one vanilla bean and then let it sit for a week and taste and add more if you think it needs it.