Making your own flavoured vodka is very easy, but there are a few things you should remember to achieve the best results. Flavoured vodka will transform your cocktails, and it makes a great alternative gift when you put extra thought into the bottle, labelling or decorations. Take one as a gift when you next visit a friend or make a larger batch and use as wedding favours. Your efforts will be much appreciated!
Before you get started:
1 Sterilise your bottles and jars
This is important, especially if you are planning on storing the flavoured vodka for longer, you are using sugar or adding ingredients inside the bottle. You don’t want to trap bacteria into the bottle. If stored correctly, it will last up to a year. There are three ways to do this.
Place the jars or small bottles into a large saucepan, standing up. Fill the pot with cold water, covering each jar. Place on the hob and leave it to boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, before carefully removing each jar and bottle. This will require some patience. Use oven mitts and avoid touching the glass with your bare hands until cooled down.
Heat oven to 130C, any higher and the glass may break. Add baking paper onto a baking tray. Wash each jar and bottle with soapy liquid, rinse and place them on top of a baking tray. Make sure the jars won’t touch each other. Lids without any rubber can also be put into the oven. Let them dry in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Carefully remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool.
A dishwasher is the easiest, but it only works if you have a high enough temperature setting or steam option. Let the dishwasher to run the whole cycle and leave the bottles and jars to cool inside the dishwasher. Keep the door shut during this time. The dishwasher is the most convenient way to sterilise larger bottles, which wouldn’t fit in the oven or into a pot.
NOTE: Lids with rubber attached to them or any other rubber parts should be heated in another pot by letting them simmer only for ten minutes. Do not boil or place in the oven as the high and dry heat will damage them.
2 Choose smaller jars and bottles
To avoid oxidation, you should choose smaller bottles and jars. Always fill them up to the brim and keep airtight. Mason jars are great for storing.
3 Use a brand you like
Don’t cut corners by buying the cheapest supermarket brand. Choose a good-quality vodka; otherwise, your efforts will be wasted.
4 Careful when freezing flavoured vodka
Do not freeze the ready-made flavoured vodka if you have used water in the recipe.
5 Store properly
All the homemade flavoured vodkas should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place for best quality. If stored properly, flavoured vodka can last up to a year.
6 Make it visually appealing
If you are preparing the patch for gift, choose a nice glass bottle or a jar, some ribbon and other cute items to decorate the bottle with. You can also make your own labels.
Use seasonal items for the decoration and consider adding fresh ingredients such as rosemary, gingerbread or even edible flowers (these would also work as a cocktail garnish when serving the vodka).
Choosing the ingredients
Choose the flavours that fit the season. You can create different combinations using spices, herbs, fruit and vegetables. For example, cucumber & dill, cranberry & rosemary, strawberry & basil… The possibilities are endless, just use your imagination.
Herbs: rosemary, thyme, mint, coriander, sage, basil, dill
Floral: lavender, elderflower, rose
Fruit: apple, pear, pineapple, mango, berries, any citrus, kiwi, prickly pear, coconut, pomegranate, fig, tomato
Berries: strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, currants, cherry
Vegetables: pumpkin, peas, sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, jalapenos, beetroot
Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, juniper, black pepper, star anise, ginger, vanilla, cloves
TIP: These ingredients can also be used for making sugar syrups.
Vodka infusion times
Infusion times vary based on the ingredients used. For some flavour combinations, you may need to batch each flavour separately before adding the batches together. This way you won’t over infuse stronger flavours.
Some recipes require you to create a flavoured syrup mixture using water and sugar. By using this method, the infusion will be ready faster. See my previous recipe for a cranberry & rosemary flavour.
Allow less than 24 hours for more intense flavours such as chilli, cardamom and vanilla. Test the infusion regularly (every hour or so). As soon as you feel it is ready, strain and bottle to avoid over-infusion.
It takes on average 3 to 5 days to infuse spices, some herbs and citrus. For example, basil, dill, mint, thyme, cinnamon, cucumber, pink grapefruit, lemon, orange and so on. Make sure to test the infusion after three days and then daily until ready as each ingredient is different.
Berries and fruit with stronger flavours can be infused within 1 to 2 weeks. For example, mango, ginger, peach, rosemary, lavender, elderflower, most berries…
Milder ingredients can take up to a month. Such as apple, lemongrass, melon, kiwi and sweet potato.
TIP: Use a small about of vodka to infuse a tiny batch to test the flavours before making larger amounts.
Once the infusion is ready, strain the liquid well. Some infusions might need to be strained twice to avoid any floating bits left into the spirit. Pour into cool, sterilised jars or bottles. Label and decorate to your liking.
TIP: You can infuse other spirits and liqueurs using the same methods. Add cinnamon sticks into a bottle of whisky or make pineapple-infused Campari.
Try these recipes:
Bathtub Gin – a gin-flavoured vodka
2tbsp juniper berries
2tsp coriander seeds
Small piece of lemongrass
1 cinnamon stick
6 pink peppercorns
Small piece of orange peel (avoid white pit)
Other possible ingredients: pink grapefruit peel, dried lemon peel, cardamom pods, sage, a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, a stick of liquorice root, black peppercorns
Add all ingredients together and leave for 24 hours, shaking once halfway through. Check the taste after 24 hours and adjust by adding more of the ingredient of which flavour, you’d like to enhance. Leave to macerate for another day. Once satisfied with the taste, strain and pour into your chosen bottles.
1.5 cups of cherries
First, rinse the cherries and remove stems and pits. Cut the cherries in half; this will also help when removing the pits. Alternatively, you can use a straw to push the pits out before halving the fruit. You can adjust the amount of cherries used based on the size of your jars and the amount of vodka you’re using.
Add the cherries into a sterilised jar and muddle gently. Top up with vodka. Make sure you cover ALL the fruit. Store in a cool and dry place, shaking occasionally. Test the flavour after a week. Leave to macerate for longer if needed. Once you are satisfied with the taste, strain the vodka twice and keep in a clean bottle or a jar.
Have you ever tried infusing vodka (or any other spirits) at home? What is your favourite flavour combination?