Infuse your booze: Making your own flavored vodka and rum

[image-1]As for ingredients, choose what you think might pair well with your chosen liquors: fruits, fresh herbs, and even chili peppers infuse very nicely. I did cranberry-ginger-mint, and citrus-rosemary vodkas; and pineapple-clove, and cherry-vanilla dark (not spiced) rums.

Experiment with berries, cracked coffee beans, or even Skittles candy for a fruity and colorful concoction (one color per bottle, otherwise it looks like muck). Cut up larger ingredients, like pineapple and mango, and leave smaller ones, like berries, whole, using enough to fill your container about half full. I used four 375ml bottles, each containing around 1 1/2-2 cups of fruit and half of a 375ml bottle of alcohol each. If using berries- gently bruise them, citrus- pick kinds with thin rinds and slice thinly, herbs- crush or bruise them, cherries or stone fruit- pit and remove stems, peppers- remove the seeds and ribs if you don't want it to be overly spicy. (For steeping times, see below.)

When choosing a glass container to show off your creation, be sure to choose one with a wide enough neck so that you can remove the ingredients after the alcohol has been consumed if you want to reuse it. Otherwise, infuse it in a separate glass or ceramic container and remove the flavorings before pouring it into your presentation bottle. (I made this mistake on purpose, having found these decorative bottles, pictured, on clearance at Pier 1 and wanting my ingredients to be contained in them for attractive photos.) Also use the latter process if you're not going to consume it all within a few days after you're done infusing it, as leaving the ingredients in there could make it too strong or bitter.

[image-2]The four infusions I made were a hit, the cherry-vanilla rum and citrus-rosemary vodka being the favorites. I also think peach or cherry brandy, espresso vodka, and serrano pepper tequila would be tasty combinations to try.


1. Wash and dry your glass bottle(s) and flavoring ingredients.

2. Fill your container about half full with the flavoring ingredients.

3. Using a funnel, add your liquor of choice to container.

4. Seal the bottle tightly and place it in your refrigerator. Allow it to steep for 2-3 days before taste testing it. If needed, let it infuse for a few more days, testing it every 24 hours. If it needs a touch of sweetness, add a few teaspoons of simple syrup (see recipe below).

5. If you're transferring it to another container, strain the mixture over a funnel into new container. Strain a second time to remove any sediment, if needed.

6. Enjoy on the rocks, straight up, or with a dash of soda or tonic water. (Please don't drown it in some horrible mixer.)

Here are some suggestions on steeping times for various ingredients from

Approx. 3 - 4 days: Vanilla beans, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, mint, garlic, tarragon, basil, oregano, dill & thyme. (If using citrus, use kinds with thin rinds, like Meyer lemons and juicing oranges as excess pitch can leave a bitter taste.)

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.

Remember, these are just guidelines and the best way to get the perfect flavors is to continually taste test them until they reach your desired level of flavor.

Simple syrup:

-1 cup sugar

-1 cup water

1. Place water and sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to medium-high heat.

2. Stir until sugar is dissolved and liquid is crystal clear.

3. Remove from heat, let cool, pour into an airtight container and refrigerate. (Can be saved up to 6 months and used in place of sugar to sweeten drinks.)

My inspiration for this project came to me while perusing the aisles at a liquor store, debating on what to bring to a friend's upcoming party. There are countless flavored liquors available now days, from passionfruit to pomegranate and even sweet tea flavored, but many of them are marked up in price simply due to their fancy additions. Why not just infuse some yourself with fresh ingredients? All you need is a bottle or two of your chosen libations, whatever flavoring ingredients your heart desires, and some clear glass bottles in which to serve them.

When purchasing your base liquors, do yourself (or recipient) a favor and stay away from the cheap stuff and don't purchase potato or rye-based vodkas. This is meant to be enjoyed straight or on the rocks and no amount of flavoring can mask the taste of cheap booze. You don't need to splurge on the top-shelf stuff either because the mid-range brands are perfectly sufficient (I used Smirnoff and Captain Morgan).

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