Vodka is a beautifully blank canvas when it comes to flavor, and its neutral, inoffensive palette means there's a wide world of flavor infusions just beyond your doorstep. Consider this guide to how to infuse vodka all you'll ever need to make your dreams come true.
Choose a Vodka to Infuse
As you'll be infusing your vodka with flavor, you don't need to worry about going too highbrow and breaking the bank in the process. However, avoid the bottom shelf vodka. There is no saving or improving the grainy flavors of the cheaper vodkas. Consider Smirnoff, Titos, Ketel One, Grey Goose, and other brands with a similar price point. When you start, opt for flavorless, plain vodka.
Once you get your vodka-sea legs, you can start to experiment with flavored vodkas. Again, start simple with approachable flavors such as lemon or orange and then branch out into pepper, grapefruit, or coffee.
Select a bottle you're most comfortable with losing should everything go wrong to not feel like you're losing an investment. You can do this by purchasing a small bottle, such as a 200mL bottle, or you can purchase a 1L bottle and divide the vodka. If this isn't a concern, you can infuse an entire large bottle, from 500mL to 1.5L, at a time.
Decide What to Infuse Vodka With
On your way home from the liquor store, don't forget to make a stop for your infusion ingredients. The world is your oyster when you think about what you can infuse vodka with. You can decide to go savory or sweet for your infused vodka. Once you have decided on a direction, you can consider fruit, either fresh or frozen, as well as vegetables, preferably fresh, and spices, herbs, or edible flowers preferably fresh. However, you can place loose or dried herbs and flowers in a loose tea or infusion ball.
As you master the art of infusion, you can begin to layer flavors with others. Consider using orange and vanilla in combination, cinnamon and apple, or pineapples and jalapeño.
How to Infuse Vodka
First things first, wash all of your fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs, and discard any that are blemished or rotting. Wash them thoroughly and dry them as best as you can. You can also add sugar to taste, although it's not necessary as most drinks have sugar added in the mixing, and it's easier to mix drinks with an unsweetened spirit.
How to Make Infused Vodka With Vegetables and/or Fruit
There is no master ratio for infusion ingredients to vodka. A half-cup of jalapeños and a half-cup of vanilla beans will create incredibly different levels of flavor. So, instead, consider a few of these ratios. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, you can go with a 1:3 ratio. For every three cups of vodka, you would use a cup of fruit or vegetables. The exception is spicy ingredients such as jalapeños. However, for every three cups of vodka, you can use a single sliced jalapeño. The 1:3 ratio still applies, but it's a different volume measure. This ratio can also apply with larger citrus fruit, as you'll infuse the vodka with the fruit peels intact so it can be easier to remember you need a whole large orange or grapefruit instead of measuring it out. Aim for two to three lemons or limes, approximately a cup, when infusing vodka.
Infusing Vodka With Herbs and Spices
Spices are a bit trickier, as they have varying levels of potency. For whole spices, you can use a ratio of 2:3 or even 3:3 for a stronger taste. For every three cups of vodka, use three whole sprigs of that herb. For instance, three whole sprigs of rosemary, three whole lavender sprigs, or three whole cinnamon sticks. For herbs that aren't as hearty, such as thyme or basil, you can aim for five or six, depending on how strong of a flavor you'd like for your vodka to be. This is why it can be helpful only to infuse a small amount of time as you go, as you can control just how flavorful you want your infusion to be. And, absolutely don't forget to write down your process. You can keep some spices loose, such as rosemary sprigs or cinnamon sticks; you can allow those to float freely. For looser spices or ones that could easily disintegrate, you can wrap those in cheesecloth or put them in a tea diffuser. You'll be straining your infused vodka at the end, but this can help keep those tiny pieces from escaping.
You can add your infusion ingredients to the vodka bottle or evenly distribute your ingredients and vodka, following the proper ratio, in large glass resealable jars or bottles. After sealing tightly, give your bottles or jars a swirl, and then leave them alone to flourish. You'll want to keep them in a cool, dark place while everything works its infusion magic for approximately three to four days. Each day, give them a gentle swirl.
After all of that hard work and then four days of much-deserved rest, your homemade infused vodka will be nearly ready. Carefully sample the vodka, taking care not to contaminate the bottle with a used spoon or straw, preferably pouring a small splash into a glass to taste. If you want more flavor, allow your bottle to steep longer. If the vodka infusion checks all of your boxes, you can proceed to strain.
A cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer is your best bet. If you don't have cheesecloth on hand, then a coffee filter can also do the trick. Start by removing larger ingredients such as rosemary or citrus to keep the funnel from clogging up. Using a funnel and filter of your choice, carefully pour your infused vodka into a clean bottle or jar. Discard the bones of your flavor infusion. For chunks of fruit, such as pineapple or citrus, you can take a nibble to grab a taste of your vodka-infused fruits or vegetables.
After straining and sealing your infused vodka, the time has come to share your labor of love. You can use it right away. Alternatively, store it away in secret to keep it all to yourself. It will do best in a cool, dark place, so store your completed infusions in a location similar to where you allowed them to steep. The infusion will have a reasonably long shelf life, but take care to enjoy it within a year for the best flavors. When flavor starts to fade or if the vodka tastes off, discard it.
Infused Vodka Ideas and Flavor Pairings
While you can infuse vodka with just about anything, you can't start with everything. Here are a few ideas to launch your home infusion hobby.
Spice Infused Vodka Flavors
Give your vodka an earthy yet bright flavor by infusing it with fresh spices.
- Star anise
- Whole vanilla bean
Herb Vodka Flavors
Give a boost to your vodka cocktails with sweet or savory herbs.
Citrus Vodka Flavors
Add a refreshing citrus, or even a little sour, to take your vodka to a new level.
- Blood orange
- Lime, including key lime
- Orange, including clementines and tangerines
Fruit Vodka Flavors
Put a fruity spin on your vodka infusions.
Vegetable Vodka Flavors
Vegetable infusions give bloody Marys and other savory vodka cocktails a whole new depth.
- Green bean
Pepper Vodka Flavors
Infusing pepper into your vodka will add a little pep to your step.
- Chili peppers
- Black peppercorns
- Bell peppers
Floral Vodka Flavors
Capture spring in a bottle by infusing floral flavors.
- Butterfly pea flower
Experimental Infused Vodka Flavors
Live out your vodka flavor dreams by infusing flavors you'd never be able to find at stores!
- Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios
- Maple syrup
- Candy, hard candies work best, such as candy canes, caramels, or Jolly Ranchers
- Bubblegum vodka
While these aren't the only flavor pairings you can make, they're a great place to start your infusion flavor pairing journey.
- Orange + vanilla
- Apple + almond
- Cardamom + cinnamon + pear
- Vanilla bean + cloves
- Basil + raspberry
- Dill + pickles + green bean
- Thyme + lemon
- Lemon + cranberry
- Coconut + pineapple
- Raspberry + mint
- Green bean + tomatoes + carrots
- Jalapeño + watermelon
- Lavender + blackberry + lemon
- Coffee + caramel hard candy
Mixing Your Infused Vodka
You can keep it simple and add your homemade infused vodka into classic cocktails or use a simple mixer to allow your infusion to shine.
Infused Vodka Cosmo
Give your cosmo a secret ingredient to bring it to life: your flavored vodka!
- 1½ ounces infused vodka (orange, lemon, lime, or cranberry base or pairing)
- ¾ ounce orange liqueur
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce cranberry juice
- Lime wedge for garnish, optional
Infused Vodka Highball
Keep it simple by using just a club soda, or add complementary flavors by using flavored club soda, lemon-lime soda, cola, or another bubbly soda pop of your choice.
- 2 ounces infused vodka
- 4 ounces club soda or other bubbly mixer
- Garnish with fresh fruits, vegetables, or herbs similar to your infused vodka
- In a highball glass, add ice and infused vodka.
- Top off with club soda.
- Garnish with fresh fruit, vegetable, or herb.
Infused Vodka Martini
Keep it simple and put the entire spotlight on your infused vodka martini. You can skip the dry vermouth in favor of olive brine for a dirty martini using savory-infused vodka.
- 2 ounces infused vodka
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- Olive for garnish if you use a savory vodka, lemon twist for a fruity or sweet vodka
- Chill a martini glass or coupe.
- In a mixing glass, add ice, infused vodka, and dry vermouth.
- Stir rapidly to chill.
- Strain into chilled glass.
- Garnish with olive.
Matching Mixers With your Infused Vodka
Club soda and other sodas aren't your only options. Consider coffee, fruit juices, and bloody Marys to mix in with your unique vodka. This is also your chance to put your own spin on unique classic cocktails such as white Russians, gimlets, sours, collins, and spritzers.
Flavorful Vodka for All
Infusing your own vodka is a great way to customize a flavorful spirit to enjoy on the rocks or add new depth and complexity to any timeless and modern cocktail. It also answers the question, "I want that flavor but can't find it. What should I do?" Grow your love of cocktails by infusing your own vodka. No cocktail tastes as good as the one customized for you!