How To Infuse Spirits

DIY Tips for Adding Flavor to Vodka and Other Liquors

Vodka infusions
Vodka infusions. Getty Images/Jeff Kauck

Infusing spirits with flavor is a great way to experiment with your own personal tastes, create new cocktails and make your drinking experience just a little more interesting. If you love to create and have that DIY personality, infusions are the perfect way to bring that into your drinks.

The basic concept of an infusion is to add a single or combination of flavors to a base liquor. It is very easy to do, requiring a little patience and imagination at times, and after a few successful experiments it can become, well -- obsessive.

Soon you may be thinking, "What can I do next?" or "What if I...?" Infusions are fun and limitless.

Vodka is the most common base spirit used and the other light spirits (gin, sake, light rum, and tequila) can be used as well. Infusing darker spirits is a little touchier but it will work if you choose the right complementary flavor to the liquor like apricot or cherry in brandy or a coffee whiskey.

What You Need

  • Herbs, spices or fruits for flavor
  • Vodka or another spirit
  • Mason jars, infusion jars or any airtight jar
  • Coffee filter, cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

How to Infuse Vodka and Other Spirits

First, choose your spirit. Your base spirit will set the foundation for a good infusion. Choosing a decent spirit that is smooth and clean will allow the added flavors to shine. If you're experimenting with a new infusion you may want to use a less expensive bottle so as not to waste money or good liquor.

The point is that the infusion will only be as good as the liquor you begin with.

Next, choose your flavors. Herbs, spices, and fruits are most commonly used for infusions. The most popular infusions are fruit based; however, you can use your imagination to create some wonderful combinations. Use your creativity to personalize your creations.

For best results, use fresh ingredients only. Dried herbs are one exception and most make great infusions.

How to Start Infusing

  1. Choose a clean airtight jar. Quart mason jars work well. Also, you may want to divide your liquor into smaller jars and experiment with a few infusions at one time. (Place  masking tape on the jar to make notes about ingredients, dates, and other customizations so you know what works and what doesn't.
  2. Wash the ingredients, place them inside the jar and fill it with vodka.
  3. Shake a few times and cover tightly with a lid.

Infusion Time

Store your infusion in a cool, dark place and shake it 3-5 times a day for the duration of the infusion. On average, the ingredients should stay in the liquor for 3-5 days.

Some of your more intense flavors will only need 3 days, less intense flavors should stay in the jar for a full week or more (see the infusion times list below). Do a taste test every few days to see if the flavors are sufficient.

The Finish

Once your infusion has reached its peak flavor you need to remove the flavoring ingredients. Use a fine strainer or paper coffee filter to strain the vodka into another clean jar or bowl.

You can return it to its original jar or bottle if you like, cleaning the jar thoroughly first.

Store the finished infusion as you would any other liquor.

Homemade Infusion Tips

Follow these guidelines when preparing your infusion ingredients.

  • Berries: wash and leave whole, but score the skins on harder berries
  • Pineapple, Mango and Similar Fruit: wash and cut into chunks
  • Strawberries and Citrus Fruit: wash and slice thinly or use zests of lemons and oranges
  • Vanilla Beans: wash and cut lengthwise
  • Herbs: wash and use whole (stems and all), dried herbs can be used as well
  • Peppers: wash and leave whole or cut in half (remove seeds of hot peppers to reduce the spice)
  • Garlic: use whole cloves, removing the layers of skin

General Infusion Times

Use these times as a general guide to gauge how long you may have to leave the ingredients in a jar. Always do a taste test on a regular basis until the infusion has the flavor you want.

What to Do With Your Infusions

Allow your creative juices to keep flowing as you decide what to do with your new flavored liquor.

Try a strawberry-kiwi Vodka Martini or a lemongrass-grapefruit Vodka Tonic or a mint-vanilla bean Moscow Mule. The spicier concoctions like garlic-habanero make an unbelievable Bloody Mary.

Browse flavored vodka cocktails for inspiration...

Infusion Recipes

Here are a few tested infusion recipes that include everything from standard vodka infusions to unique infusions you may not have thought of. Many of these recipes are also connected to a cocktail so you can get a taste of how to use it as well.