How To Infuse Your Own Booze

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Canning, jamming, pickling…when it comes to our food and drink, it’s all about DIY these days. When writing a story on flavored vodkas recently, I learned that while most commercial flavored vodkas are frowned upon, many mixologists (both pro and amateur) are taking matters into their own hands…and jars, putting everything from jalapenos to grapefruit into their favorite vodkas. But it doesn’t stop with “vitamin V.” You can also add your personal touch to other spirits such as gin and tequila.


Short answer: not much more than a large Mason jar or two. Simply fill it with the spirit and ingredients of your choice, sit back, and let nature run its course.


You can’t go wrong with your favorite brand, but mid-range spirits are favored. Recommendations from vodka-infusing veterans include Tito’s, Absolut, Smirnoff Triple Distilled and Reyka, an Icelandic vodka.


Mixologist Tomas Delos Reyes of New York, experiments with different flavors both at work and at home. “In my restaurant [Jeepney, I infuse vodka with Jackfruit, a fruit native of the Philippines. I usually like to let that sit for at least two days before serving. Others that I’ve made at the restaurant are mango with bird chilies, pineapple with jalapeño, and at home I’ve experimented with infusing Reyka with Palo Santo wood, which gives it a woodsy spice and a light perfumed note to it.” Delos Reyes has learned that when it comes to wood, time is quite literally of the essence — one small piece overnight was all he needed. Ava Chin, former Urban Forager blogger for the NY Times and author of the forthcoming memoir Eating Wildly, has infused vodka with foraged wild violet flowers and leaves she’s collected in Brooklyn (in the form of a simple syrup), and plans to serve it this spring with foraged Sichuan peppercorns.

For those newer to infusing, here are five recipes that are easy to make and sure to impress at your next gathering.

Jalapeño Vodka

Courtesy of: Tim Walker, Head Brewer and Mixologist, Small Batch Beer Company
Great for: Bloody Marys.
Method: “We use two jalapeños per 750 mL bottle of vodka. If you want a milder infusion, leave the seeds of the jalapeños out. If you aren’t afraid of some real heat, leave them all in. The infusion process takes anywhere from one to five days. The longer the jalapeños are left in the vodka, the hotter the finished vodka will turn out.”

Earl Grey Tea-Infused Gin

Courtesy of: Liz Scholz, Beer Spectacles
Great for: Gin and tonic.
Method: With a half-liter of gin, add three tea bags and infuse for just three hours. “The tea adds that nice bergamot flavor and cuts the astringent bite of the mid-shelf gin.”

Lemongrass Blood Orange Vodka

Courtesy of: Elizabeth Palmer Starnes, Elizabeth Palmer Kitchen
Great with: Blood orange juice, a squeeze of lime, topped up with tonic.
Method: Add three blood oranges, zested and juiced, and two stalks of lemongrass, (bashed up a bit) to two large Mason jars and fill to the brim with vodka. Let it steep for at least a week, maybe two.

Fig-Infused Bonded Rye

Courtesy of: Sam Meyer, Cocktailians
Great for: Whiskey sours, Manhattans or straight with a squeeze of lemon.
Method: Cut up both fresh and dried figs (about 10-12 each) into quarters or smaller. Add them to a Mason jar with 2-3 bottles of high proof whiskey (Meyer prefers 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye these days). Shake daily for three weeks, then strain fig pulp and pieces with cheesecloth and enjoy!

Pineapple Ginger Jalapeño Tequila

Courtesy of: Elizabeth Palmer Starnes, Elizabeth Palmer Kitchen
Great for: Margaritas, on the rocks with a salted rim and lime wedge.
Method: One pound pineapple (cubed), one jalapeño (sliced and deseeded), and a one-inch long chunk of ginger (peeled and chopped). Add all to two large Mason jars and fill to the brim with tequila. “You can make this spicy by leaving the seeds in the jalapeño, but be careful, they’re strong!”


Certain creations need a few hours, others several days or weeks. As a general guideline, Palmer advises to let your infusions steep in a dark, cool place for at least one week and up to two. “Strain your infusion through a fine strainer lined with a cloth napkin, and keep your finished product in a cool place out of direct sunlight,” Palmer says.


*Bruise or cut herbs before you infuse.
*Use just the zest when infusing citrus vodkas (microplane graters are good for this).
*Cut up berries and other fruit.
*Check on your jar(s) and shake it every day.
*When ready, strain through a cheesecloth.
*Consume it relatively quickly (lots of the flavors don’t seem terribly stable and either attenuate or turn bad over time. (source: Sam Meyer, Cocktailians)