5@5 - A guide to infusing vodka
August 5th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Has your foray into the flavored vodka category felt like you're chugging a bottle of vanilla bean shower gel?

Take a "handmade" page from Tito's Handmade Vodka founder and master microdistiller Bert "Tito" Beveridge and infuse your own at home. It's easy peasy lemon squeezy - with a twist of kaffir lime.

The Purist's Guide to Infusing Flavored Vodka: Tito Beveridge

1. Infusing at home guarantees the freshest flavors possible

"I love making infusions at home, largely because this absolutely guarantees the ingredients and flavors will be fresh. Everything is better when it is fresh - and, better yet, you can control the flavor to make it your own and to suit your specific taste."

Cucumber Basil Infusion:

Separate a liter bottle of vodka into two halves in glass jars. Fill one jar with cucumber and add a few fresh basil leaves to the other. Once you approve of the flavor in each, combine them."

2. Use peel, not pith

"Orange Lime Infusion:

Separate a liter bottle of vodka into two halves in glass jars. Use only the peels of oranges and limes, no pith. Put the orange peels of an orange in one of the jars, and the peels of two limes in the other jar. When you approve of the taste in each, combine them."

3. Use frozen or dried fruit

When infusing your own vodka with fruit, experiment. Feel free to use either frozen or dried fruit - either keep the fruit fresh or dry it yourself. You will discover what flavor profile you prefer.

Black Cherry Infusion:

Find dried black cherries at a grocery store or buy the frozen kind and dry them out yourself in a Pyrex dish at low heat in the oven, watching to see when they change. A good ratio is a cup and a half per liter of vodka. Let the cherries sit in the vodka for a day or two in the fridge and taste to the flavor intensity you desire."

4. Work with the earth

"I started out as a geophysicist with degrees in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Texas in Austin. I’ve always enjoyed working with the earth and feel connected to it - it will always be a part of what I do.

In the the early 1990s, I would infuse vodka in my spare time, creating batches for friends. This habanero infusion brings me back to my roots, and puts a Texas spin on things. It is also killer in a Bloody Mary.

Habanero Infusion:

Use gloves when you cut a habanero pepper into fourths, and then place the pepper fourths right in the bottle of vodka. Let it sit in the window in the sun for 4 days. Then put the bottle in the freezer and drink it cold."

5. Sweeten the pot

"Use agave nectar or simple syrup to sweeten the infusions. At the holidays, I’ve also been known to let candy canes melt in the vodka for a peppermint infusion, which goes great in hot chocolate too. This infusion below makes great martinis.

Lemon Peel and Kaffir Lime Leaf Infusion:

Separate a bottle of vodka into two halves and place the peels (no pith) of two lemons in one half and a few kaffir lime leaves in the other. When you approve of the tastes in each, combine them.

The citrus infusions and cucumber basil are also really wonderful when you add sparkling water to them."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Spirits • Think


soundoff (27 Responses)
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    August 23, 2011 at 10:38 am |
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    August 12, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  4. Mark Larezzo

    Anyone know how to infuse chocolate or toffee? That would be awesome

    August 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • John

      Check out this step by step for a chocolate infusion: http://highproofspirit.com/infuse/2011/08/chocolate-infused-vodka/

      August 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  5. Charlotte Stout

    Gosh, I had no idea people were infusing vodka, or any other thing else for that matter. All these ideas sound great. Please don't make fun of me. I just ran out of beer & crawled out from under my rock at Luckenbach & got bored & started thinking I needed to drink something besides beer. (bubbas don't really like beer bellies, even though you think they do). Anyway, I found my way here...seems I was reading about which wines to chill & now we are on the subject of vodka infusions....that's what I like about computers,,,,keeps you confused most of the time. I would like my vodka infused with something pungent, thank you very much.

    August 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  6. STFU

    I DIDNT KNOW I COULD MIX MY VODKA WITH STUFF THANK YOU CEE ENN ENN!!!

    August 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • WillieWanker@STFU

      Once you graduate Jr. High and leave Mommies basement you may learn alot of things..But I doubt it.

      August 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  7. Rich

    Any thoughts on the pesticide residue in peels? I love using zests in a variety of dishes, but I've been on an organic kick the past couple of years and have been leery of using zest from non-organic lemons and oranges (or peels, to make it more infused vodka specific).

    August 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  8. Jeff

    Pineapple, mango and kiwi infused vodka on the rock with a splash of soda. This summer's favorite drink (so far).

    August 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  9. Dan

    We always toss in skittles in our sh'tty vodka at our college parties. Lol

    August 5, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  10. Chartreuxe

    My vanilla extract has turned out well. I've made liqueurs. Vodka infusions will be the next step.

    August 5, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  11. squarf

    Toss in a Llife Saver mint or other flavor. Voila! You have infused the blandest liquor in the world. Always use 5 times distilled vodka. If you wish, do nothing but use a bitter lemon mixer. Don't bother with tonic water or flavored sodas. Hey, it's only booze.

    August 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  12. GDBnNH

    I prefer vodka flavored vodka: any infusions are simply pretentious.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • John

      if you ever try a well-made infusion (i.e. made with the right vodka and fresh ingredients) you would retract that statement. You can also achieve flavors that you'll never ever find in a commercially sold product.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
      • Sam Meyer

        And some things simply aren't available commercially, or the commercial flavored versions are loaded up with extra sweeteners or stabilizers or artificial flavors.

        Case in point: in my fridge right now resides a bottle of "Tequila por mi amante", which is nothing more than reposado tequila infused for three weeks with fresh strawberries. It's fantastic on the rocks with a slice of lime, or in a Paloma (where you add lime juice, grapefruit soda, and a pinch of salt.)

        August 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Southern Woman@GDBnNH

      Ha! And Dom Perignon is a Mafia leader, right?

      August 12, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  13. Rozz01

    I'm infusing vodka with fennel fronds right now, hope it turns out better than the stuff I made earlier this year with mint.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  14. James Miles

    I personally like to f art in the bottles to add an earthy flavor to the infusion and leave it for a few days to settle.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • redbellypirhana

      This made me all giggly. Thanks for a dose of giggles.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Matt

      Oh, and the bubbles.

      August 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  15. Wzrd1

    I personally only infuse flavor into vodka when I'm making an extract. My primary extract I use at home is vanilla extract, split vanilla beans left to steep in the vodka. It's cheaper than real vanilla, it tastes better than artificial vanilla and it's in serious quantity.
    For anise extract, I use Arak, an Arab version of Sambuca, only 100 proof and ten times more potent.
    A little for the bowl, a little for the chef... ;)

    August 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  16. John

    Thank you Tito for bringing this amazing do-it-yourself liquor info to the eyes of the public! it's really as easy as it sounds to get great results.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  17. Juli

    You need to investigate "ratafia". It's a liquor made in a small region in Spain with anise liquor as a base and various herbs like oregano, basil... as well as green walnuts. The final result is up to you, sweet or dry, depending on the ingredients you add. Search "Ratafia Russet" for more info. While that is a commercial brand it is more common for families there to make their own version.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  18. Sam Meyer

    It's also fun to experiment with different alcohol levels. An infused 80-proof vodka will bring out different flavors than an infused 100-proof, or even higher if you can get it.

    And don't be afraid to taste it through its process. Infusions seem to have a moment of peak flavor, and from there they can go downhill. A week-long infusion of strawberries might be more to your taste than a three-week infusion.

    August 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • John

      You're totally right! A higher proof will infuse flavors much faster (since the alcohol is the solvent). There's a really top quality high proof vodka made in Maine called Twenty 2 High Proof Spirit which is designed for this exact purpose.

      http://www.highproofspirit.com

      August 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
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