When I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Poland, one of the things that struck me was the prevalence of home-flavored liquors. Some were made with herbs, some with fruits, some with a mysterious mix of the two. But, something all these flavored liquors had in common was that they were much more interesting than chemically flavored vodkas that are so popular in the U.S.
Don’t get me wrong, regular flavored vodka has its uses. But think of it this way, if you want to drink a juice that tastes of grapes, do you pour yourself some Welches Grape Juice or Kool-Aid? Exactly.
So here’s how you make your own flavored vodka.
- a bottle of vodka
- about 2 cups of the fruit you want to flavor your vodka with
- a clean 16 ounce glass bottle or mason jar
- patience — seriously, you’ll need a lot of patience.
First, obtain your materials. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. … Ready? Okay.
Second, make sure your bottle is clean. I reused an old kombucha bottle and would encourage you to reuse a 16 oz glass bottle too! Be considerate of the planet, y’all. The only thing is that you definitely have to make sure your bottle is clean before you use it. Easiest method, pour a little near-boiling water in it and shake it around– careful you don’t burn yourself!
Next, wash your fruit and chop it if necessary. Things like blueberries (like I used for this post) and raspberries don’t need to be chopped. Strawberry-sized fruits should be cut in quarters or halves. Apples or peaches work best when you cut them into eighths. So on, so forth. Get the picture? Cool, moving on.
Depending on how flavorful you want your booze you’ll want to fill between 1/2 and the whole bottle. If you fill it half-way with fruit (about 1 cup if you use a 16 oz. bottle), then you’ll end up with light flavor, but still a lot of that classic vodka burn. If you use a full 2 cups, it will be mostly fruity and a little sting. Once you’ve got the fruit in the bottle, fill the empty space with vodka!
I used Sobieski, but if you have a vodka you prefer, go for that.
The more fruit you use, the less it matters how good your vodka is. My favorite vodka is another Polish one; I’m not sure what to call it because the bottle is not entirely in English. The extent of my Polish language skills ends at “najtańsza wóda” which is essentially a shortened way of asking for the cheapest vodka. You’d think I’d know more, given that I have a Polish boyfriend but that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, here’s a picture of the vodka– if you see it at a store, grab it! I know of a couple people who swore off expensive vodka after trying this miracle.
Now is where the patience comes in. Well, now and for the next 3-6 months. Obviously, the longer you let the fruit sit with the vodka, the more flavorful it will be. You can see that the bottle on the right hand side has quite dark liquid– that one was filled a little more than halfway with blueberries, and has been infusing since January, so more than 6 months. But, it really didn’t gain much more blueberry flavor between months 6 and 8 because it was already endowed with as much flavor as the blueberries had to give. This time we’re using a full bottle of blueberries, and we’ll see how long it takes to age.
The thing about different kinds of fruit is that you should strain some from the bottle when you are finished aging it. With things like blueberries, it doesn’t really matter if you strain it because they aren’t going to turn the whole bottle into a fruity/boozy mush. Pears and peaches probably will if you let them, so it’s better to strain them.
Here’s a list of the vodka infusions we’ve tried: blueberry, strawberry, apple, nectarine, pear, raspberry, blackberry, jalapeno, rosemary, cherry, mint tea, and lemon. I think Earl Grey is on the to-do list, and I’m considering cucumber as well. Whatever your favorite fruit (or vegetable! or tea! or any other thing that will fit in the bottle), please let me know how it turns out… in a few months. Just be aware that some fruits like apples and cherries have seeds which should definitely not be consumed or infused into your soon-to-be-delicious vodka infusions.