Saturday, July 11, 2015


I've been having a lot of fun with making mead at home but that's not the only alcohol I drink.  I'm also a big fan of flavored vodka.  Because the production of vodka involves distillation it isn't legal to make at home but it is legal to infuse flavor into vodka you purchase.

Vodka, if you weren't familiar with the recipe, is essentially wine made with potatoes and then run through a still.  The technical aspect is quite simple but there's a law against distilling alcohol by home brewers.  We can ferment it; we can't distill it.  In addition to vodka, the law takes other distilled alcohols like brandy and whiskey off the product lineup as well.

While distilling vodka from scratch isn't available, buying unflavored vodka off the shelf and infusing your own flavors into it is legal and super easy.  My girlfriend and I are members of a food co-op and occasionally have too much food.  Rather than let the fruit rot or toss it in the compost, I've taken to making infusions with it.  To do this yourself you'll need a half-gallon (roughly 2 L) empty growler, a 1.75 L bottle of vodka, and a handful of fruit.

First step, as in all home brewing operations, is to sanitize everything.  It isn't actually critical because you're not fermenting anything here but it's good shop practice.  Chop the fruit into pieces small enough to cram into the growler.  Some fruits, especially whole berries, need to be muddled to release their flavor.  Place your hand over the mouth of the growler and give it a good shake to lightly bruise the fruit.  Now pour in the vodka, cap the growler, and place it on a shelf out of your way.  Wash out the vodka bottle and save it.  Use a solid cap and not an airlock because, again, this is infusing and not fermenting.

The infusion should be complete in one week.  Give it a good stir to thoroughly distribute the flavor and pour off a sample.  If the flavor isn't strong enough, cap it and put it back on the shelf.  Check it again every couple of days until the alcohol has reached peak flavor.  When it's done infusing, pour the vodka back into its original bottle, straining out the fruit.  Keep the fruit though since it's now the same proof as the alcohol it was soaking in.

My first batch of blueberry was a big hit among my friends.  I have batches of melon, citrus, grape, and even apple cinnamon in the works.  Blackberries will be ripe around August and a peppermint infusion will be a big hit for the holidays.  Don't do pumpkin spice; just don't.

I've written this entire article specifying vodka as the alcohol but any unflavored drinking alcohol will work.  It's just that most other alcohols have a strong flavor of their own. Vodka is uniquely advertised on the basis of the purity of its distillation and is often the base for store-bought alcohols with novelty flavors.  Anyway, drink responsibly and enjoy a new dimension of alcohol.