It's no pretty jar of jam or row of canned tomatoes, I know, but I suspect that making your own fruit-flavored vodkas might just be the most fun way to preserve the season! This is also perfect for when you're not in the mood for a big preserving project, but want a quick way to make sure that handful of juicy berries, plump purple figs, or last peaches doesn't go to waste. Because a bottle of jewel-colored, summer fruit-infused vodka will never go to waste. Trust me on this.
I had always thought of fruit-infused vodkas as a Big Project requiring specially-sourced liquor and months of waiting. In fact, it barely requires a tutorial like this one! It's as simple as choosing some ripe fruits covering them with vodka, and waiting for a few days until the vodka tastes good to you. Once strained, this vodka can go into cocktails or pitcher drinks, or you can gift it to lucky friends in the months ahead.
I love single-fruit vodkas — you're guaranteed to love the end result and they tend to be the most versatile for crafting cocktails. But heck, you can get as fancy and crafty as you like! Combine fruits together, add spices or fresh herbs, and let out your inner mad scientist. You can also start with a single fruit, taste it, and then add another fruit or other spices. High proof vodka will never go bad, so you can continue layering on more flavors until you're happy. If you can imagine it, you can make it.
What Alcohol To Use?
You can use either 80 proof or 100 proof vodka to make fruit-flavored vodkas. 80 proof is easier to find in stores and I prefer it in cocktails. 100 proof vodka will extract better (and more) fruit flavor, but I find that it can tend to taste a little "hot" or raw in cocktails. I like using 100 proof if I'm planning to add simple syrup to make the vodka into a liqueur (like making limoncello, see Recipe Notes). You can also cut the 100 proof with a little water to taste.
You don't need to get fancy with the vodka either. The fruit becomes the dominant flavor, so I recommend skipping the fancy artisan vodkas and picking up something basic. I used Seagram's Extra-Smooth 80 Proof Vodka for this tutorial.
Vodka isn't the only liquor you can use, either! I love the idea of infusing other spirits with fruit — what about a fig-infused bourbon? Or a grapefruit gin? Or a strawberry tequila for making daiquiris?! This is a DIY rabbit hole: embrace it.
How Much to Make?
Here's the standard ratio that I like to use:
2 cups chopped fruit + 2 to 3 cups vodka, infused for 3 to 5 days
This will give you a nicely balanced, fruit-forward vodka. Using more fruit will give you a stronger flavor, just as using less will add a light flavor. At minimum, you want enough vodka to cover the fruit to prevent it from spoiling during infusion.
You can also scale this up and down. If you only have a cup of fruit to use up —or if you have a whole basket — just use a proportionate amount of vodka. This is more of a method than a strict recipe, so you can adjust to the amount of ingredients you have and how much you want to make at any given time.
Is This Safe?
Yes! The alcohol prevents any mold or other bacteria from growing on the fruit. Once strained, the vodka can be kept for years.
How Do I Use Fruit-Flavored Vodka?
Think of these vodkas as adding another layer of flavor to your favorite cocktails. They can be shaken with ice for a very simple martini or combined with other liquors and bitters for more complex cocktails. Or...of course...use them to make grown-up jello shots!
Little bottles of fruit-flavored vodkas are also one of my favorite hostess gifts — so much more fun and special than a bottle of wine, especially when it means giving a taste of summer in the middle of winter. You can use any bottle or jar with a tight-sealing lid (even canning jars), so get creative with your gift-giving!
When the vodka has been infused, separate the fruit and the vodka by straining it into a measuring cup. If your fruit had a lot of seeds or sediment, line the strainer with cheesecloth before straining.
How To Make Fruit-Infused Vodkas
What You Need
2 cups chopped fruit, a single fruit or a mix of fruits
2 to 3 cups 80 proof or 100 proof vodka (See Recipe Note)
Optional extras: citrus peels, minced ginger, fresh herbs, split vanilla beans, whole cloves, whole star anise, whole cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and other whole spices.
1 quart canning jar or other container with lid
4-cup measuring cup
Small funnel (optional)
Glass bottles with caps — empty liquor bottles, swing-top bottles, cleaned glass soda bottles, or canning jars
Prepare the fruit: Wash and pat the fruit dry. Chop the fruit into small pieces, trimming away any stems, cores, seeds, or blemishes. Peels can be left on or peeled off — I like the extra flavor and richer color that peels add, but leaving them off gives a sweeter, purer fruit flavor. Berries and other very small fruits can be left whole.
Transfer the fruit to the canning jar: Transfer all the fruit to the canning jar, along with any extra herbs or spices you'd like to use. Pour any juice from the cutting board into the jar. If you're using berries, muddle them with a wooden spoon to break them up and release their juices.
Cover the fruit with vodka: Pour the vodka over the fruit. Use enough to completely cover the fruit and fill the jar, about 2 to 3 cups in a 1-quart jar. Seal the jar tightly and put it somewhere out of direct sunlight.
Infuse for 3 to 5 days: Shake the jar of fruit and vodka daily. You'll see the vodka gradually take on the color of the fruit. Taste it after 3 days and continue infusing to your liking. Most fruit vodkas are finished in 3 to 5 days, but you can continue infusing the vodka for longer.
Strain the fruit vodka: When the vodka has been infused, separate the fruit and the vodka by straining it into a measuring cup. If your fruit had a lot of seeds or sediment, line the strainer with cheesecloth before straining. Discard the fruit after straining.
Transfer the fruit vodka to bottles: Pour the vodka into clean glass bottles — a small funnel helps with this step. The bottles don't necessarily need to be completely filled, but they do need to be able to be sealed or the vodka will evaporate. Store the vodka out of direct sunlight; it will keep indefinitely.
80 vs 100 Proof Vodka: Either 80 proof or 100 proof vodka can be used in this recipe. I find 80 proof to be more drinkable on its own and in cocktails. 100 proof will extract better fruit flavor, but can taste a bit "hot" and raw in drinks — you can cut the liquor with water or a simple syrup to taste.
Sweet Fruit Liqueur: To make a sweet liqueur, similar to limoncello, mix the strained vodka to taste with simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, simmered until sugar is dissolved).
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(Images: Emma Christensen)