Infuse Your Booze: Making Fruit-Flavored Liquors

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Fresh fruit + vodka = summer in a glass, all year round.
I’ve been making fruit-infused liquors for about 10 years. I get it from my mother, who makes jars of lemon verbena liquor and blackberry brandy (and amazing Irish Cream in the winter).

I know the whole fruit infusion thing has been done to death in higher-end bars the last few years, but it’s still one of my favorite ways to keep local berry flavor around all year.

Here’s how.

Gather your equipment
You’ll need fresh fruit, a bottle of your favorite liquor, and a little patience. It’s not necessarily much cheaper than hitting the package store, but you can’t beat the quality of the cordial—or the boasting rights to making your own booze.

* Large, tempered glass jar
* Wine bottles or canning jars
* Labels
* Sealing wax (optional)
* Funnel
* Ladle
* Strainer
* Cheesecloth
* Fruit
* High-proof liquor (vodka, tequila, etc.)
* Bar sugar (optional)

Pick your ingredients
Chances are, if you like it, other people will, too. I usually use what’s in season—and test my ideas first by soaking a mini-batch for a few days. You can finetune your recipe, and you don’t waste a lot of ingredients if you’re not crazy about how your creation tastes.

Want to make peach brandy? Hit an orchard and let the fruit sit on the counter until it hits peak ripeness. Also, don’t rule out savory or spicy ingredients. I like to use dried Chinese chilis for a hot pepper vodka (the longer these steep, the hotter your drink will get) to use in Bloody Marys. Here’s the one I have going right now:

Infuse your booze
1. Sterilize a large, tempered glass jar with boiling water, and add your fruit
Wash your fruit and pat it dry with paper towels. If you�re using berries, pick out any stems and bruised pieces. For larger fruit, chunk it up, discarding any pits or seeds. There can be a lot of flavor in a peel or rind�especially with citrus fruits�but leaving it on is your call. If you keep it, avoid a toxic cocktail and consider going organic and pesticide-free.

2. Add your liquor
Layer your fruit in the bottom of your jar, and cover with your alcohol of choice. For a sweeter cordial, add a little instant-dissolving bar sugar. When in doubt, skip it. You can always add sugar later, but once it�s in there, you can�t get it out.

3. Cover your jar and set it aside
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside in a cool, dark place. Every few days, check on your concoction and shake the jar a little to mix it up.

When is it ready?
Trust your nose�and your taste buds�on this one. I usually start tasting after about a week. Your liquor will have taken on a little�or a lot�of the fruit�s color. In general, the more delicate the fruit, the less time it will take to give up all its flavor and color. Berries are usually spent after a week, while citrus and stone fruits can be soaked for a month�or longer.

Bottle It
Taste your creation one last time before you bottle it to make sure you really like it.

  1. Sterilize your bottles with boiling water.
  2. Line a regular metal kitchen strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Ladle your infusion into the strainer, pressing the fruit with the back of the ladle to squeeze out the last bits of juice.
  3. Pour the strained concoction through a funnel into the sterilized bottles
  4. Seal with corks or screw caps, and store in a cool, dark place. Some cordials greatly improve after they�ve aged for a month or two.

A note on food safety (or, how to not poison yourself or your friends)
A few things to be mindful of:

  1. Use a high-proof liquor, like vodka.
  2. Inspect your fruit, and toss any pieces that are bruised.
  3. Use super clean hands, bowls, and utensils, and sterilize your containers by boiling them.
  4. Use all your common senses: If your infusion looks funky or smells like you wouldn�t want to drink it, don�t.

Because you’re using strong alcohol, your chances of running into trouble are probably less than with traditional canning. But since I�m not an expert on canning or preserving by a long shot, you can read more about food safety from the good folks at the USDA.
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Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

16 COMMENTS

  1. any suggestions on what to do with the left-over fruit once you've strained the liquor? I hate the thought of tossing it...
    • Gosh, it probably depends on how much flavor is left in it. Depending on what you use, a lot will leech out into the alcohol. I'd start by tasting the fruit after you strain it out. If it's still tastes good, you can probably use it in a bunch of different stuff. Blend it up in smoothies or frozen cocktails. Or use it in homemade ice cream or sorbet. (Or even in muffins, depending on how the texture is.) Let me know how you make out! +Jessie
  2. I have a plum liquor that has been sitting for 6 months now. I placed a pound of plums, cloves, cinnamon stick, caraway seeds, sugar and vodka into a large glass sun tea jar. It sat in a dark place for 6 months. It was shook a few times. Are there any risks in drinking this now? I guess I'm concerned about botulism or something. Does the alcohol kill any bacteria that would grow? How can I store this liquor and plums at this point?
    • Hi Andrea, Thanks for the note and for stopping by! Alrighty. Let me preface this (and make my lawyers happy) by saying I'm not a nutritionist, doctor, or trained chef, so this is my best guess, based on my experience. Take it for what it's worth and drink at your own risk. That said, your liquor sounds really, really good! I consorted with my buddy, cocktail blogger Chris Stanley at An Exercise in Hospitality, and he basically agreed with what I was thinking: Because you made it with 80-proof vodka, your liqueur should be fine. But, read on. A few questions. Did you wash your fruit and sterilize all your implements when you made it? If you didn't, there's a chance you might have introduced something unsavory into your liqueur. Was the fruit (etc.) completely covered in vodka? If it was, you should be OK. Do you see anything funky going on in the jar? i.e. Is there anything new going on in there--mold, black spots, any other signs of microbial activity, etc.? If you see anything fishy like that at all, toss it. Does it smell like it's gone off? If it does, toss it. As for how to store it, I would fish all the solids out with a slotted spoon and toss them. After 6 months, they'll have given up all their flavor to the booze. Then strain the liquor through cheese cloth or something similar and bottle it in a sterilized jar. It should keep just fine in a cool, dark place almost indefinitely. You could also keep it in the fridge. If you have any doubts at all, throw it out and start again. Better to waste some ingredients than to get sick. Hope this info helps. Let me know how it goes! +Jessie
  3. Hi great site thanx for the info- I know more now than i did before. I'm wondering if you have any information or experience infusing brandy with chai tea. I'm thinking I'll just pour some high quality loose chai in my mid level brandy and sample every few days (grins) for taste. Do you think I need to heat it or warm it to infuse? I'm also doing a cucumber gin. I just put some long slivers of cucumber after I de-seeded them in Plymouth gin bottle, after drinking a bit -grins) so they would fit. Its in the freezer where I keep my gin anyways. Gonna taste every few days etc. I plan on taking the cucumber slivers out after a few days to a week before they disolve in the gin I dont have any experience with infusing...yet. any comments or suggestions are appreciated. R
  4. I just made a batch of white rum with raspberries, blackberries, ginger and lime as a thank-you-for-letting-me-use-your-place-while-you-were-out-of-town gift. It was so pretty that I left it on the kitchen table, where it will sit for 10 days until my friend returns. Is there any problem with it being left in the light? Have I compromised the flavor or safety? It will not be in direct sun, just normal room daylight. Thanks!
  5. [...] Infuse Your Booze Making Fruit Flavored Liquors The Hungry Mouse Posted by root 3 hours ago (http://www.thehungrymouse.com) Infusing brandy with chai tea i 39 m thinking i 39 ll just pour some high quality loose chai add your comment below or trackback from your own site powered by wordpress log in entries rss comments rss arthemia premium Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Infuse Your Booze Making Fruit Flavored Liquors The Hungry Mouse [...]
  6. Hey there, great advice, though I have a question: Is there anyway to infuse a spirit (specially vodka) but without changing the color of it... I'd like to have a clear, see-through vodka, like the ones you boy already prepared (i.e. Absolut Kurant, SKYY Melon, etc.) Thanks in advance, MIKE :-)
  7. Hi, I went to a place in PA that serve a drink that was delicious. The bartender said it was tequilla, pinneapple and sugar put in a 5 gallon jug and aged for one month. I wanted to put together a couple quart size one for my friends for christmas, but I'm not sure how much sugar to add. I am asuming that I would fill the jar half way with pineapple chunks and a few slices of lemon and lime (to give it a margarita twist) and then fill the rest with tequilla. . .just don't know how much sugar. I want to take the harshness of the tequilla down a couple notched, but I don't want anything too sugary sweet. Any thoughts??? Thanks
    • Ya know, unless you have an exact recipe, here's what I'd do. Make the infusion without any sugar, then make a few bottles of simple syrup for your friends. That way, they can make the liquor as sweet (or not) as they'd like. I have a good recipe here: http://www.thehungrymouse.com/home/2009/01/13/basic-cooking-how-to-make-simple-syrup/ Alternately, you could infuse the liquor without sugar, then when you strain it, add simple syrup to it slowly (once you put it in, you can't get it out), and taste as you go until you're happy. You could package the liquor and simple syrup up with a couple of glasses and a cocktail shaker, and you'd have a fabulous present. What do you think? Cheers! +Jessie
  8. When you infuse rum with different kinds of fruit and strain them and bottle them. As long as you dont open them, how long will they stay good? Also, at what percent does the alcohol content need to be in order to make the rum stay preserved longer?
  9. Hi! We have been making infused booze for a long time but just had one blow it's top. We have been checking to see if it is still safe to drink and we think so but......It is blackberry, raspberry with 100 proof vodka in a 2 quart jar...been turning it every day for at least a month...smelled kind of sour but we poured what leaked out into the bowl it sits in, back into the jar and going to give it a go.
    • Dave how did that bottle turn out? We made 4 bottles of blackberry liqueur at the same time and 1 blew the lid. It also has a different taste-more like a very dry rd wine. Not sure if we should throw that one out. The others are very good...like pure sweetness of the berries. We added sugar from the start but next time will just add simple syrup at the end. Fun process!
  10. This design is wicked! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

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