Posted by: Amelia | August 19, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday: Infused Vodka Edition

A few weeks ago I started a little experiment infusing vodka with various things I had grown in my DC garden. The results, I must report, were mixed. The bulk of the vodka was used for two infusions: peppermint and lemon balm. I started by steeping large volumes of peppermint and lemon balm leaves in two bowls. The bowls were covered, but not airtight. This was a mistake. Though the leaves in each bowl started imparting a lovely green color on the first day, the leaves (and then the vodka) turned brown soon after. I really should have invested in some jars with an airtight seal and filled them up to the top with vodka so that no oxidation could occur.Nonetheless, I forged ahead with my discolored vodkas. After nearly two weeks, I strained them with cheesecloth and sweetened them with a little simple syrup. I decided to add a drop of green food coloring to the peppermint vodka (partly to differentiate the two and partly because dark amber is an awfully weird color for peppermint). I decanted the flavored and sweetened vodkas into two glass bottles I bought at the Container Store:

lemon balm vodkapeppermint vodka

In retrospect, the slightly old-fashioned bottles with the mini-Mason Jar lids were actually pretty appropriate choices for the hooch I had created. But what, you might ask, of the taste? Well, the lemon balm vodka was pretty weird. The taste of wilted and oxidized leaves interfered with the lemony, herby flavor (which might have been a good pairing with vodka had I infused it correctly).

shotsThe peppermint vodka had a bit of that unpleasant leafy flavor as well, although the menthol went a long way in covering it up. Overall, we declared the peppermint vodka a success. In fact, we found some old DeKuyper Peppermint Schnapps in the liquor cabinet and had a little taste test. My peppermint vodka won hands down. The DeKuyper’s was insipid, artificial, and overly sweet by comparison, and despite being only 60 proof, had a stronger alcoholic taste. My vodka, coming in at around 80 proof, was smoother and far more complex in flavor. Chilled, it makes a nice digestif or pick-me-up shot. The DeKuyper’s is really only good for adding to cocktails or cocoa.

red cayenne in vodkaAs you recall, I had feared that my cayenne pepper vodka would be lethal, given that I was planning to leave the pepper in the tiny bottle permanently (my recipe was based on one that infused a whole bottle of vodka with three cayennes for only three days). Pleasantly, the vodka has actually been quite drinkable, so I made a second bottle. The key, I think, was that I did not slice open the cayenne. Thus, I think a lot of the capsaicin is still safely locked within the pepper. The vodka has an ideal amount of heat, and has even taken on a smoky sweetness reminiscent of roasted red bell peppers.

rosemary vodkaI had a little less than a cup of vodka left over, so I decided to make rosemary vodka just for the hell of it. It’s… strange. It has a straightforward rosemary taste that is not unpleasant, but not exactly quaffable. I think it would be good in a cocktail with pear brandy or something.

So the vodka experiment was a mixed bag, but overall a success and a lot of fun. And along the way, I discovered an entertaining blog devoted entirely to vodka infusion experiments called Infusions of Grandeur. The “Mad Scienticians” there will serve as my mentors should I attempt to infuse again.


  1. ummm… thats completely cool and I’m jealous… Can I come over and taste the two?

  2. If I was still in DC, I’d say yes. Unfortunately, you’ll have to infuse your own!

  3. Booooo.

  4. I think you will find that no matter what you do whith those leafy greens, the colour will always go brown. I use decanters which allow complete immersion for my experiments, and still get varying shades of brown. Lemongrass being very noteable. It imparts a grassy flavour, not lemony. Goes well with apple juice.

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