Bourbon and Vodka Vanilla Extract from Scratch: Do Not Open till Christmas!

vanilla w bourbon_n

Quality Madagascar vanilla beans, bourbon in one bottle and vodka in the other, and the experiment begins. If all goes well, in six months we’ll have two excellent bottles of double-strength vanilla extract for our Christmas pies and confections.

Even when perfectly good store-bought products are available, we are fascinated by how various foods are actually made. For excellent vanilla extract, we know of no better than Penzeys Spices double strength. But we wanted to give making our own a go.

vanilla beans bourbon and vodka_n

We purchased our Madagascar vanilla beans from Penzeys. For the bourbon and vodka, we went with two well-known makers – a bourbon we enjoy sipping and a vodka that’s fine in our bloody Mary’s.

vodka pouring into bottle_n

There’s really nothing to creating your own vanilla extract. We had 15 long beans which we cut in half, split down the middle, and placed in old-fashioned bottles with tight seals.

Whether the subject is sherry for cooking or bourbon for vanilla extract, an oft-repeated axiom is “Don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink.” That’s good advice, on par with adding seasonings “to taste” in recipes. On one hand, this isn’t the place to use the finest bourbon one might drink; on the other hand, in our own experience we noticed a marked improvement in our sauces and sautés when we moved away from lower end sherries and upgraded to more drinkable varieties.


bourbon pouring into bottle_new

Once the vanilla beans and alcohol have been combined and sealed tight, it’s helpful to give the bottle a gentle shake from time to time to ensure mixing and full extraction. For the richest, most flavorful extract, allow six months to go by before opening.

For this batch, that means we’ll be able to break the seal for Christmastime chocolate orange meringue pie, pecan pralines and extra rich vanilla ice cream.

12 thoughts on “Bourbon and Vodka Vanilla Extract from Scratch: Do Not Open till Christmas!

  1. Haha, I think I have the same bottles at home that you’re using in the picture. They are so cute! I plan on picking up a few smaller sized ones to give as gifts over the holidays. I have done the extract with Vodka, but never with Bourbon. Let us know how it turns out! Maybe I’ll do my next few batches in bourbon and/or rum!

  2. I have made my own vanilla extract and will never use store bought again! Hopefully you had grade B beans. Not a pretty and drier than grade A. Drier is preferred so you get a better concentration of extract. I made mine with vodka and rum. Have bourbon but haven’t made it yet.

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