Ready to Upgrade Those Homemade Cocktails? Learn How to Infuse Alcohol

Skip the $15 cocktail and make your own creative provisions at home.

soda cocktail with fresh berries and a straw
Photo: Elena Medoks/EyeEm/Getty Images

Who says you need to go to a trendy, dimly lit bar to enjoy innovative, craft cocktails? You may have noticed that most of those fancy drinks involve some sort of infused liquor with complicated ingredients, but the truth is, they're quite simple to make right at home. Infusing your own spirits isn't as complicated and tedious as it may seem. In fact, you can use plenty of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and pantry staples that you already have in your house to infuse your liquor and take it to the next level.

How to Make Infused Liquors

You don't have to be a mixologist to create a great infusion. In fact, it's pretty simple. A good rule of thumb when infusing liquor at home is to add your sliced ingredients into the bottle and store it in a cool, dark place for a minimum for 24 hours.

However, it's also important to know how specific ingredients work with certain liquors. For instance, spirits like vodka and gin are way more versatile than whiskey and tequila. Keep these few tips in mind when making your own infused liquors at home.

  1. Use a clean, airtight container, like a mason jar.
  2. If using fruit, vegetables, or fresh herbs, make sure to wash them thoroughly before steeping in liquor.
  3. Always keep your infused liquor in a dark, cool place. Sunlight could impact the final product.
  4. Shake your infusion daily to further bring out the flavors.
  5. Taste-test your spirit daily to gauge flavor profile.
  6. Use a fine-mesh strainer to discard ingredients before pouring the finished infused liquor into a clean bottle.
  7. The combos below are delicious, but if they're too complicated, feel free to start with any one ingredient. You'll be surprised at the impact a single fruit or veggie can make!

Now that you know the basics, read on for specific tips on how to infuse specific liquors, like vodka, tequila, and more.

How to Make Vodka Infusions

Vodka is one of the most popular liquors to infuse because it can take on pretty much any flavor—it's basically a blank canvas. Depending on the ingredients you choose, you can craft something with a subtle, delicate flavor, or something strong and sweet. If you're planning on using fruit in your infusion, a good rule of thumb is to let it steep for at least 24 hours. In fact, the longer the fruit soaks, the better it will taste. Here are some ideas for vodka infusions:

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Strawberry and Vanilla Bean

The richness of vanilla bean perfectly complements sweet, ripe strawberries. Just make sure to use real vanilla bean and not an extract or artificial flavor, because it won't have the same delicious result.

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Cranberry, Orange, and Cinnamon

This option is great for the fall season because it calls for vibrant sweet orange, tart cranberries, a little maple syrup, and a cinnamon stick to add some warmth. Since the cinnamon will take a bit longer to infuse, consider letting this mixture steep for up to a week for optimal flavor.

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Raspberry and Lemon

If you've ever wanted to sip on a drink that resembles a popsicle, this flavor combination is for you. Effortlessly sip on a refreshing vodka cocktail made of fresh, muddled raspberries and zesty lemon with a splash of club soda.

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Cucumber, Lime, and Mint

Cucumbers are ideal for liquor (and water!) infusions because they have a mild flavor and work well with other ingredients. In this case, it's lime and fresh mint. This is another infusion combo that requires more time to come together—about 4 to 5 days should do the trick.

How to Make Tequila Infusions

Tequila comes in many varieties, and it's important to note that some take on flavors better than others. Mezcal is known for its bold, smoky flavor, and tastes great in cocktails, but it's not the best for infusing. Like vodka, tequila blanco wonderfully takes on fruit, citrus, and herb flavors. Here are some ideas for tequila infusions:

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Watermelon and Basil

This is the definition of a sippable, summer spirit. Juicy, sweet watermelon mixed with fresh basil perfectly balances out the smoothness of tequila. You can pour it over a glass of ice, or shake it up with some coconut water for a refreshing poolside drink.

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Jalapeño and Lime

There are many ways to make a spicy margarita, but there's just something about using tequila that's infused with jalapeños. It adds a more substantial kick without being too overpowering, and adding a hint of citrus via a lime helps to round it all out. Unlike fruit infusions, you'll only want to let the jalapeños steep for about 24 to 48 hours to avoid making it too spicy.

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Serrano, Grapefruit, and Honey

For an alternative take on a spicy tequila infusion, try using serrano peppers, which are similar to jalapeños. The subtle heat paired with tangy grapefruit and mild sweetness from honey is simply irresistible.

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Blackberry and Lemon

If spicy margaritas aren't your thing, try this mildly sweet infusion. Fresh muddled blackberries and sliced lemon creates a sweet and sour infusion that tastes great with club soda or even on its own.

How to Make Whiskey or Bourbon Infusions

When it comes to infusing whiskey or bourbon, the most common mistake is using any bottle you have laying around. While you may not want to use something too expensive or rare, you should still make sure to use a high-proof, quality whiskey. It'll yield the best results.

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Apples and Cinnamon

There's no better way to warm up on a cool fall evening than with a glass of whiskey, and this apple-cinnamon combination is ideal for autumn. All you'll need is apples, cinnamon sticks, and about three days of patience to allow the flavors to come together.

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Blackberry and Peaches

Blackberries and peaches may seem like an odd combo to add to your bourbon, but the tart flavor and subtle sweetness of these fruits can really enhance this spirit. You can enjoy it on the rocks, or make a cocktail by adding some ginger beer.

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Shortbread Cookie

This might be one of the easiest and most delicious bourbon recipes out there, and pretty much any classic shortbread cookie will do the trick. Pair this sweet, buttery shortbread cookie bourbon with vanilla ice cream or a silky panna cotta for the perfect end to a meal.

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Dried Apricot, Cinnamon, and Brown Sugar

Put some pantry staples to good use by whipping up this cinnamon sugar, dried apricot whiskey. Keep in mind that dried fruit takes a bit longer to steep than fresh fruit, but the flavor profile is equally worthwhile.

How to Make Gin Infusions

The sky is the limit when infusing gin. This is because it's such a delicate spirit, so any type of fruit, herb, or food you steep will come through beautifully. Countless cocktails are made with gin as the main ingredient, and they're only further enhanced when using a delicious, infused version of the spirit.

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Lemon, Ginger, and Honey

While you may use these in ingredients in your tea to battle a cold, some might argue that sipping on them in your cocktails could also have some medicinal benefits. Try it in your own version of a bee's knees, or add some ginger beer for even more flavor.

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Fruit Salad

The best thing about this recipe? You can use whatever fruit and fresh herbs you have on hand. Try adding lemon, strawberries, and basil, or pineapple, mango, and mint. Whatever route you choose will be a good one.

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Fresh Rosemary

You know the saying "less is more?" Well, that rings true for this gin infusion. Just adding a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to your gin can make all the difference, especially when using it in cocktails. It has earthy, flavorful notes that make a great addition to grapefruit juice, or even just a classic gin and tonic with a squeeze of lemon.

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Strawberry and Rhubarb

Make a gin that's as sweet as pie with fresh summer strawberries and rhubarb. If you grow your own rhubarb, you already know how bountiful it can be, so this is a great way to use up any extra. This recipe is so tasty, you can simply pour it over ice or add some prosecco for extra fizz.

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