Homemade Vanilla Vodka

Homemade Vanilla Vodka requires just two ingredients to make at home and mix into cocktails. It makes a great gift too!

A clear jar holds liquid with a single vanilla bean. More vanilla beans sit to the side along with the lid of the container and a dark gray napkin

Vanilla Vodka recipe

Homemade liqueurs are so much fun to experiment with. They are one of my favorite things to make and give for holiday presents.

Whether it’s homemade Irish cream or coffee liqueur, these easy recipes make great gifts.

This holiday season, one of the recipes I’m making is homemade vanilla vodka.

It’s a great addition to any home bartender’s bar cart and can be used in all kinds of great cocktails, especially dessert drinks.

This vanilla vodka recipe has a gorgeous aroma and a homemade flavor that I just can’t get enough of. Plus, it’s so much more satisfying to make than to buy a bottle of vanilla vodka with unknown ingredients.

With homemade infusions, you know exactly what goes into each bottle.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Homemade vanilla vodka is just about the easiest thing you can make.

  • Vanilla-flavored vodka is easy to make with only two ingredients.
  • You can make it two ways: one is quick and the other takes a bit longer but is more flavorful.
  • It makes a great gift or addition to your liquor cabinet.

Pick up a few vanilla beans (tips below!) and get started on a few batches of vanilla vodka. You won’t believe how simple it is!

Overhead view of vanilla bean steeping in a glass bottle of vodka with additional vanilla beans to the side

Ingredients

You only need two ingredients to make homemade vanilla vodka. Here’s what to scoop up at the grocery store and liquor store:

Vodka

You’ll want to pick up a great bottle of plain vodka to use in homemade liqueurs. Nothing too cheap, but not too pricy. For best results, use the highest quality you can afford, but a super-cheap vodka will not taste as great here.

Make sure it is unflavored so that you have the perfect blank slate — meaning room for optimal flavor — for an alcohol infusion.

Some great brands to try are Tito’s, Reyka, Deep Eddy, Grey Goose and Absolut. Learn some more about this versatile spirit in my Vodka 101 crash course.

A bunch of bourbon vanilla beans tied up with brown string on a white background.

Vanilla

For the vanilla flavor, you have two options: vanilla extract or real vanilla beans.

Vanilla extract: If you need vanilla vodka ASAP, you can make it quickly by adding vanilla extract to vodka. The trick is to use a high-quality vanilla extract like Nielsen-Massey.

If the clear color is important for your cocktail, clear and colorless imitation vanilla flavoring will work too. But keep in mind it isn’t real vanilla — it’s made with vanilla flavoring.

Whole Vanilla beans: For a stronger, more realistic vanilla flavor, a vanilla bean infusion wins the day. It takes about a week to infuse them for a strong enough flavor, but the result is so rich and sweet.

Vanilla beans are available at specialty grocery stores or online. They can be pretty pricy, but the good news is you can reuse the beans to make homemade vanilla extract after if you like. Or you can split vanilla beans and use the seeds to make homemade vanilla sugar, then use the pods in vanilla vodka.

There are a couple of different varieties of vanilla beans you can use:

  • Mexican Vanilla Beans: Thicker beans with a bold, robust yet smooth flavor.
  • Madagascar Vanilla Beans: Thinner beans with a clean vanilla aroma. Also known as Bourbon Vanilla Beans.
  • Tahitian Vanilla Beans: The most expensive type with a floral aroma.
  • Ugandan Vanilla Beans: Similar to Madagascar beans with bright chocolatey notes.

Each one has its own unique flavor thanks to the location, soil and climate where it’s grown. Experiment with different types to find your favorite.

Jars or bottles

You’ll also want to pick up a few mason jars or swing-top bottles.

In the photos you see here, I used these 16-ounce glass bottles for my vanilla vodka.

A hand places a dark brown vanilla bean into a clear bottle of vodka on a white marble surface

How to make Vanilla Vodka: Two ways

There are two basic ways to make vanilla vodka. If you have time for the long method, the results are worth it, I promise.

Quick method: Vanilla extract

Making a recipe that needs vanilla vodka but you’re out and don’t have time to infuse vanilla beans for a week? Don’t fret — you can make vanilla vodka with vanilla extract.

However, the flavor is not as ideal. It just isn’t the same as vanilla bean-infused vodka or store-bought vanilla vodka, but it does work in a pinch.

You can simply mix vanilla extract with your favorite vodka to make a fast, easy and ready-to-use vanilla vodka.

Long method: Vanilla beans

The long method is just as easy but takes more time.

Simply drop one or two vanilla pods into a bottle or jar of vodka (cut it with a sharp knife for smaller vessels). Let them infuse together in a cool, dark place for a week, giving it a good shake every other day or so.

Then remove the vanilla bean, and voilà! Homemade vanilla vodka with a fresh vanilla flavor.

A vanilla bean steeps in a bottle of clear liquid with a black lid and additional whole vanilla beans in front

Vanilla to vodka ratio

You’ll want to get the ratio of vanilla beans just right, but it’s not a totally exact science.

The basic rule is: Adjust the number of beans based on how much alcohol you are using.

For transforming a 750-ml bottle of vodka, use two beans. If you are infusing a small amount, like a cup of vodka, use one whole bean or even one half of a bean.

If you reach the end of 1 week and your vodka doesn’t smell strong enough, you can simply infuse it for a little more time. Check it every day after 1 week until you’ve reached the desired flavor of vanilla beans.

How long to infuse vanilla vodka

It takes about a week to make homemade vanilla vodka with a vanilla bean. You can leave it in for longer, but it will turn a yellowish-brown color over time.

If you leave the vanilla bean in the vodka for too long, you’ll wind up with your own vanilla extract. It takes about two months to get a vanilla extract.

In fact, I like to buy two vanilla beans and make a bottle of vanilla vodka first. Then I’ll move the vanilla bean to another bottle of vodka (or rum or bourbon) to make my own homemade vanilla extract.

(However, if you plan to make homemade vanilla extract in advance, split the vanilla bean in half vertically with a sharp knife to release the seeds and essential oils. It is the best for baking.)

Variations and substitutions

Spiced vanilla vodka: You can add other whole spices into the infusion, à la spiced rum. Try cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves and star anise.

Clear vanilla vodka: Both vanilla beans and regular vanilla extract will give off a slight amber color. If you want to keep the color perfectly clear, use clear imitation vanilla instead.

Lemon vanilla vodka: Add a piece of lemon zest to the mix to add a hint of citrus flavor. Orange zest or lime zest works too.

Vanilla tequila: Feel free to use other spirits like tequila or mezcal for an extra special spirit. You can also use rum or bourbon in this recipe. The sky is the limit!

Vanilla Vodka is being made in a glass jar surrounded by the lid, a dark gray dish towel and extra vanilla beans

Vanilla vodka substitute

If you are out of vanilla vodka, you can make it at home with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for every 1 cup of vodka.

You could also substitute vanilla simple syrup instead of whatever sweetener is in your cocktail and use vanilla vodka.

Vanilla vodka cocktails

You can use vanilla-infused vodka in dessert cocktails in lieu of regular vodka. It brings a sweet, spiced flavor that’s hard to beat. Here are a few vanilla vodka drinks to try:

More homemade liqueur recipes

Vanilla Vodka is being made in a glass jar surrounded by the lid, a dark gray dish towel and extra vanilla beans

Homemade Vanilla Vodka

Yield: 16 ounces
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Infusion Time: 7 days

Every home bar needs a bottle of homemade vanilla vodka. Make it with vanilla extract in a pinch or brew up a longer infusion for optimal vanilla flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

  1. Add plain vodka to a 16-ounce bottle or jar.
  2. Drop in the vanilla bean.
  3. Store in a cool, dry place for 1 week to infuse. Shake daily or every other day.
  4. Remove and discard the vanilla bean.

Notes

How to substitute vanilla extract: Add 2 teaspoons high-quality vanilla extract to the vodka to make a quick vanilla vodka. The flavor will not be as ideal or strong as the infusion, though. You may also use clear imitation vanilla, but keep in mind it is a flavoring, not real vanilla.

For larger quantities: Use 1 vanilla pod for every 2 cups vodka.

Variations

Spiced vanilla vodka: You can add other whole spices into the infusion, à la spiced rum. Try cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves and star anise.

Clear vanilla vodka: Both vanilla beans and regular vanilla extract will give off a slight amber color. If you want to keep the color perfectly clear, use clear imitation vanilla instead.

Lemon vanilla vodka: Add a piece of lemon zest to the mix to add a hint of citrus flavor. Orange zest or lime zest works too.

Vanilla tequila: Feel free to use other spirits like tequila or mezcal for an extra special spirit. You can also use rum or bourbon in this recipe. The sky is the limit!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 65Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

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