I have to admit it, I love vodka. It is not just my favorite liquor to concoct mixed drinks with, but it makes excellent sauces, can help preserve your baked goods, and it is the reason that we can have pure vanilla extract. Really, what's not to love?
However, when I bake with vodka, I want the best of the best. Especially when I'm using this kind of alcohol to make homemade vanilla extract. Trust me, you want the best ingredients to make your own vanilla extract too, it's a thing. This is the way to have the best vanilla extract.
Therefore, because I love to experiment in the kitchen, I took it upon myself to test out several different kinds of vodka to see which made the best homemade vanilla extract.
It's also an easy process, with essentially no prep time. Start by choosing your vanilla beans, which you can find in the spice aisle or bulk area of the grocery store. The most popular are Madagascar vanilla beans. Madagascar beans, also known as Bourbon vanilla beans, have the most vanilla flavor.
Tahitian vanilla beans are the most expensive, but extremely aromatic and have a nice flavor. Mexican vanilla beans have a similar flavor to Madagascar beans, but even bolder in flavor. Once you have your whole vanilla beans and bottle of vodka, place your vanilla pods into the bottle and secure the lid. Give it a good shake and store vanilla extract in a dark place until the color of the vodka darkens. This should take a few weeks total time and the bottles should stay out of direct sunlight. Once the vanilla beans infuse into the vodka, keep the batch of vanilla extract in the original vodka or portion out into small plastic or glass bottles. The bottles are great Christmas gifts!
Also, don't throw away the vanilla beans. Reuse the flavorful seeds in different recipes. I also like to dry out the split vanilla beans and throw them into my sugar container for vanilla sugar.
Ready to see what the results were? Here we go!
Potato vodka is like potato bread. You think it would make a great substitute, but the high-quality stuff is hard to come by. However, when you find a good potato vodka, it will have such a subtly rich flavor and wonderful mouth feel that you won't be able to help but fall in love. Plus, for those of you who cannot have gluten in your diet, potato vodka is a great gluten-free option!
So to start my DIY vanilla extract experiment, I chose some Chopin vodka to infuse. This vodka is delicious. It constantly wins awards for flavor and texture, but it has a price tag to match. Although this is an excellent sipping vodka, the vanilla it produced, though it had a delicious vanilla taste, was a bit oily.
So in the end, I would say that if you like your vanilla with a bit of texture, then potato vodka is the way to go. If you don't, that's okay because there are so many other options out there.
Another gluten-free option for good vanilla extracts is corn vodka like Tito's or Deep Eddy. For those who live in Austin, you're probably wondering what other option is there. If you've had these vodkas, then you'll understand why they are so popular. They are delicious and mix with just about everything, including vanilla beans.
I made my vanilla with Tito's, which is a vodka that is distilled six times to give it a clean flavor all the way through. My end result was a lovely classic-tasting vanilla extract with the perfect vanilla flavor profile; just what I was expecting.
For this option, I have nothing to complain about except that I had to waste some of my favorite vodka to make it! Corn vodka definitely makes delicious vanilla extract.
My mother handed me a bottle of Potocki vodka one day because she loves it and thought that I needed to try it. She didn't say how I needed to try it, so I decided to use a bunch of it in my vanilla extract experiment.
With 40 percent alcohol by volume, this vodka is fairly average in terms of alcohol content. It is not however average in taste. This smooth rye vodka is consistently rated one of the best Polish vodkas on the market, and judging from the vanilla extract it made, I can see why. With a terrific nutty flavor that brings out the woodiness of the vanilla beans, I was pleasantly surprised with the result that this vodka offered.
Unfortunately, making vanilla extract out of this particular vodka is a little expensive for my taste, and I'd rather not use vodka of this quality for this experiment.
The Cheap Stuff
With vanilla as such an essential ingredient to your baking, it can be a horrifying thought to imagine making it from scratch and using the cheapest wheat vodka available but bear with me here.
Before I bought the "cheap stuff", I did my research and found that a Siberian vodka called Five Lakes got great reviews and cost only $14.
Although it was similar to Absolut in smell, this vodka is not as abrasive which means that it made for a smoother vanilla. Just exactly what I was looking for. Cheap and flavorful.
So all in all, I have to say that I prefer my vanilla extract that I made with "the cheap stuff". Why? Well, the short answer is that I think it had the best value in terms of price for the quality. Honestly, I love a good mixed vodka drink as much as the next person, but if I'm going to use it to make vanilla, which will then be cooked, I may as well use the cheap stuff, right?
Besides, for the price of the Five Lakes vodka, I can make so much vanilla extract that I can give it to all my friends as a cute present for the holidays!
This post was originally published on November 15, 2016.