This homemade vanilla liqueur recipe, made of fresh vanilla beans and vodka, is perfect for cocktails or desserts. Infused for a month and packed in a decorative bottle, this homemade liqueur makes a thoughtful gift.
What is a vanilla liqueur?
Made by macerating vanilla pods in distilled spirits such as vodka or brandy, the vanilla liqueur is a sweet and aromatic alcoholic beverage with versatile uses. With its smooth and creamy texture and a typical light amber color, this liqueur adds a subtle vanilla flavor to cocktails, desserts or savory dishes. Some popular brands include Galliano, Licor 43, and Bols Vanilla.
In addition, crafting your own vanilla liqueur allows you to tailor the intensity of the vanilla flavor and makes for a delightful homemade gift that can rival even the most sophisticated whiskey gifts.
Why make homemade vanilla liqueur?
I love making homemade liqueurs, which allows me to customize the flavor and sweetness. In addition, I can adjust the amount of sugar, vanilla, and alcohol. Although purchasing this liqueur from a store may be more straightforward, I like experimenting with various flavors, herbs, and aromas.
It is also a great way to preserve vanilla beans. While I love to use them in milk tea, butter, paste and muffins, this extract lasts for several months, and you can use it whenever you need a vanilla flavor.
Moreover, it makes a unique gift for your family and friends, where you can personalize the label and packaging.
Ingredients to make vanilla bean liqueur
You will need several fresh pods as they contain a natural compound called vanillin, which gives its delicate flavor and scent that artificial extracts or other flavorings cannot replicate.
Vanilla pods contain thousands of tiny seeds you can scrape from and use in this liqueur. You can find them in natural food stores, gourmet markets, or online retailers.
You can select alcohol such as vodka, brandy, or rum as the base for your liqueur. Vodka will allow the vanilla flavor to shine with a neutral scent and flavor, while rum or brandy will add distinct notes and colors to your liqueur.
You can also use grain alcohol, such as Everclear which is a high-proof alcohol that does not have any distinct flavor. This means it is a good choice if you want the vanilla flavor to be the dominant taste in your liqueur. It has to be diluted so the alcohol content is approximately 40% ABV.
I used brown sugar to sweeten the liqueur and balance out the strong vanilla flavor. You can use granulated white sugar, cane sugar or honey.
How To Make vanilla liqueur
This homemade liqueur is easy to make and doesn't require any cooking but time to get the flavors.
First step: Start with vanilla bean extract.
Split vanilla beans in half crosswise and lengthwise and place them in a sterilized jar. Pour over the alcohol of your choice. Tightly seal the jar with a plastic lid or use parchment paper between the metal lid and the jar to avoid any corrosion. Seal the jar, place it in a dark and cool place, and let it macerate to maximize the flavor and scent. Longer the maceration period, the more flavorful your liqueur will be. Shake occasionally.. Strain the extract into a clean quart-size mason using cheesecloth or a coffee filter if you want to remove the black seeds. Otherwise, remove the pods and use the vanilla extract as a base for the liquor.
Second step: Make a simple syrup.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water. You can also add vanilla beans (pods and seeds). Bring the vanilla bean, sugar, and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. and boil the mixture over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool the mixture to room temperature. Remove the pods or strain the seeds with a cheesecloth.
Combine vanilla extract with the vanilla syrup, and mix it well. Let it rest for a while so that any sediment will fall to the bottom. If that is so you can strain it to remove the seeds before transferring the liquid into a bottle with a lid. Label and store in a dark and cool place.
Third step: Combine vanilla extract with simple syrup.
- 1-quart (1 l) sterilized jar with a lid
- decorative bottle
- There are many variations that you can make by adding other ingredients, such as:
- Add a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and star anise while it is steeping to infuse the flavors of warm spices. You can also experiment with adding other spices, such as nutmeg or allspice.
- Add a few tablespoons of cocoa powder and shake well to combine. Let the mixture steep for a few days to obtain the chocolate flavor.
- A shot of espresso or a few tablespoons of cold brew coffee gives a subtle coffee flavor to your liqueur. You can also experiment with adding other coffee-based liqueurs, such as Kahlua.
- Add a few strips of orange zest while it is steeping to infuse a citrusy flavor. You can also experiment with adding other citrus fruits, such as lemon or orange.
- Add herbs such as lavender or elderflower if you like floral and slightly sweet flavors. Let them macerate with the beans to give a unique twist to your liqueur.
Substitutions of vanilla pods
- If you don't have vanilla beans on hand, you can substitute.
- Use about 1-2 teaspoons of extract for every 1-2 pods called for in the recipe. Note that extract is more potent than beans, so you may need to adjust the amount based on your taste preference.
- You can also use vanilla sugar instead of granulated sugar to add vanilla flavor to your liqueur. Use the same amount as you would regular sugar in the recipe.
- While these substitutes can provide a similar flavor, they may not have the same texture or depth of flavor. Vanilla beans contain natural oils and flavors that may be missing in extract or sugar. Nonetheless, these substitutes are a great option if you don't have vanilla beans available.
Store the liqueur in a sealed jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. This will help to prevent the liqueur from losing its flavor or becoming cloudy. Label the bottle with the date you made it. This beverage can last up to a year, but it's always best to consume it before it loses its flavor. It is not necessary to refrigerate, but it can be if you often enjoy it chilled. However, over time, the liqueur's sugar may crystallize, indicating that it's time to prepare a fresh batch.
How to serve Vanilla Liqueur
- Straight or on the rocks: Pour it into a glass and serve it straight or over ice. This is a great way to enjoy the rich, smooth flavor of the liqueur.
- Cocktails: Serve it in various cocktails, from classic drinks like the White Russian or Espresso Martini to more modern creations like sugar cookie martini.
- Desserts: Add it to desserts, such as cakes, cookies, and ice cream. Add a splash of the liqueur to your recipe for an extra burst of flavor.
- Coffee: Add a splash to your coffee for a sweet and flavorful twist on your morning cup of joe.
- Hot chocolate: Add a splash to your hot chocolate for a warming and comforting drink.