Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this 2013 article, so some of the information in the video may be outdated. Since then, we’ve made lots of our own products to help you with infusing alcohol, which you can find in our shop.

Also, many states have finally caught up with craft cocktail culture and no longer outlaw infusion recipes; but it’s always a good idea to check your local laws before experimenting with anything, especially something like CBD-infused alcohol.


simple infusion

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The Basic Infusion Process

Knowing how to make an infusion is just the first step that will lead down the path of creating your own bitters, tinctures, and liqueurs. Not only that, but infused alcohols are a great way to specialize your cocktail menu without the expense of flavored liqueurs.

In this (really old) video, Chris starts an infusion with vodka and lemon zest – but the technique would be the same for other liquors or citrus.

When infusing non-citrus fruit, keep in mind that the size of the fruit pieces will affect the strength of flavor they impart on the alcohol, due to changes in the surface area touching the liquor. 

If you want to learn more about techniques and unique & basic ingredients, go sign up for our new Creating Alcohol Infusions Workshop, which goes much more in-depth. 

Getting the Infusion Started:

How to Start your Own Infusion:

What You’ll Need:

  • About 15 lemons
  • Grain spirit with neutral flavor (like your favorite vodka that isn’t too expensive– the higher the proof, the quicker the infusion will occur.)
  • Good quality citrus peeler
  • Sealable glass container (non-reactive material– not plastic)
  • Fine-mesh strainer
smoked peppercorn vodka

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  1. Peel the fresh fruit, trying to pick up as little of the white, bitter pith as possible.
  2. Place all citrus peels in your airtight container.
  3. Fill with spirits, ensuring that all lemon zest is submerged.


Infusion Time!

Over the next several weeks, keep the infusion in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Stir it every day, and taste it frequently so you can stop the infusion when it’s reached the flavor you are looking for.

When you’ve reached the optimal flavor for your finished spirit, use a mesh sieve to strain out the ingredients and pour the alcohol into a clean glass jar. Keep your infusion in the fridge and use it for your favorite mixed drinks!

A Note on Infusion Containers

As Chris does in the video, you can use a beverage server, but we find that Mason jars or other similar glass jars or sealable glass containers work best.

Whatever you choose, make sure you have a really clean container– especially if you’re reusing something like a pasta sauce jar. You can even boil the glass jar on the stove first to sterilize it. 


flavorful ingredients in alcoholic beverages

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Other Infusion Ingredient Ideas

You obviously don’t have to stick with lemons– or you could even add to it and make more complex like a lemon ginger flavored vodka by adding fresh ginger as well. Here are some more of our flavor combinations for alcoholic beverages:

  • Strawberry vanilla bean vodka
  • Cinnamon sticks and maple syrup or cinnamon-apple bourbon
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs and lavender (great with gin or vodka to bring out a light floral flavor)
  • Berry vodka — depending on the berry, this usually doesn’t provide a very intense flavor, which actually lends itself well to a variety of tasty cocktails
  • Pineapple and hot peppers (such as jalapeños)
  • Watermelon mint or other fresh herbs with fruit (like fresh basil and blackberries)

When possible, use fresh ingredients. And don’t forget to taste your infusion every day or so to make sure your ingredients aren’t creating bitter flavors by steeping too long. A higher proof bottle of alcohol will provide a faster extraction of flavors, so it may not need to sit as long.

Remember, you can use any base spirit, but something like vodka really is a blank canvas. One of our favorite infusions, though, is bourbon with vanilla bean pods. Of course, darker spirits will bring their own flavor profile to the finished infusion.

Your infusion could take anywhere from 3 days to 4-6 weeks or more, depending on the flavoring ingredients. They are such a fun way to up your cocktail creativity with minimal effort– and they make fantastic holiday gifts.


infused vodka with strawberries and fresh basil

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 What’s Your Infusion Process?

Come back in a few weeks and we’ll finish off this infusion! Until then, leave a comment to let us know what your favorite cocktail recipes are using infusions and what your liquor of choice is for this process– or come say hello in our Craft Cocktail Club on Facebook!

Update: We’ve finished the infusion now – Click Here to see the infusion wrap-up video.

Free Infusions Worksheet

Get a free infusion worksheet that will help you plan, track and replicate your infusions:

Click Here to view the Transcript

Hi this is Chris from ABarAbove.com and today we’re going to learn on of the essential steps, one of the building blocks in mixology, and that is infusions.

Now before we begin learning about infusions, I highly recommend that you look into your local laws, I remember back in 2010 I was managing restaurants and I would here that the ABC was going after the highest profile bars in San Francisco. They were raiding them and seizing all the infused alcohol they had and making them pour the infusions down the drains. There were also penalties and fines involved, not only that, but you don’t want to be on the ABC’s radar for breaking the law.

Now in 2011, we are very fortunate in that California passed Senate Bill SB 32 which overturned that law and allowed us to legally infuse alcohol and serve to our guests. Now not every state is that lucky. I know that in Tennessee right now, as of June 2013, the ABC is actively going after any restaurant that is infusing alcohol and serving it to their guest. So make sure that you understand the laws in your state, and county.

The general principles of infusion are very easy, essentially you are just making an alcoholic tea. You are going to add whatever substance you are going to infuse in your alcohol in a glass container, and just pour your alcohol over the top of it. The alcohol is then going to strip away any of the oils, sugars or juices that are present in the infusion jar. So the process couldn’t be easier.

Now that we have all scientific mumbo jumbo and legal jargon out of the way, let’s get hands on with this and have a little fun. I’ve prepared 15 lemons by rinsing them off and make sure there is nothing on the outside layer. Now I am just going to zest this away from the pith. When you do that, oils will be expressed and be released into the environment. I have prepared a bowl with a little alcohol, in this case vodka, and I’m going to try to capture as much of the oils as possible. What you’re going to do is drag your peeler right across the top. The other thing you want to make sure is that you are not adding any of the pith, or the white portion of any citrus, as it is the most bitter portion of the fruit and will make your infusion bitter. The peeler I have I actually spent a year looking for this exact one, testing a few of them out and finally finding this peeler. This peeler is very good at just removing the rind and not grabbing much of the white pith underneath. I remember that before I found this peeler I would have to make a pile of these lemon skins on a table and slowly begin to skin away the white pith from the rinds. At that point I would have to do 2-3 times as much work. So find a good quality zester if you can and experiment with it until you find something that works, you want the right tools for the job. I will post a link to the same one I found and hopefully it will be the same experience for you.

The equipment that you need for infusing is probably stuff you already have laying around the house. The first thing you need is whatever you will be infusing into your alcohol. The second thing that you will need is alcohol, and a lot of it. In this case we will be using vodka. The last thing that you will need is this super fancy infusion machine. I’ll tell you a good story about that later. I use this particular glass jar for catering events. All you need is a nonreactive container that you can store your infusion in for an extended period of time, typically a few weeks. Whenever possible I like to use glass, but if you are in a restaurant setting and you have a Cambro lying around, that is what I have used in the past when working in restaurants.
Speaking of the past, I had a restaurant job where I was doing a lot of infusions, and my roommate at the time thought I had to use this crazy machine where you put your ingredients in, add your alcohol and some magic happens and then all of a sudden you have an infused alcohol. It’s funny to look back on that now, but my roommate thought that for about 6 months until one day I had to do some at home and destroyed that mental image for him. Anyways, that is all the equipment you need.

Like I said, you probably have a lot of this stuff at home. This is just another example for another storage device that you can use at home. This just happens to be an old pasta sauce container. This one is Classico’s Creamy Alfredo, and it was delicious by the way. Just make sure that if you are going to use these that you rinse them , and clean them so that there is no longer any smell, odors or residue on the inside of the glass. Then you can absolutely use these for a small batch of infusions.

All of our work is essentially done. I have added our lemon zests to our glass container here, then poured vodka over the top of it. Now all we will be doing is monitoring it every day by giving it a shake, or a stir, until it has the tastes and the aroma that I want. We will keep you posted on that.

Be sure to put a lid on it and keep it in a cool dry place. We are trying to keep as much of the oils and other compound in our infusion and sunlight will begin to those down. This is the reason we keep our infusions away from sunlight.
So until then I hope to see you guys soon, and have a great shift,

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.