DIY Flavored Extracts

Guys. Are y’all as excited about DIY foodie holiday gifts as I am? I don’t know what’s going on with me this year, but I have literally flagged every single DIY food-related article I’ve run across online (damn you, Buzzfeed).

Flavored butters, cupcakes in a jar, mulled wine kits, homemade nutella…so cute, so practical, so delicious.

I want to make (and eat) all of it!

You know what it probably is? All of these DIY gift ideas involve adorable little jars, and I am a huge sucker for cute glassware.

Canning jars – want, have, used only when I have leftover frosting I can’t bear to throw out (but of course it just gets shoved to the back of my fridge and is immediately forgotten). Mason jars – want, have, almost never use, except when I want a blog photo to look particularly folksy. (Do people actually use them for other things?) Milk bottles – want, cannot allow myself to have, will almost never use…but they are so stinking cute and I love them so much!

Same goes for whiskey jugs, wine bottles, and pretty much any other glass bottles/containers that look awesome but are only useful to people less lazy than myself.

But hey look! I allowed myself to buy cute glass bottles this year and actually used them to make awesome, gift-able things – like these flavored extracts. Bottle upon bottle of flavored extracts, in four flavors: vanilla, mint, orange, and lemon.

Have I ever mentioned my love for homemade extracts? It’s there, and it’s intense. I started making my own vanilla extract a year or two ago, after running out of yet another teeny tiny bottle of store-bought extract. I found a recipe online, and it was so unbelievably easy to make, and the resulting extract was so delicious that I haven’t gone back to the store-bought stuff since.

For this holiday season, I wanted to share the joy of homemade vanilla extract with my friends, and decided to throw in a few other flavors just for kicks. Mint and citrus seemed like winning, holiday-appropriate flavors.

How do you make your own flavored extracts? Easy – buy some bottles, a handle of vodka, a few vanilla beans, some citrus fruits, and some mint. Cut open your beans, zest your citrus, and peel the leaves off your mint. Shove everything into separate bottles, add vodka, and…wait.

After a few weeks, you have extract! And the best part is, if you leave your flavoring agents inside the bottles, you can replenish your stock of extract any time by just by adding more vodka – all it takes is a little patience, and you basically have yourself bottomless bottles of fun.

These are, I think, the perfect DIY holiday gift – adorable, useful, and cost-effective for everyone! Now if only I could decide who to give these to…


I know people are going to ask, so:

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DIY Flavored Extracts
Recipe type: DIY
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yields: Varies
Homemade vanilla extract
Vanilla Extract (single 4oz bottle)
  • 3 whole vanilla beans
  • Vodka (You can also use bourbon)
Mint Extract (4oz)
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • Vodka
Orange Extract (4oz)
  • 1 large navel orange
  • Vodka
Lemon Extract (4oz)
  • 1 large lemon
  • Vodka
To make Vanilla Extract:
  1. Cut your vanilla beans in half, then split open each half to expose the vanilla seeds on the inside of the pod.
  2. Place cut vanilla beans inside your glass bottle.
  3. Add vodka, filling up to the neck of the bottle.
  4. Seal tightly and store bottle in a cool, dry place.
  5. Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down to gently mix the liquid inside.
  6. After 5-6 weeks, you have extract! (If you leave in your vanilla beans, when you start running low, just add more vodka and wait a little.)
To make Mint Extract:
  1. Stuff mint leaves into your glass bottle.
  2. Using a chopstick, skewer, or other poking device, lightly bruise/crush the leaves inside the bottle.
  3. Add vodka, filling up to the neck of the bottle.
  4. Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down to gently mix the liquid inside.
  5. After 5-6 weeks, you have extract! (I’m not sure if, like vanilla extract, you can just leave the mint leaves inside. Since it’s leafy plant matter which disintegrates more easily, it may be a good idea to take it out. My leaves went from a vibrant green in the beginning to kind of a dull brown by the end so I took them out just to be safe – I poured my mint extract into another container through a sieve and discarded the mint leaves, then poured the filtered extract back into the bottle.)
To make Orange Extract:
  1. Peel thin strips of zest from ½ of your orange.
  2. Place zest into your glass bottle.
  3. Add vodka, filling up to the neck of the bottle.
  4. Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down to gently mix the liquid inside.
  5. After 5-6 weeks, you have extract! (I think with citrus peels the acid (and alcohol bath), it’s probably safe to leave the peels inside the bottle like a vanilla bean for re-fill purposes. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, take it out!)
To make Lemon Extract:
  1. Peel thin strips of zest from your lemon.
  2. Place zest into your glass bottle.
  3. Add vodka, filling up to the neck of the bottle.
  4. Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down to gently mix the liquid inside.
  5. After 5-6 weeks, you have extract!



    • justputzing says

      Hey there! I think in general flavored extracts are made with vodka, bourbon or some other kind of alcohol, but a quick search online shows that it is possible to substitute the alcohol for something called “food-grade vegetable glycerin.” I’m not sure what that is but you can apparently order it from Amazon. Some notes I found re: extracts made with glycerin – (1) they are more syrupy in consistency than the alcohol-based stuff, (2) they are sugar-free, and (3) they should be stored in a brown bottle to maximize shelf life. Hope that helps!

      • James Johnson says

        If I remember correctly form college chemistry glycerin is a form of alcohol. I use it for making taffy helps keep it soft. Order online do a goggle search I purchased 2 gal for about $45 shipped. Everclear is just strong vodka Everclear is about 180 proof or about 90% alcohol where as vodka is 70-90 proof or about 45% most of the difference in vodka is the water that it is diluted with vodka like ever clear it distilled off at a high enough temperature to be pure alcohol and pure water. bourbon has impurities because it is distilled at a lower temp and picks up stuff from being stored.

        • ken says

          wrong, glycerin not alcohol. its by prdts of pail oil/coconut oil, hence called vegetable glycerin, usually can b found at bakery supplies/shops. don’t mislead.

  1. says

    I have an idea! You could give me one of those adorable little homemade extracts! You know, if you can’t find anyone else… 😉

    You have just inspired me to make my own vanilla extract! Why do I spend $10 for a tiny bottle of extract with corn syrup in it when I could just make my own?! Insanity! (And I may also have a closet full of adorable little bottles that were just “too cute to pass up”.)

    • justputzing says

      Haha, I totally would send you some but they all got claimed within hours of posting! Guess everyone else likes cute little bottled things too 😉 Speaking of which, if you like my extract bottles, wait til you see my next post….

    • justputzing says

      Hi there! Early on in the infusion process, you can use them for cocktails. After about a month or so, they’re great for adding flavor in baking.

  2. says

    I just love how beautiful your extracts are! Wonderful photography and great recipes! I’ll definitely be using them for the cooks I know. Thanks so much! And if you’d like to send me some…LOL

  3. Evelyn says

    bottles, bottles and more bottles – my S-I-L made me a perfect bottle tree out of scrap metal pieces. Now that’s the solution and I may have to get a 2nd one.

    • justputzing says

      Thank you! I think you can get away with using pretty much any brand of vodka/bourbon – we’re not super classy liquor drinkers, so we tend to just grab whichever bottle gives us the most bang for our buck ;p

      • Katesh says

        Extracts are no different that Herbal Tinctures. The purpose of the alcohol (Vodka) is to act as a preservative as well a means of extracting components from plant materials. For that purpose, especially if it is to be consumed, it is important to use a high concentration of alcohol. Best not to go below 50% alcohol (take the “proof” and divide in half to get %). Myself, I always use Everclear brand, 180 proof, which is 90% pure alcohol. Brand does not matter, but purity does, so my advice is to never use less than 100 proof, and I recommend 180 proof, especially if items are to be a gift, for the preservative factor and to prevent bacterial growth.

  4. Jane says

    Lovely idea. Would caution folks to use organically grown citrus for this, as the conventional stuff is loaded with nasty fungicides.

      • Denean says

        Just wash the fruit really well before you use the peelings … I would like to try LIME flavoring … for the vanilla flavoring I have used bottles that have the stoppers (old fashioned beer tops) I make my vanilla and can pour it into another bottle so that I can keep a fresh batch of vanilla at all times. I think I am going to have to try making some with bourbon to see what the taste difference would actually be like.

  5. Nyteflame says

    Hi there, Are the home made extracts a 1:1 swap for store-bought in baked goods? Or does this tend to be either weaker or stronger than the store-bought kind?

    • justputzing says

      I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison, but I think that the strength of the extract will vary depend on how many vanilla beans (or citrus peel) you use. For these recipes, I’ve been using the extracts as a 1:1 substitute for the store-bought stuff and haven’t noticed a difference in taste. Hope that helps!

  6. V. Kays says

    Love your post. My grandmother, like you, loved all manner of bottles and jars. Her use was to fill them with water tinted with food coloring and display them on her kitchen window sill, reminiscent of stined glass. Thanks for sparking a great memory.

    • justputzing says

      Thank YOU for reading! I love your grandmother’s tinted water trick – will definitely have to give that a try sometime :)

  7. Steve says

    Along with the ones you’ve shown, I plan on trying hot peppers (hot, like ghost peppers!), and some other fruits like apples (red and green mixed) and maybe pineapple. These would be great for sauces for poultry and fish, like a Caribbean flavor. :)

    • justputzing says

      Ummmmm, you HAVE to tell me how those turn out! I was just thinking today that I wanted to try making fruit extract….

  8. Heather says

    I use Everclear to make my extracts, I’ve heard that will strip the oils even better. How many vanilla beans for a quart jar? I thought it was 2 but the liquid is still very clear after 2 months. :(

    • justputzing says

      I think the more you use the better – for the larger bottle I made for myself, I think I used 6-8 whole vanilla beans.

    • Lee says

      I made my extract in a pint size mason jar. I used 5 vanilla beans. Also my girlfriend made it first with vodka and it was ok. The second batch; she made it with rum, like the taste better, so I made mine with rum.

  9. Taylor says

    So does the extract have a residual alcohol? Like it wouldn’t be safe for kids to consume? I did’t even know store bought extracts were made with alcohol. Also, I have some glycerin I bought on Amazon for making bubble solution. It’s the texture of Karo syrup, sticky and slightly sweet, so it would be a good substitute for extracts that need a sweetener.

    • justputzing says

      If you’re using the extracts for baking, the alcohol will burn off in the oven, so it should be totally safe for kids to consume. Thanks for the tip about glycerin!

  10. Chris says

    hi :) im from tasmaia australia and i actually use this method a lot for creating my own flavor concentrates for making “e-juice’ to vape in my electronic cigarettes :) i just substitute the vodka for propyleneglycol
    or vegitable glycerin and bottle them in amber bottles and allow them to steep in a cool dark place for a few weeks and soon i have homemade e-juice :)

  11. melissajo says

    I know this is an old post, but I have the perfect sized bottles! The little mini wine bottles they sell in packs of 4 are PERFECT for extracts! I hate buying bottles just for bottles- but in this case I get a good glass of wine, boil off the label, and then I have a perfect bottle that I can wrap with a cute label and gift!

    • justputzing says

      Hm, my mint was definitely gross-looking at the end of 30 days when I took it out, but the extract itself didn’t smell terrible. Maybe you could try opening the bottle around the 2-week mark and sniff-testing for freshness/decay?

    • justputzing says

      You can keep the vanilla beans in the bottle pretty much forever, and then just keep adding vodka as your supply of extract gets low. The other stuff, especially the mint, I would recommend taking out and replacing every few weeks (leafy matter decomposes really quickly), but I think the shelf life is also pretty indefinite b/c of the alcohol/citrus.

  12. michelle says

    I had some residue in mine after I shaked it. Would you strain that when it’s all set to be used? I was going to give them as gifts.


  13. Karen says

    I just made my very first bottles of vanilla and lemon extract. I can’t wait for them to be ready in about 6 weeks!I bake a lot and spend a fortune on extract. So excited to make my very own! thank you for your post.

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