Infused spirits are the best kind of holiday gift: Simple, homemade, and delicious. You can whip them up in batches for everyone on your Christmas list, but we wouldn’t blame you if you kept a jar (or two) as a present to yourself as well. Best of all, they couldn’t be easier to put together. All you need are Mason jars, ingredients of choice, and a little bit of patience.
Step One: Choose your Spirit
For a neutral base, 80-proof vodka is our go-to. Other common, middle-shelf liquors such as tequila and gin are also great candidates. Whiskey and rum have more specific flavor profiles, but they’ll work well as a base for warmer, holiday-inspired infusions.
Step Two: Choose your Infusion
Fresh fruit is a classic (and tasty) choice for giving your spirits flavor. Any fruit will do, but if you’re out to bottle the essence of the holidays, look for organic produce that’s in season in November and December. Apples, pears, cranberries, and even figs are all excellent options.
Wash your ingredients well, but don’t worry about spoilage. The alcohol will keep the fruit from going bad. When you chop your fruit, remember that smaller ingredients result in a faster infusion time.
No fresh fruit on hand? No worries! Dried fruit works just as well. It will also flavor your alcohol even faster, and the resulting booze-soaked sweets make great garnishes for cocktails. Of course, fruit is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to infusion possibilities. Spices, teas, and hearty herbs such as rosemary are also delicious and easy to work with. To keep things festive, experiment with spice blends you’d normally use to make seasonal treats such as cookies, chai, or mulled wine.
Step Three: Know your Ratios
A good rule of thumb is to use a 1:1 ratio when measuring cups of alcohol and fruit. If you’re using a Mason jar to infuse your booze, eyeball it by filling the jar halfway with chopped fruit. Jalapeno-infused tequila makes for a mean margarita, but be careful! To avoid ending up with a cocktail that’s more painful than enjoyable, you’ll want to use a 1:2 ratio of spirits to peppers.
There’s also no need to be heavy-handed when adding spices. You’ll only need anywhere from 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup of whole—never ground!—spices for a standard Mason jar.
Step Four: Wait it Out
Infusions using fresh ingredients are ready after (at least) 5 days, while spices, dried fruits, and peppers may take less time. The best rule of thumb is to taste every few days and add more or less flavoring depending on your liking. If you’ve gone a bit overboard, there’s always the option to tone things down by diluting your Mason jar with unflavored spirits.
Once your infusions pass the taste test, all that’s left to do is strain, sip, and enjoy.