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I’m Making Vanilla, Really I Am…..

Last week I walked into a liquor store to buy vanilla making supplies, and I think the store clerk thought I was crazy.

You see I am a bit clueless in a liquor store. The only time I really venture into one is to buy Vodka to make vanilla. This time though I wanted to try a few other liquors to make my vanilla, so I was not sure exactly what I needed.

I have been doing a little research, and also talked to my dad, who is also now making his own vanilla, and I decided that I wanted to try making homemade vanilla using bourbon and rum this time also.

So, I made a trip to a liquor store when I was out running errands last week. The clerk at the store asked me if I needed help and I said yes and need some vodka, rum, and whiskey.

And then for some reason I felt the need to explain what I would be doing with all this alcohol.

Really I probably should not have even bothered explaining. The guy works in a liquor store after all, he is used to people buying liquor, but I don’t think he is used to someone telling him that they are making homemade vanilla with the liquor they are buying.

When I tried to explain that I was using it to make homemade vanilla, and then went on to explain the process, I just got this really odd blank look. I am guessing the store clerk thought I was crazy. I mean, who makes their own vanilla, probably only crazy foodie type people.

But even if you are not a crazy foodie type person, I highly recommend making your own vanilla, which is what I was trying to explain to him.

It is so easy and so much better than the store bought vanilla. Now that I have made my own I will never go back.

I even did a video two years ago on how easy homemade vanilla is to make. I also did a whole post about the first time I made it, which was back in my early days of blogging, explaining how to make it. It really is easy.

And every time I talk about making my own vanilla I get asked about buying vanilla beans. My number one tip is don’t buy them at your local grocery store, they are way too expensive. I have purchased them several times now from JR Mushrooms and Specialties through Amazon and I have been very happy.

Since this is my first time using rum and whiskey to make my vanilla, I will be sure to post an update in a few months when it is ready and I give it a try. I am interested to see how different it is from the vanilla I have been making with vodka.

And if you are trying homemade vanilla for the first time I suggest starting with the vodka and then branch out to other alcohols after you make it a time or two.

Have any of you made homemade vanilla before? I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I’ve always read and been told that the best tasting vanilla extract is made with vodka so the flavor of the vanilla really comes through. With the other liquors you really just get vanilla flavored rum or bourbon, which of course is great if you enjoy those liquors, but not so great if you are looking for “vanilla” flavor. I think you’ll want to use it for the rum/bourbon called for in recipes, like a rum cake or rum balls (or of course in drinks). I have coconut rum, and there is no way I would use it to replace coconut extract, because it tastes like rum. Just my thoughts 🙂

    • I figure they won’t work in everything in place of vanilla, but I think it will be interesting to try. I probably should have done a smaller bottle of bourbon though since I don’t think it will work in everything. I did do the another large vodka though, because I know it will be the most versatile to use in all things.

  2. I LOVE my homemade vanilla! And I love that the process is so easy and then I’m set for a LONG time because it makes so much!

  3. After having used up a container someone gave me that still had the beans in it, do you think I could add more vodka and make another batch that way?

    • I have done that, but I usually add a few more beans to it since quite a bit of the vanilla flavor has already been used. I don’t add all new beans, but some.

  4. Harriet Dodson says

    This is so funny. I went in the liquor store once to buy some whiskey to make cough syrup for my mother. It was my first time in a liquor store and I felt the need to justify my purchase with the lady at the counter. (We are what the world refers to as teetotallers.) But! If I can make my own cough syrup, I suppose I can make my own vanilla too 🙂 Thanks for the idea.

    • beingjennifer says

      Harriet, would you be willing to share your cough syrup recipe? A friend uses elderberries in hers. I am always interested in the good-for-you homemade stuff. Thank you.

      • Easy. Half whiskey, half honey.Stir well. One or two tablespoons each use. I usually take it once or twice an hour for a couple of hours. I only give my son (12) one Tablespoon. Burns going down but cuts up the mucus and calms the spasms.
        We usually only take it first thing in the morning when you have so much drainage to move around. I have tracheal disease so I cough a LOT! Even my doctor says for me to take this when I am sick until the steroids kick in and open the airway.
        Hope this helps!

  5. I made my first batch of vanilla back in October and I love it! I do want to try with some other alcohol also! I will be waiting to hear your thoughts on yours before I do! I really do love the homemade version!!

  6. Just curious as to how you compare this to Costco’s Vanilla in price? I’m sure homeade has better flavor but is it cheaper to make or not? I would love to try it sometime.

  7. I started my first batch in January. I bought voka and in March I bought rum and started a second batch. I am making this for christmas gifts..

  8. I am waiting on a batch of vanilla extract and I used vodka. Very curious about the rum and whiskey vanilla extract. Can’t wait to hear about the results!

  9. Natalie Q. says

    Being a Kentucky gal, I love bourbon vanilla, but it definitely does have more than just a vanilla taste. In most cases though, the hint of bourbon taste is very complimentary to baked goods.

  10. I just put a new batch away too! I am trying a blend of vodka and brandy this time, according to some reading I had been doing, vodka is best for pure vanilla flavour while brandy adds a richness without too much flavour, so I decided to do a half and half blend and see how it comes out.

  11. I agree with Natalie Q. The Bourbon version is definitely different than standard vodka vanilla. I wish now that I’d tried rum instead. I don’t dislike it, but it still smells WAY more whiskey than vanilla–even though it’s been steeping since last March.

  12. Georgette says

    Hi, I just wanted to mention in case you were unaware. Making vanilla with bourbon will have gluten in it. I read it on a real foodie blog. So you might want to check into that since you are gluten free and all.
    Thanks for all your great recipes!!

    I love your blog!!

  13. Georgette says

    Yes, I just checked. Bourbon is made from ground corn and rye so it contains gluten. Who knew!?

  14. I have only ever used rum… I will try vodka next time. I caught hubby taking a swig one day when he thought no one was looking. I knew I was onto something good then! I will NEVER buy vanilla again!

  15. I have made bourbon vanilla and it wonderful! Try Brandy as well!

  16. I’ve always made vanilla using light rum, so I’m interested to see what you think.

    Distilled alcohol is gluten free as long as nothing is added to it after distillation.

  17. I use Jamaican rum. I gave some to my friend who is a pastry chef and he said it was really awesome. I use double the vanilla beans and call it “Double Vanilla.” I know, I know. Here’s my method:
    Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  18. I was wondering how long will the vanilla last? Does it stay good indefentaly so only for a while?

    • I don’t know exactly how long it will last, but I think a long time since it has so much alcohol in it. I don’t think you have to worry about using it fast, it should stay good for quite a while.

  19. I did this a couple of years ago with great results. It is easy and very yummy. I have also used it as “vanilla vodka” and it is delish.

  20. Do you prefer a certain brand of vodka? How about the vanilla beans? I am looking online and see different kinds. Thanks for the idea! Want to make for my Mom for Christmas! 🙂

    • I have used a few different brands of Vodka and all have worked fine. I use a low to mid range priced ones. I don’t think it would be worth it to spend a lot on Vodka just to use it to make vanilla. In the post there is a link to amazon and the place I buy the beans from. I have been really happy with them. I hope that helps.

  21. I keep giggling at the thought of you trying to explain to some poor shop person your needs of alcohol to use to make vanilla. My “male friends” are horrified when they hear that I use vodka for cleaning. One jokingly (I hope) asked me if he could lick my windows panes … 😉

  22. Shannon Morris says

    I have made my own vanilla several times now. It is so much better than the store brands and is so cost effective when you consider the cost of a small bottle of real vanilla. You can add some rum to the vodka, to give it a different taste. Also, homemade vanilla makes a great gift if you got some pretty little bottles.

  23. I am a major foodie and I have to say that my favorite vanilla is any kind that is made with bourbon. It just has that little extra “something”. I am getting ready to get supplies to make my own for the first time and was wondering-how long do vanilla beans last?

    • My vanilla beans have lasted a few months, but I usually use them up pretty quickly since it takes so many to use vanilla. I think if stored properly they should last a while.

  24. I made 6 bottles, in June, using Svedka vodka (my family is Swedish) and gave them for Christmas gifts. They were a big hit. My mom loves it and to me that says it all!

  25. I used to make my own, but now I just buy it at Costco because it is cheaper than making my own. I didn’t find the quality to be any different.

  26. I have been making vanilla for years. Seems everyones favorite (I judge this by comments from friends and clients) is the one I make with Ansbach Uralt brandy. It is soo yummy in chantilly whipped cream or custardy breakfast casseroles.
    Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait for the follow up!

    • I need to try the brandy also sometime, because you are not the only one that has told me it was really good. I am just going to have to starting finding ways to use all this vanilla. 🙂 Thankfully it makes great gifts.

  27. One of my very good friends would make vanilla and Kalua at home, years ago.
    Her recepie was the same, cheapest vodka you can find, a ton of the vanilla beans, pour into a dark brown bottle and every now and then slowly turn the sealed bottle up and down to mix through the months to let it age.
    For Kalua, she used very very strong black coffee and again, put it and the vodka in a dark jug.
    Keep them in the dark part of your pantry if you didn’t have the dark brown bottles, and stir/mix them one to two times a month.
    Her Kalua was loved by all, even those who didn’t drink coffee.

  28. Just curious on 2 things….1. How many vanilla beans per what amount of vodka and 2. What kind/ brand vodka? There are so many….thanks in advance for your response. Elizabeth

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