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My favorite bartender/mixologist/drink blogger Jefferey Morgenthaler has written a number of excellent articles about making your own cocktail compounds, such as homemade tonic and grenadine. I recently dug up this oldie but goodie on making gin in your kitchen by infusing neutral spirits or vodka with juniper berries and other spices.

…what many people don’t realize is that gin and vodka begin life in the exact same way. You could even say that gin is nothing more than infused vodka. In fact, I’ve used this exact line on so many customers trying gin for the first time that I’ve decided to prove it to myself! What a better way to waste a bunch of time and ingredients while getting an opportunity to learn more about my favorite mixable spirit, right?

Instead of heading down the path of illegal distillation, Jefferey’s infusion method relies on a simple, cheap, and effective charcoal filter in the form of a Brita water pitcher to clarify the spirit. Here’s the ingredient list:

1 750mL bottle 100-proof vodka
1 750mL bottle 80-proof vodka

20 grams dried juniper berries (about ¼ cup)
8 grams whole coriander, crushed (about 2 tbsp.)
2 grams dried orange peel (about 1½ tsp.)
2 grams dried lemon peel (about 1 tsp.)
3 grams whole cinnamon (about 1 stick)
1 whole cardamom pod, crushed

The method is dead easy: crush up the berries, citrus peels, and spices, macerate them in a bottle of 100-proof vodka for a week, add the bottle of 80-proof vodka, strain it, then filter it five times through the Brita. I can’t wait to give it a try. Let us know in the comments if you try it out, and what kind of variations you experiment with.

How to Make Your Own Gin Without a Still


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Comments

  1. Chris Moore says:

    You have the right idea and the right ingredients, but you have the order of the steps just a wee bit wrong. First, filter (or “polish” as distillers say) the 100 proof vodka by passing it through the charcoal filter several times. (Alternatively, you could just purchase a small bottle of activated charcoal at the drug store, or even an aquarium supply store, and put it and the vodka into a 1 quart mason jar. Cap it tightly and put it in the fridge. Shake the jar every time you open the fridge for a 3 to 5 days. Strain through coffee filters and you’ll have a very clean vodka with almost all the fusel oils that cause cheap vodka to taste, well, like cheap vodka.) *Then* pour it back into the mason jar and ad your aromatics. By the way, using citrus zest instead of the dried peels will give a brighter flavor. Cap the jar and store at room temperature for at least a week. When you are ready to concoct your homemade gin, polish the 80 proof vodka and strain (again through coffee filters) the infused vodka into the polished 80 proof. You will end up with almost 1.75 liters of very good gin. Store as you would any other fine spirit. 

    Having said that, you might want to consider using Everclear or some other pure grain alcohol to extract the aromatics. The same process applies: polish the alcohol to get rid of the nasty fusels and then infuse. You just have to use a lot less of it – a pint should be plenty – and it takes just a couple of days to fully extract the goodness from your twigs and berries.

    Interestingly, “bathtub gin” of prohibition fame came about because the raw distilled spirits were so poorly produced and so rife with every imaginable contaminant that the bootleggers would pour it into a bathtub or other large container then mix in orange oil or other flavors to cover the nasty taste of the base spirit. Even with that, much of the spirits available during prohibition we so unpalatable that they had to be mixed with something to make them drinkable. Voila! The American love affair with the cocktail is born!

    1. John Edgar Park says:

      Chris, great idea to put the best stuff into it to get the best stuff out of it. I’ll try pre- and post-filtering it. I agree, it is a good question why you wouldn’t use Everclear to begin with. I’m hoping to try it a few different ways with small batches and see what happens.

    2. John Edgar Park says:

      Chris, great idea to put the best stuff into it to get the best stuff out of it. I’ll try pre- and post-filtering it. I agree, it is a good question why you wouldn’t use Everclear to begin with. I’m hoping to try it a few different ways with small batches and see what happens.

    3. John Edgar Park says:

      Chris, great idea to put the best stuff into it to get the best stuff out of it. I’ll try pre- and post-filtering it. I agree, it is a good question why you wouldn’t use Everclear to begin with. I’m hoping to try it a few different ways with small batches and see what happens.

    4. John Edgar Park says:

      Chris, great idea to put the best stuff into it to get the best stuff out of it. I’ll try pre- and post-filtering it. I agree, it is a good question why you wouldn’t use Everclear to begin with. I’m hoping to try it a few different ways with small batches and see what happens.

  2. As Chris Moore, I would also filter the Vodka several times before it is mixed with the actual ingredients, but for what reason? 
    Does anyone know which compounds are actually extracted by the filter, could they actually interact with other taste related compounds during the extraction?
    I don’t know whether there is any specific reason to filter with charcoal after the infusion. You want clear spirit obviously, but maybe a very fine mesh filter would suffice? I suppose the charcoal will also take some of taste, at least it does so with Whisky.

    John, you have all the equipment: would you do an experiment for us? Mythbusters style? Please!

    1. John Edgar Park says:

      I’m up for it!

    2. John Edgar Park says:

      I’m up for it!

    3. John Edgar Park says:

      I’m up for it!

    4. John Edgar Park says:

      I’m up for it!

  3. As Chris Moore, I would also filter the Vodka several times before it is mixed with the actual ingredients, but for what reason? 
    Does anyone know which compounds are actually extracted by the filter, could they actually interact with other taste related compounds during the extraction?
    I don’t know whether there is any specific reason to filter with charcoal after the infusion. You want clear spirit obviously, but maybe a very fine mesh filter would suffice? I suppose the charcoal will also take some of taste, at least it does so with Whisky.

    John, you have all the equipment: would you do an experiment for us? Mythbusters style? Please!

  4. jesse calkin says:

    Distilling laws vary by state, so I would caution against the statement, “illegal distillation” as it may be perfectly legal in your area.

    1. Jesse,

      While many states allow this (my home state of AK included), it is still federally banned: http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/faq.shtml#s7 (that anchor should take you to the right question).

      EMF

      1. Anonymous says:

        And some of us, like myself, are trying to understand how the Federal Government can claim this power if the distilled spirit is purely for intrastate use.

        Still many Americans continue to make small quantity moonshine and the more power to them.

  5. jesse calkin says:

    Distilling laws vary by state, so I would caution against the statement, “illegal distillation” as it may be perfectly legal in your area.

  6. jesse calkin says:

    Distilling laws vary by state, so I would caution against the statement, “illegal distillation” as it may be perfectly legal in your area.

  7. kentkb says:

    HNY 2012! will be using this recipe in the next few days, thank you JP, and thank you Makezine.

  8. Paul says:

    Here in Mexico we have pure potable alcohol ( CHEAP and legal). We have one brand of gin ( Oso Negro, a bit crass), imported gin is unreasonably expensive. I have been drinking gin made w. one part pure alcohol ( filtered five times in Brita) with two parts water and a few drops of juniper essence. Not bad. Often add a bit of orange peel.
    Just mixed the above spices (ground in a spice grinder) with .5 lt. alcohol.
    Will post the results in a week.