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Most of the recipes and guides I have read for making vanilla extract say to use cheap vodka or whatever is available; however, if I am going to have it on my shelf for the next few years, I want to make the best extract I possibly can. Is there any benefit to using good vodka over the cheap stuff, or am I throwing my money away?

Also, I don't drink, so I have no idea what the best Vodka is. I did some searching and the consensus seems to be that Russian Standard, Grey Goose, and Skyy are the top 3 mid-range vodkas. What do you recommend?

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the basic premise is to get a very neutral flavored alcohol to infuse the vanilla flavor. More expensive vodkas may be more rounded in their taste and are likely better filtered but IMO it won't be worth the money difference. You should be concentrating on getting the best vanilla beans possible that will make more of a difference. –  Brendan Feb 9 '13 at 15:34
    
I ordered a half of a pound each of bourbon and tahitian vanilla beans off of amazon. They both had 5-star reviews so they should be pretty good (I hope). –  Tag Feb 9 '13 at 15:41
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You should probably be aware that numerous blind taste tests demonstrate pretty clearly that the "premium" vodkas are all bupkis, a lot of them are widely perceived as terrible when people don't know what they're drinking, and at best it seems to be (surprise!) largely a matter of personal taste. May or may not apply to vanilla extraction, but I say don't waste your money. –  Aaronut Feb 9 '13 at 16:51
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@Aaronut If you want to get down to double-blind studies, several (including America's Test Kitchen and many others) say they prefer the taste of vanillin (artificial vanilla extract) to the alcohol based extracts anyway... primarily in baked goods. Just saying. wink –  Robert Cartaino Feb 10 '13 at 2:25
    
Do you have any preference of distilled over filtered vodkas? –  mfg Feb 10 '13 at 3:56

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I have family in Reunion Island - one top seller of bourbon vanilla. The only vodka they have there is imported, and rhum (or rum if you prefer to spell it that way) is readily available.

Personally I would recommend:

  • 150 ml / 5 oz. of neutral alcohol (e.g. rhum, vodka, eau-de-vie)
  • 2 beans
  • 8 weeks (6 min) without light, occasional shake

You can also use syrup instead of alcohol, but concentration / flavor will be different.

  • 5 oz agave or sugar cane syrup
  • 2 beans

AFAIK:

  • vodka is not mandatory
  • use any vodka you like (e.g. could be in your cupboard already)
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So you're saying that it doesn't matter whether the vodka is any good or not? –  Jefromi Apr 8 '13 at 21:49
    
@Jefromi, I'm saying "quality" is subjective. Use any vodka you [actually] like –  dnozay Apr 11 '13 at 5:42

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