What Kind of Alcohol is in Vanilla Extract?


Cookies, biscotti, cakes, and many other baked items require vanilla extract as an essential ingredient. It’s possible to see vanilla’s distinctive scents. It is the classic pantry item because baking with it releases a comforting aroma that permeates the entire kitchen. While the eye-popping prices on bottles of vanilla extract are unsettling, you should pay closer attention to another figure: the alcohol content. Even though using a vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean is more practical and cost-effective, some home bakers may be hesitant due to concerns about whether the extract is alcoholic.

Vanilla extract combines the aroma and flavour of vanilla and alcohol. The FDA defines a product as vanilla extract if it contains at least 35% alcohol. But before you get concerned that your baked products may make you buzzy, remember that almost all the alcohol in extracts vaporizes during cooking. Therefore, bringing your upcoming batch of chocolate chip cookies to a school bake sale is safe.

Type of Alcohol Used in Vanilla Extract

White rum, Bourbon, and brandy can also make homemade vanilla extract, though vodka is the most typical ingredient. The alcohol you select must be at least 70 proofs to be effective. You don’t need to spend much money on an expensive brand; a bottle with a moderate price will do. Since your prized vanilla pods give your extract its sweet, traditional flavour, spend your money on premium entire vanilla beans.

1. Vodka

Vodka is well-liked because it has no flavour and no aroma. It stays in the background, letting the taste of sweet, fragrant vanilla come through. Most of the store-bought vodka is 80 proof and includes 40% alcohol. Vodka is a simple choice because vanilla extract needs to be prepared with at least 70-proof alcohol to be considered pure. The quantity of distillation and the grain—wheat, rye, corn, or another—used to make the vodka are both directly related to its quality. The more precise and smoother the vodka is used to achieve a higher quality vanilla extract. Smoother and cleaner vanilla extract allows you to taste more excellent vanilla tones. The primary benefit of utilizing vodka is that it has no taste or smell, allowing the vanilla flavour to take centre stage.

2. White Rum

White rum enhances the sweetness of vanilla essence, making it the ideal addition to ice cream, pastries, and sweets. Pure sugarcane or sugarcane byproducts are used to distil rum. It undergoes multiple refinements, like vodka, to give it a mellow and silky undertone. Additionally, you can choose from dark, gold, or spiced rums, which provide warm, savoury dishes with a fuller, richer flavour. Rum is typically distilled from either sugarcane bi-products or pure sugarcane. White Rum is a fantastic option when creating a vanilla extract. It is repeatedly refined, like vodka, to make it smooth and refined. The vanilla beans’ highest levels of sweetness are released as a result. A rum-based vanilla extract is an ideal choice if you intend to make anything sweet, such as ice cream, pastries, or toppings of any kind, because it brings out the sweetness of the vanilla beans. There are also two other options: dark and gold rum. They are a little heavier and work best for decadent, thick recipes, which are ideal for the cooler seasons.

3. Bourbon

Vanilla extract gains from Bourbon’s somewhat smokey, sweet flavour. Although it enhances the sweetness of the extract without dominating the subtle vanilla flavour, it is clean like vodka. Bourbon is more adaptable for sweet and savoury recipes than white rum because it is less sweet.

Whether you choose Irish, Scottish, or American whiskey, it might be an excellent choice for DIY vanilla extract because it comes in many different flavours. Due to its consistent flavour and sweetness from its high maize content, Bourbon, the most well-known American Whiskey, is the finest option. The same as vodka, Bourbon is pure. However, it has a little sweet and smokey flavour. It helps to highlight the richness of the vanilla bean without dominating the vanilla aroma because it is more precious than vodka but not as sweet as rum. 

Tips for Choosing Alcohol in Vanilla Extract

It’s crucial to consider a few criteria before deciding if you’re seeking the ideal alcohol to manufacture vanilla extract. First, it’s vital to choose an alcoholic beverage with a high alcohol level. This is because the beans will produce more vanilla taste when the alcohol percentage increases. To prevent the alcohol from overpowering the vanilla flavours you’re trying to extract, it’s also crucial to select one with a neutral flavour. The decision will ultimately depend on your preferences and what is readily available where you live. Just be sure to choose an alcoholic beverage that is flavourless and strong in alcohol concentration. Here are some additional tips for selecting the alcohol for your homemade vanilla extract.

1. Choose high-proof alcohol 

Choose a neutral spirit with a high proof, like vodka, rum, or Bourbon. A minimum of 35% to 40% alcohol by volume (70 to 80 proof) is required. A higher alcohol concentration will aid in more efficient extraction of the vanilla bean’s characteristics. Making homemade vanilla extract with high-proof alcohol is more effective and efficient, resulting in a tasty, durable product for various culinary applications. High-proof alcohol-based vanilla extract typically has a longer shelf life. High-proof alcohol also serves as a natural preservative; the greater alcohol level prevents the development of bacteria, mould, and yeast that can contaminate the extract over time.

2. Choose alcohol with a neutral taste

For homemade vanilla extract, choosing alcohol with a neutral flavour is advised since it allows the vanilla beans’ authentic flavour to stand out without interference or overpowering taste. The aromas and flavours from the vanilla beans are extracted and preserved mainly by the alcohol in the extract. The pure and delicate vanilla flavour you aim to obtain may be altered if you add an alcoholic beverage with a strong flavour, such as spiced rum or flavoured vodka. The outcome is a smooth, reliable, and adaptable vanilla extract that may be used in several culinary applications.

3. Avoid flavoured alcohol.

Avoid flavoured or spiced alcohols because they can mask the pure vanilla flavour you want. Because the goal of making vanilla extract is to extract and concentrate the natural taste and aroma of the vanilla beans, it is recommended to stay away from flavoured alcohol in DIY vanilla extract. Ensure the vanilla beans are the extract’s primary flavour source using a neutral alcohol like vodka. Since the alcohol is neutral, it is a blank canvas that lets the vanilla stand out unhindered by other flavours. Consequently, you get the pure, natural vanilla extract that tastes rich, deep, and genuine.

4. Choose good quality alcohol

Use alcohol of high quality. While it is tempting to choose a less expensive choice, using premium spirits will produce a better vanilla extract. Alcohols of higher purity are frequently more properly distilled and contain fewer contaminants. It is ensured that no undesirable odours or contaminants could harm the vanilla extract by using pure and clean alcohol. Alcohols of high quality typically have a softer, more sophisticated flavour. A smoother alcohol will contribute to a more pleasant overall taste because vanilla extract is frequently employed in recipes where the alcohol is not boiled off.

5. Consider personal preferences.

Feel free to experiment and select based on your preferences, such as if you prefer Bourbon or rum to other types of alcohol. You can alter the flavour profile of your vanilla extract to your desire by choosing an alcohol that complements your palate. You can explore and produce a vanilla extract that you will genuinely love using in your culinary activities by considering your individual preferences. Moreover, some types of alcohol may go better with your recipes, depending on what you plan to use your vanilla extract for. For instance, you might want to select an alcoholic beverage that enhances the flavours of vanilla extract if you frequently use it in sweets or cocktails that go well with a particular type of alcoholic beverage.

Common Questions About the Use of Alcohol in Vanilla Extract

Here are some common questions that you may ask when using alcohol in making homemade vanilla extract.

1. Is it possible to make vanilla extract by mixing several alcohols?

Yes, you can make vanilla extract using a mixture of alcohol. The alcohol you select will impact the flavour of the vanilla extract, so it’s crucial to pick one that pairs well with vanilla. Alcohol is used to draw out the taste of the vanilla beans while creating a vanilla extract. To guarantee successful extraction, the alcohol must be at least 35% alcohol by volume. The final alcohol content in the extract may differ depending on the different alcohols’ potential evaporation rates. It’s also crucial to adhere to vanilla extract’s mandated alcohol percentage.

2. Can vanilla extract be made with less alcohol by volume?

Yes, you can make vanilla extract with less alcohol by volume. But bear in mind that the vanilla flavour will take longer to permeate into the drink with lower alcohol content. It’s crucial to remember that the quality of your vanilla beans will also influence the taste of your extract, so use only premium beans. Additionally, store your extract in a cool, dark location to ensure that the flavour is distributed evenly.

3. Can you make vanilla extract with flavoured alcohol?

It is not advised to make vanilla extract using flavoured alcohol because it could change the flavour and quality of the finished product. The conventional method for making vanilla extract involves soaking vanilla beans in a high-proof alcohol for several weeks or months until the alcohol absorbs the flavour of the vanilla bean. Using flavoured alcohol could introduce undesirable flavours and additives that could compromise the vanilla extract’s taste and quality. To produce the most transparent and accurate vanilla flavour, it is advisable to use neutral, high-proof alcohol, such as vodka or grain alcohol while manufacturing vanilla extract.

4. Does the flavour of the vanilla extract differ depending on the type of alcohol used?

Yes, the flavour of vanilla extract can be influenced by the quality of the alcohol used to make it. The taste of the section increases with the amount of time the beans are soaked. The final flavour, however, can also be influenced by the type of alcohol used. The taste of the vanilla extract may be impacted by impurities or off flavours in poorer quality alcohol. On the other hand, utilizing a premium, bland-tasting alcohol can enhance vanilla beans’ intrinsic tastes. The quality of the vanilla beans is equally essential. Still, the quality of the alcohol can also impact the flavour of the vanilla extract.

5. To manufacture vanilla extract, how long must the alcohol and vanilla beans steep?

The alcohol and vanilla beans must steep together for at least eight weeks before making vanilla extract. Through this method, the alcohol is given a chance to absorb the flavour and scent of the vanilla beans, yielding a rich and fragrant extract that can be utilized in a wide range of applications, from drinks to baked products. It is advised to place the mixture in a cool, dark area and shake it occasionally throughout the steeping phase to make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged in the alcohol. The vanilla extract can be filtered and kept in a sealed jar for later use after eight weeks.


Always use high-end brands of vanilla extract when mixing it with alcohol. An excellent suggestion for you would be to buy several little bottles and cut one bean in half into each one. Before adding the vanilla beans, be sure to split them. This allows you to experiment with various types of alcohol without worrying about how much money you’re spending or having an excess of alcohol that won’t be consumed. If you use tiny bottles, you can experiment with various vanilla bean varietals, which you might also wish to do. 

The ideal alcohol for making homemade vanilla extract is a personal choice based on your preferred taste profile; there is no right or wrong answer. Vodka is your best choice because it has no flavour and will give you the most authentic vanilla bean flavour. Rum is your best option if you’re looking for something sweeter while yet retaining the vanilla bean flavour. And you can mix vanilla extract using Bourbon or whiskey if you want something more understated with a hint of smoke.

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