Make Your Own Vanilla

Do you remember the first time you tasted vanilla? Oh, it smelled so good. Wasn't it Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies who wore a dab behind her ears when she was courting?

If cookie dough and cake batter were yummy, then vanilla had to be delicious. Ick. I recall that disappointing moment so well. I think my mother didn't stop me from trying it because she was amused and knew I wouldn't want more. How could something with such a heavenly scent possibly taste so terrible?

These days, you practically have to take a loan to buy vanilla. A teeny bottle costs a bundle. Poor Granny! It's almost too expensive to use to attract gentlemen callers.

Happily, it's easy to make at home.

Vanilla Ingredients

1 bottle of vodka (750 ml or thereabouts, note how precise this is)

3 vanilla beans

No kidding. That's it. Now, I've read complicated descriptions of slicing the vanilla beans open lengthwise (no small feat considering how slender and dry they are), scraping out the insides, blah, blah, blah. Okay, well, you just smile politely when someone tells you that. Here's the official recipe.

Open bottle of vodka. Insert vanilla beans. Close bottle of vodka.

There is a small catch, of course. If you were planning to use your new vanilla to bake cookies in a few days, you're out of luck. However, if you make your vanilla now, it should be just about perfect in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And it makes very cute and thoughtful gifts for friends who like to bake. Decant into a little bottle, tie a bow around the neck and you're done!

So where do you buy vanilla beans? Your local spice store. Or on-line at


Glenbrook Farms

Spice Barn


So how come no one is asking where to buy vodka?

Oh, one more bit of advice. Hide the vodka/vanilla bottle. I once stashed mine with baking items. A friend assumed it was plain old vodka (okay, so he wasn't paying attention because the liquid inside was already brownish and vodka should be clear . . .) and he made drinks with it. Yeah, not good in mixed drinks.