Are you looking to make your own vanilla extract? It’s easier than you think. All it takes is the right ingredients and a little patience, and you’ll wind up with delicious vanilla extract that you can use in your kitchen or gift to your friends. However, you should know that certain types of alcohol work better than others when making vanilla extract at home. Discover the best alcohol to use for DIY vanilla extract. 

Ingredients to make vanilla extract at home

Before you get started, it’s essential to gather your ingredients. In this case, all you need to make vanilla extract is vanilla beans and alcohol — it’s that simple. As a rule of thumb, use 10 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces of alcohol you plan to use. For the best tasting vanilla extract, use gourmet Madagascar vanilla beans. If you can’t find vanilla beans from Madagascar, you can try Indian, Tahitian, Tongan, or Mexican vanilla beans.

As for the alcohol, anything that has a proof of 70 or more (minimum alcohol content of 35%) will work best. You can use vodka, rum, brandy, or bourbon of your choosing. 

Finally, you’ll need vessels to store your vanilla extract. Empty bottles or jars made of glass work best. 

The alcohol you use to make vanilla extract impacts the taste 

While any of the alcohol options we listed will work when making vanilla extract at home, you’ll want to consider the flavor profiles of each and how it will change the vanilla in the extraction process. 


  • Using vodka to make vanilla extract. Vodka is one of the most popular alcohols to use when making vanilla extract at home because it’s basically a clean slate, and nearly all vodkas are a minimum of 80 proof. Note that the more a vodka is distilled, the smoother the taste, making it the perfect base for vanilla extract. If you’re going to use vodka, consider what the vodka is made from (corn, wheat, rye, etc.), as this can also impact the flavor of your extract. 

  • Using rum to make vanilla extract. While you can use light or dark rum to make vanilla extract at home, white rum is more popular because it shares similar qualities to vodka. White rum is repeatedly distilled for a smooth finish but a bit sweeter than vodka because it’s distilled from sugarcane or sugarcane by-products. Dark and gold rums can also work for homemade vanilla extract, but note that they’ll result in a richer, more full-bodied flavor. 

  • Using bourbon to make vanilla extract. Like rum, bourbons and whiskies have a sweetness from the corn used to make the alcohol, which allows them to pair well with vanilla. Unlike vodka and white rum, bourbon will give your vanilla extract a smoky taste, but one that won’t overpower the vanilla flavor. 


Determining which alcohol is best for making DIY vanilla extract 

There is no correct answer to the best alcohol for DIY vanilla extract — it comes down to the flavor profile you prefer. If you’re looking for a pure vanilla bean taste, vodka is your best option because there’s no flavor to the alcohol. If you want something on the sweeter side that maintains the flavor of the vanilla bean, rum is your best bet. And if you’re looking for something more subtle on the vanilla with an essence of smoke, make vanilla extract with bourbon or whiskey.