Your foolproof guide to making your own tinctures
World Best Bar
Nov 16, 2021
26 November 2020
A regular fixture on the menus of the world’s best craft cocktail bars, tinctures are strongly concentrated flavors created by infusing a herb, flower, spice or fruit in high proof alcohol.
Not to be confused with bitters, tinctures are made of a single aromatic ingredient and don’t necessarily have a bitter taste. Simply put, they are the essence of their spice or botanical’s flavor, perfect to use when the fresh version doesn’t provide enough intensity. They can either be mixed into, floated or spritzed on top of your cocktails, but as powerful modifiers imparting a concentrated single note flavor, they should be used very sparingly. Just a drop or two will instantly enhance your drink with the ingredient’s taste and aroma without adding sweetness (like a syrup would), or volume (like with juices or purees).
You can make your own tinctures at home simply by infusing your spice, herb, peel, fruit or even vegetable of choice into a high proof neutral grain spirit (minimum 40% — and the higher the proof, the faster the infusion and the more flavor and essential oils will be extracted). A high proof vodka also works. Once you’re feeling confident with the exercise, you can even start experimenting with other spirits such as bourbon, rum or brandy.
Fill around half of a small, sterilized glass jar with the botanical you’ll be infusing and fill the rest with the alcohol. Seal the jar, give it a good shake and let sit in a dark, cool place for 6 hours to up to a week (a fresh herb tincture may only take a few hours to infuse while a dried herb or spice tincture may take a few days or more). Check on it regularly and frequently giving it a little shake and tasting it each time — this is key for best results.
Once you’re feeling satisfied with the taste, it means the tincture is ready. Strain using a strainer lined with a cheese cloth or coffee filter to get rid of all the solids, which can alter the flavors over time. Pour into a dark glass dropper bottle, slap a label on it and store it in a cool, dark place to extend its shelf life. It will keep indefinitely but the flavors can lose intensity over time, which is why small batches are recommended.
Some additional tips:
- When using a fresh herb, chopping it will help release more of its aromatic oils.
- When using a spice, toasting it before infusing will accentuate its flavor.
- When working with citrus, make sure to remove all the pith to avoid any bitterness.
- Dried botanicals make for stronger tinctures than fresh botanicals.
- Dried herbs and teas will expand in the alcohol, so don’t fill your jar more than halfway. When using fresh herbs, you can fill it up to three quarters of the way.