Not Martha


[view of spices floating in a bottle of vodka]

I made gin! Well, sort of. I infused vodka in the hopes of making gin. I used the recipe I found at Newcity Restro by way of Cinnamon. I think this recipe was originally from the book The Modern Mixologist by Tony Abou-Ganim. I made a few changes based on what I suspected would be orange zest heavy and, well, it still turned out orange zest heavy. (One should note, however, that I seem to be unusually sensitive to the presence of orange zest. I don’t know why, but I find it utterly overwhelms everything it comes in contact with, ruing many a nice pastry, cranberry relish, or chocolate for me.)

The infused recipe calls for running some vodka through a Brita filter a few times. I just happened to have an unused Brita pitcher around (courtesy of last year’s BlogHer Food swag bag) so I did that, though I suspect the step could be skipped.

I took a quick side trip to World Spice down by Pike Place Market where you can buy by the ounce and procured the list of spices (listed below). World Spice, by the way, is awfully fun. They have samples of one ounce examples (surprisingly helpful!) of each offering that you can sniff and examine as you shop, and you write you order on a little clipboard. They also offer a breathtaking number of mixes and rubs and salts.

The recipe has you put juniper berries in first for a 12-hour soak. We were curious and each ate a dried juniper berry. I found it to be very much like men’s cologne, which Scott summed up nicely by declaring it was like chewing on Grey Flannel. Most people declare Christmas tree, we are here to say cologne.

After 12 hours you add more botanicals and let soak for another 12 hours. Here is a before and after:

[before and after, the after shows the liquid colored a bit]


  • Run a 1.75 L bottle of Smirnoff vodka through a water filter like a Brita about three times if you happen to have one. Or skip this step, it likely won’t make a difference.
  • Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of juniper berries. Let sit for 12 hours.
  • Add:
    • 1/8 tsp fennel seed
    • four black peppercorns
    • 1/4 tsp allspice berries
    • 3/4 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1/8 tsp grains of paradise (I added these, you might want to skip)
    • 3/4 tsp fresh orange zest (original calls for 1 tsp)
    • 3/4 tsp lemon zest (original calls for 1/2 tsp)
    • one sprig rosemary
  • Let sit for another 12 hours.
  • Strain through a a fine mesh, and if you can manage, back into it’s bottle.

[lemon, orange, rosemary and spices]


It came out smelling vegetal, and while Scott reports that it tastes nice I still find it the orange zest a bit strong, adding a too-sweet note. I don’t dislike it, but I prefer my gin clean and crisp and, yes, pine-y. I realize that this might not be possible to create by infusing spirits. Still, the experiment fun and I might try it again. But first we’ll have to have a cocktail party or two to use this up. Punch anybody?

First let me just say that due to arcane liquor laws in the state of Washington a 1.75 liter bottle of Smirnoff is closer to $30 than $17. I wish I’d halved the recipe as this turned out to be an expensive experiment, and should you live in an area with similar conditions I encourage you to do so.

The final mixture was colored a ginger ale yellow. Not ugly, but not the crystal clear-to-blueish gin I’m used to. I’m sure this had an effect on my perception.

Of all the dried botanicals added the grains of paradise were the only ones that didn’t float. Perhaps it was a bad addition on my part but it is listed as one of the things that goes into Bombay Sapphire. This Wikipedia article on gin doesn’t mention it. Should I try this again I’ll leave those out.

So far my diligent research tells me that this gin in better served with a slice of cucumber than an olive. I will perform more diligent research in subsequent evenings where I don’t require sobriety.

Should I try it again I’ll leave out orange zest altogether, and probably only use half a sprig or rosemary. I will leave out the grains of paradise as well, for the sake of research.

There are, of course, a lot of recipes for infusing your own gin that you can find with a simple Google search. It’ll take a while to test them all but we’re up for it. I think next will be this one from Gourmet magazine.

update: I did indeed try the Gourmet recipe and liked it a lot better, go see try #2 here.

· comments [28] · 05-24-2010 · categories:drink · food ·

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 meaghan (chic cookies) // May 24, 2010 at 4:36 am

    oooh, great info! and brings me back to my gin days (as a consumer, not an infuser) I posted a link at

  • 2 Elle Sees // May 24, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Kudos to you for trying something different! The closest I’ve gotten to this was making my own vanilla.

  • 3 Carrie // May 24, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Nick at the Paupered Chef did this a couple of months ago. He found the filtering helped the alcohol taste less harsh, especially necessary with cheap vodka:

  • 4 allison @ thesundayflog // May 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    wow, gin is one of my favorite spirits, and i would love to try this. the brita filter is an old myth to make ur vodka a higher quality vodka. it doesnt work and it actually ruins the filter hehe. i think i might give this a whirl! why is smirnoff so expensive???

  • 5 maggie // May 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    i LOOOOVE that your making your own Gin. May i suggest you try my FAVORITE Gin if you havent had it yet? HENDRICKS GIN, its better than Bombay Sapphire and super smooth … not to mention it comes in the coolest bottle EVER (sort of a 1920’s prohibition style glass and label) very GATSBY! do try it with tonic and TONS of limes.

  • 6 pam // May 24, 2010 at 10:05 am

    cucumber, yes, like with pimm’s, which is gin based. makes sense.

    ooh, how could we make our own pimm’s? hmm….

  • 7 Paola // May 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I hate gin, but I’m loving your photos…

  • 8 megan b. // May 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Seconding the Hendrick’s vote. It’s infused with cucumber and rose petal in addition to the traditional botanicals. Yum.
    I may tweak the recipe to try and recreate that! Thanks!

  • 9 Amy // May 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Mythbusters did an episode once where they tested if running cheap vodka through charcoal filters made a difference, and it did. I remember this because it was what a teacher left behind to show her 6th grade science class while I was subbing a few years back.

  • 10 Deena // May 24, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    If you need an accompaniment, I’ve tried this recipe for tonic and it’s pretty awesome:

    Plus, homemade gin + homemade tonic = best present ever.

    Also if you want to futz around with infusions but not risk the taste of cologne, here’s my rhubarb liqueur recipe:

    It’s like candy. Grownup candy.

  • 11 Seanna Lea // May 25, 2010 at 6:12 am

    I have made cordials by soaking fruits and other ingredients in vodka, but my time frame has always been weeks not hours. If you want to try something fun (and spicy), I suggest making krupnik (

  • 12 brookeb // May 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Growing up in the rural southeast US ruined gin for me — it makes me think of the pine tar that I would get stuck to my feet when playing outside in the summer.

  • 13 christina // May 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

    i’ve actually made ian’s gin before, and loved it! using just a 2-inch piece of ungrated lemon peel should make it less citrusy for you (note: it’s tough to get out of the bottle), and the lavender’s floral note was great with tonic. it’s still much sweeter than bombay, though, which i feel is overwhelmingly junipery. you could probably add more juniper or give it more of a infusing head start? and i’d filter it through the brita afterwards.

    it’s still a yellowish color, but most spices aren’t clear so it actually makes me wary of how they finish the clear stuff. if you want the blue color of bombay, you could always add some food coloring…i’m sure that’s what they do.

    also, as a side note, this stuff is *great* for cooking.

  • 14 megan // May 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Christina – Thanks for the tips. I do like lemon zest, it’s just orange that I find overwhelming.

    I am hesitant to run my current batch of gin through the Brita as I’m afraid orange zest will infuse the filter itself, then show up in my next orange-less batch.

    Bombay Sapphire itself isn’t blue, just the bottle. But there is a light blue gin out there that I’ve tried, Rangpur maybe? I think I just find the muddy yellow to be subtly affecting my perception of flavor.

    Amy – Thanks for piping up on that! I didn’t have time to go find something.

  • 15 christina // May 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    you’re probably right on the orange zest flavoring. my brita now makes everything taste like various infused vodkas.

    slightly embarrassed on the blue bombay thing, proves i need to pay more attention when my drinks are poured…

  • 16 megan // May 26, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Christina – No reason to be embarrassed, if anything it shows how well their color branding has worked :)

  • 17 Incredible Links | Incredible Things // May 27, 2010 at 10:52 am

    […] 12 Cool Products for your Bike – Toxel LOST Mosaic Images You Could Get LOST In! – Walyou DIY Gin – Not Martha CAPTCHAs As Street Art – Urlesque iPad + Velcro = Love – Swiss Miss Insanely Intricate Eggshell Art […]

  • 18 J.D. // May 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t know how Bombay Sapphire is manufactured, but I would imaging they generate their vodka in-house, infuse it and then distill it. The clarity may be a by-product of the distillation process.

    I third the recommendation for Hendricks. I enjoy Bombay Sapphire immensely, but I might enjoy Hendricks a bit more.

  • 19 Becky // May 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Hi! I also recommend Hendricks. It’s delicious plain, but I like to infuse it with cucumber, a few orange slices and then mix with elderflower liquor. Happy gin-drinkings!

  • 20 shelterrific » Blog Archive » blogwatch: where we’ve been clicking this week // May 28, 2010 at 8:52 am

    […] at Not Martha, Megan made her own gin. Awesome! We’re thinking about making our own, Hendrick’s style, with cucumber and rose […]

  • 21 shawn // May 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    i don’t wanna sound stalker-y, but i think you live in ballard and so do i! do you know of a juniper tree in our neighborhood that perhaps needs a little berry-picking?

  • 22 megan // May 28, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Shawn – I don’t live in Ballard, though I did years ago. I don’t know of a juniper tree, but it sounds like one of those things that would appear in a gardening column somewhere.

    Anybody know of any pick-able juniper berries in Seattle?

  • 23 tobias cooks! // May 29, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I did not know it was that simple. Looks interesting!

  • 24 Savvy Housekeeping » Make Your Own Gin // Jun 8, 2010 at 7:50 am

    […] look, Not Martha made her own gin. Or really, she infused vodka with gin-like flavors. I’m not sure this counts as gin, to be […]

  • 25 Experiments with Gin « late night jam // Jun 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    […] this blew my mind!  I needed to try things out.  Not Martha experimented with two recipes here and here, and I used some of her comments to advise my own process.  I think a big reason to make […]

  • 26 Week 8: Juniper Berries | Bread and Buttercups // Jul 7, 2010 at 9:13 am

    […] actually taste the berries, choosing to just inhale deeply after crushing them. Over at Not Martha, they decided to taste the juniper berries. This description is […]

  • 27 screw machine parts // Jun 9, 2011 at 2:19 am

    I like this design! This is amazing!! Iwant to try after work!!

  • 28 The Gluten Free Lab » gluten-free nocino. OR, an italian digestif. // Jun 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    […] alcohol, usually vodka, to produce something completely different. Heck, you can even make your own gin! But if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere rife with tiny green walnuts, you might just […]

Leave a Comment