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Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract Recipe + Free Printable Labels

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Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract Recipe. All you need is two simple ingredients to make this gourmet extract. Made with real bourbon whiskey and vanilla beans, this DIY project is a great gift for the foodie in your life.

As we fall into autumn (get what I did there?! tee-hee), we start thinking about easy gifts from the kitchen and Homemade Bourbon Vanilla extract is the ideal gift to give your cooking friends, afterall, who doesn’t bake a few cookies or cakes every now and then!

bottle of homemade bourbon vanilla extract with wooden tag | thefreshcooky.com

Access the Free Labels by clicking the button below
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bottle of bourbon vanilla extract with label | thefreshcooky.com

Never run out of Vanilla Extract Again

What I love about making my own vanilla extract is that once you make your initial investment, the costs are truly tiny! Simply top off the bottle of vanilla off once the vanilla beans start to show. A few splashes of bourbon is all. And maybe once a year, pop in a new vanilla bean or two.

What is Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

bottle of bourbon vanilla extract with homemade tag | www.thefreshcooky.com

There is a lot of confusion over this name, historically Bourbon Vanilla extract contained extract made from Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, specifically from the Ile Bourbon, or what is now called the island of Réunion. Most assumed that the vanilla was made with Bourbon Whiskey, but that was not exactly the case.

Current day Bourbon Vanilla can be made with any alcohol, as long as it it also made with Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.

Today we are using real bourbon whiskey in this homemade bourbon vanilla extract recipe, along with Madagascar vanilla beans.

Ingredients and Tools to make your own homemade vanilla extract | thefreshcooky.com

Vanilla Extract Supplies

  1. Approximately 6-10 Grade A or B vanilla beans per 16 oz of spirits
  2. For this recipe we’re using Bourbon Whiskey; I like Buffalo Trace as a medium price point, and non-GMO bourbon (source)
  3. Use a minimum of 70 proof/35% alcohol)
  4. Make directly in the bottle or pour into separate, tight sealing clear glass bottle, love the dispensing cap on these! Other bottling options; swing top, boston round or a rounded swing top.
  5. While it isn’t always necessary, I recommend sterilizing your bottles or jars before using them. This can be done by boiling them in a stock-pot of water for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them to a clean towel to dry completely.
  6. A small funnel.
  7. A sharp tipped knife, this is my all around most favorite and most versatile knife!
  8. Patience! You need a minimum of 4 weeks for good results, 12-16 weeks is better, 6 months best, however, one year is ultimate! Besides, the longer it “brews” the darker, richer and more full-bodied it will become!

Store-bought varieties use a colorless, flavorless alcohol such as vodka, nothing wrong with that, it’s less expensive and works beautifully, see my post on Homemade Vanilla Extract using Vodka + Gift Giving Ideas for instructions on making your own regular vanilla extract.

I find bourbon makes a smooth vanilla extract that elevates recipes, like this Cherry Bomb Cocktail, to a gourmet level!

Bourbon Vanilla Extract has become my new personal favorite, since bourbon has a rich, smooth caramel essence on its own. Therefore when infused with vanilla beans it offers a sumptuous well-rounded flavor.

How To Make Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract

pouring bourbon in bottle for homemade bourbon vanilla extract | thefreshcooky.com

Homemade Bourbon Vanilla extract could not be easier!

  • I recommend sterilizing your bottles or jars before using them. This can be done by boiling them in a stock-pot of water for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them to a clean towel to dry completely.
  • Simply pour bourbon in small bottles or make a big bottle by placing vanilla beans directly into the bottle of Bourbon.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice lengthwise a fresh soft vanilla beans open, so the seeds are exposed and can fall out in the extract.
  • I keep my beans whole (but slit open), but you can also cut them into segments, it’s a matter of choice, if you are rushed for time in brewing, then cut into segments.
  • Then add beans to each bottle of bourbon or all of them to a large bottle.
  • Place lids on the bottles. Shake gently, placing the bottle in a dark cupboard, shaking once weekly or so.

How Long Does it Take to Make Bourbon Extract?

wooden tag for bourbon vanilla extract with beans and bourbon bottle | thefreshcooky.com

Physically making bourbon vanilla extract takes minutes, but to infuse takes time and anything worth having is worth waiting for, right?

However, if you are planning on giving bourbon vanilla extract as gifts this holiday season, you need to get going! It takes a month for the flavors to infuse properly, and as Ina Garten says, 6 months is best! And when Ina talks, we listen! *wink-wink*

Not to be bossy, but purchase your ingredients now and take the 5 minutes it takes to put it all together, it’ll do the work for you. Don’t forget to write your “brew” date on a tag.

How Do I Know When My Bourbon Vanilla Extract is Ready

I call it, “the sniff test“. Give it a gentle shake, then open the bottle and take a long, deep sniffffff. If it smells like vanilla, then it’s vanilla! The longer it infuses, the more intense the flavor.

How Do I Use Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

Let me know how you plan on using this delightful flavoring.

Is it Expensive to Make Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

3 ingredients to make your own, DIY bourbon Vanilla Extract | thefreshcooky.com

That depends, if having a non-gmo or gluten free bourbon is important to you, then might need to spring for something a bit more expensive. If not, then not really!

Vanilla beans can be expensive, last year they were crazy expensive due to lean crops, this year the prices have come down considerably.

I’ve discovered that as long as you use very soft, fresh beans, and slice them lengthwise, so the seeds are exposed, you do not need as many. Less beans = less cost!

How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last?

fresh, homemade bottle of bourbon vanilla extract with vanilla bean on rim of bottle | thefreshcooky.com

Forever if you take care of your extract! Follow these tips!

  • Make sure your vanilla beans are always covered with the liquor, so they don’t mold or dry out
  • Once you see the vanilla beans above the extract, then pour additional bourbon to cover, shake and you are ready to go.
  • If you follow these tips, you should never run out of vanilla.
  • Once a year, add a couple new vanilla beans to the bottle (don’t forget to split them or cut into pieces).

That’s it! I hope you will give this a go and make some for family, co-workers and friends this year, because it’s an amazing gift that keeps on giving!

For gifting ideas, labels and more, vist my post on DIY Vanilla Extract.

bottles of homemade vanilla extract

Like this recipe?
Don’t forget to give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating and comment below the recipe!

pouring bourbon in bottle for homemade bourbon vanilla extract | thefreshcooky.com

Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Author: Kathleen | The Fresh Cooky
4.77 from 17 votes
Homemade bourbon vanilla extract is deliciously smooth and so easy to make. Two ingredients and some time is all you need! Great for gift giving. Don't forget your free printable labels, details in post.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Infusion Time 28 days
Total Time 28 days 5 minutes
Course Gift Ideas
Cuisine American
Servings 750 ml bottle
Calories 2 kcal


  • 6-10 Fresh, plump Madagascar Vanilla Beans (Grade A or B)
  • 750 ml Bourbon Whiskey, I used Buffalo Trace a non-GMO bourbon, use your fave


  • I recommend sterilizing your bottles or jars before using them. This can be done by boiling them in a stock-pot of water for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them to a clean towel to dry completely.
  • Using the tip of a sharp knife slice bean gently lengthwise, stopping just before you get to the end.
  • Place desired number of sliced vanilla beans into the bottle of choice, snip your beans in half if the alcohol doesn’t cover the entire bean as this will prevent mold.
  • With funnel placed on top of the bottle, slowly pour your alcohol over the beans until they are covered and bottle is full. *Tip | If your funnel isn’t flowing, simply lift it slightly off the mouth of the bottle breaking the seal and allow it to flow easily. Place on lid and tighten, shake passionately for a minute.
  • Write date started on the bottom or side of the bottle, using chalk or metallic marker as well as type of vanilla.
  • Once your vanilla no longer smells of the spirit you used and smells instead like vanilla it is ready!

✱ Kathleen’s Tips

If you decide to place all of your beans into a large bottle of bourbon, you may have to pour a little off before placing the beans inside, as the volume will increase and may cause the bottle of overflow.


Serving: 1 ml Calories: 2 kcal

Nutrition Disclaimer

The Fresh Cooky is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
pouring bourbon into bottle to make homemade bourbon vanilla extract | thefreshcooky.com

Gifts from the Kitchen

Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

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  1. 5 stars
    We made these to give out as gifts for the holidays, and they were a smashing success. This tutorial is easy to follow with helpful tips, and also–the vanilla is fabulous!

  2. 5 stars
    So excited to try bourbon vanilla extract. I have vodka based extract melding right now. I will add this version to my arsenal of homemade extracts!

  3. Hello Kathleen,

    A local coffee shop makes a Lexington coffee drink I enjoy and has both house-made bourbon reduced and house-made vanilla. Do you still taste/smell the alcohol from this recipe after any infusion period?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Eric, I think I would enjoy that coffee house! Since I use it like I use any vanilla, which means just a teaspoon or so in a baked good, cocktail or mocktail. So while you still smell and if you were to drink it it would probably taste like vanilla bourbon, the purpose of it is more as a “flavoring”. If that makes sense. I just sniffed mine, and it smells of a wonderful deep bourbon and vanilla smell, but not overly bourbon-like! Let me know if you try it!

  4. I’ve seen many posts of people making their vanilla extract in an Instant Pot for speedier results. They’ve done tests and can tell no difference to the shelf made extract.

    1. Hi Susan, no reason not to try then, I just haven’t — old fashioned that way. I do have a link to a gal who has instructions on how to make it using an IP. I did have one friend try that method and liked it, but found a lot evaporated. Let me know how it goes!