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Where I attempt to make my own vanilla extract

by John on November 19th, 2012

I love giving presents . . . but I’m a horrible, horrible present-giver. Basically, I’m the guy that shows up at the party where everybody adorns the guest with lavish gifts and, blinking, thinking “I just thought this was a get together where s/he was going to show off his/her beer/wine selection.” Then, I proceed to get smashingly drunk and give the greatest gift of all: a lifetime of stories about the time when I got smashingly drunk.

Because I’m a giver like that.

But there is nothing worse than showing up somewhere where someone hands you a present and you have nothing but a “thank you” to give them in return. Well, there are some things that might be worse, I’m sure, but I hate the feeling. I may hate that feeling more than I hate being late somewhere1. So, I’ve always thought about what I could do to combat that feeling.

I’m a pretty good cook, but not a great baker, but there are times that I’ll make mini-loaves of peanut butter bread to give out . . . there was even the Christmas that I gave them out to everyone on my block, until I found out that one of my neighbors had a minor peanut allergy. Fortunately, she smelled the peanut butter (because I didn’t do a very good job of labeling things) before eating it . . . but it could have been bad.

And then I thought about, really, what works for gift-giving: booze and/or cash. But, I’m stingy, so cash ain’t gonna happen. And (this may be difficult to believe) some people don’t drink. Yeah, I know, I don’t get it, either. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t give booze. After reading my friend Jessica’s plan to give out vanilla extract, I decided to shamelessly copy borrow her idea.

The core components arrived today: vanilla beans and glass bottles. The only thing missing? The booze. I need cheap liquor to fill these with — I’ve decided on bourbon, because it seems “the most like John” somehow. But, I only had a limited supply of cheap bourbon on hand, and I’m too sick to really consider heading out to buy a case of cheap bourbon, and I did have cheap vodka around . . . so, the very first bottles are four vodka, one bourbon, and one vodka/bourbon hybrid.

  • Split a vanilla bean.
    Splitting the vanilla bean
  • Place split vanilla bean in booze.
    Vanilla bean in bourbon
    Vanilla bean in vodka
  • I’ll get a shitton of cheap bourbon tomorrow to fill the remaining bottles — I’ll be storing these in my basement (where it gets cool but not freezing, and stays dry), gently shaking them twice a week until Christmas, when I’ll be well-prepared for the “oh, I didn’t know you were giving me a gift” barrage.

Now, I just need to design & print the label.


I hate arriving, late, to events a whole lot. Even after having kids.
19 Comments
  1. I very seriously considered making vanilla sugar or sugar scrubs this year. I still may do something of that nature for a couple of folks. I think this is a fabulous idea – and something that I’d much prefer to receive than a lot of things I DO end up getting.

    • That’s what I was thinking — for all of the gifts that I end up getting, this is something I think most people could use, or successfully re-gift.

      Last year I got a jar of the most gawd-awful “holiday spice jelly,” that I had to show to the disposal (though I did keep the canning jar, which will be re-used, so the gift wasn’t a total waste).

  2. My new favorite unit of measurment: “a shitton.”

    thank you for that, John.

    you old brickhouse. xo

    • Remember, if you’re dealing in metric, 1 shitton = 1.326 shittonnes.

  3. I made this same thing for Christmas gifts the first year I moved out on my own.

    Now I show up with wine or whatever else is the host’s favorite drink.

    Also, I really want to throw a party so you’ll come and get lit and tell some awesome tales. 😉

    • Throw the party & supply the wine & I’ll give you stories to tell for years 🙂

      My issue is that there are times that I don’t know the host’s favorite drink – so I usually just default to wine…but this seems more personal

  4. Mmm… bourbon and vanilla beans… That’s a cocktail starter, right? 😉

  5. What a cool idea!

  6. A great idea. I love your self-criticism and self-irony. I hate arriving late too. Yet, I am a classic example of a late arriving person))

    • I need to come more at ease with being late — I’m the father of two, so “being on time” is pretty common — but I still grow quite angry when I think I’m expected somewhere, but I’m not there.

  7. Some people don’t drink? WTF?

    • I know, right?!

      I suspect that everyone does, some people just like to say they don’t.

  8. Is that really it? That’s how you make vanilla extract?

    • Yeah – that’s it. Well, at least, that’s how I’m making it.

      If I look at vanilla extract as sold in the grocery store, there are several other ingredients, including corn starch & “alcohol,” but I’m quite happy with the way things are going out.

  9. Awesome. My friend did these last year. Just make sure you date them because apparently the longer they sit, the better. Happy gift giving!

  10. That is the most adorable gift idea ever. I’m quite envious of all your friends.

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