What Is A Tincture?

You had "the greatest cocktail in the world" over the weekend, and were so obsessed with it you managed to remember which bar crafted it, hunted down the craftsman and demanded the recipe. Everything was great in that cocktail shaker until you got down to "3 drops of habanero tincture," and froze. What is a tincture, and can you make it at home?

A tincture is a concentrated alcohol infusion used to pump up the flavor of thoughtfully crafted cocktails, and tinctures have been in use since the golden era of drinking itself: Prohibition. They're typically made in small batches since you're only using a few drops per cocktail. Want to make your own?

What you'll need:

  • 1 small glass bottle with a dropper
  • 1 small glass jar
  • An herb, peel, spice, fruit, chile or other flavoring (hint: have a game plan before you create a smoked tomato tincture you'll never use)
  • Four ounces of vodka

How you do it:

Fill the jar about halfway with whatever you're infusing. Depending on what it is — whole spices and chiles especially — you can bring out the essential oils by quickly toasting in a dry pan. Pour in the vodka, tightly seal the jar, shake well and let sit for about a month, occasionally shaking the contents. Dispense into the dropper bottle and label immediately. Nobody likes a tincture guessing game.

Speaking of habanero tinctures, here's a recipe for a good one. The rest of that cocktail-making process should sufficiently blow your mind.

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