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July 23, 2020


I love the smell of lemon verbena, verveine. It floods me with memories of my childhood in Provence where it would fill the garden air. I remember how I'd brush up against it, wallowing in the explosion of a citrusy smell that was so intense I would stay and rub my hands over the leaves to touch and take in the uplifting aroma. When dried, the leaves were used to make a tisane, herbal tea served after a meal to assist the digestion. That wonderful smell was captured and imbued in soaps and eau de toilette that filled my head with memories of sunshine and citrus and left my nose begging for more.

A few years ago, while wandering through a garden store, I discovered small pots of lemon verbena ready to plant. Since that lucky day, verbena has been growing in my garden and tisane is served after meals.

While looking through recipes to learn how to create infused oils and vinegars, I discovered a recipe for verveine-infused vodka. It wasn’t what I was looking for but why not? My husband, Mark, purchased a bottle of vodka and I inserted the clean sprigs of the herb into it. I put it on a shelf in my pantry and let it sit for a few weeks. The next time I looked, it had turned a golden color. As instructed, I removed the lemon verbena and tasted it. I’m not really a vodka fan so I wasn’t certain what I had created, but decided to leave it on a back shelf of the pantry and forgot about it.

A few years later, three to be exact, Mark pulled it out of the pantry and, holding it up, asked, “Shall we throw this away?” What had started with a bottle of Kettle One Vodka was no longer a golden color; it had turned a dark brown, almost black—kind of scary looking. Hesitating, I said, “I’ll taste it first.” Nothing bad could live in all that alcohol, right?

I took out a glass, poured in a small amount, and tasted it. Then tasted again. It was really good. It had turned into a liquor perfect to serve as an after-dinner drink. Amazed, I poured it into a decanter and placed it on the bar, ready to share.

Want to try it?


Because I made this years ago and didn’t write down what I did (never a good thing), there is some guess work here. 

Sprigs lemon verbena—I used 4 or 5 because I wanted the flavor to be strong.
Good quality vodka—I used an entire bottle.
Wash and dry the sprigs of lemon verbena.
Place the verbena in your bottle of vodka (you may have to pour the excess vodka into a glass to fit the herbs) and seal the bottle.
Shake to mix well.
Place the bottle in a dark spot for up to 2 weeks.
Occasionally taste to see if you like the flavor.
Pour the infused vodka through a fine sieve to remove the leaves and any residue.
Rinse the vodka bottle and pour the vodka back in and seal. As I said, I let it sit for 3 years before using it.

Discover what works for you.

Want to play? Try using other herbs to infuse your vodka. It could be rosemary or maybe ginger and lemon. Think about flavors and have fun. Remember what happened to my vodka.


* Note: This post is part of a series that I’m writing about saving the flavors of summer to use when summer is over. Last week was about how to preserve basil.

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