Making vanilla extract is simple: Split vanilla beans lengthwise, toss them into a bottle or jar of vodka, and stick the jar in a dark cupboard for a couple of months, shaking it up on occasion if you think about it. Use around eight vanilla beans for one liter of vodka; adding a small amount of sugar helps extract more vanilla flavor, says JMF. Eighty-proof vodka is fine, but 100 proof is better, and pure grain spirits (Everclear) are ideal.

alanbarnes likes 80-proof Moskovskaya vodka for infusions, saying it has a clean, neutral flavor and is supercheap (around $7 a liter at Trader Joe’s). don515 points to Vanilla, Saffron Imports for great deals on vanilla beans (as low as $19.95 per pound). A CHOW Tip video on homemade vanilla extract notes that rum works just as well.

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