homemade mint extract

i had high hopes for this. i mean, really high. i imagined cups of mint extract, so much that i couldn't give it away, and already had plans for some of it. i imagined finally finding a use for the mint taking over my back patio.

mint extract is just like vanilla extract or any other infusion: soak in vodka for a long time in a dark place. strain. use. same process to make limoncello too (but that will have to wait until next summer).

a couple weeks ago i got started with a small batch. most recipes i read online said 1 pound of mint leaves to 4 cups of vodka. i definitely didn't want to make a whole four cups the first time, so i settled on 1 cup vodka to 1/4 pound mint. i sent jason off to buy some cheap vodka (there's really no use wasting the good stuff on this) while i figured out what kind of mint to use.

selecting the mint was the hardest part. none, not a single one, of the recipes i found said peppermint or spearmint or anything besides "mint." since i have an overabundance of both, i set out to make one batch of peppermint and one of spearmint. so i started cutting. and cutting. and stripping leaves off. and cutting down some more. a quarter of a pound of mint sounds like a lot. it is, but i didn't realize really how much until i finally had about 30 stems cut and stripped.

by now jason was back with the vodka, so i set to packing both sets of mint leaves in pint mason jars. if this sounds easy, it really wasn't. the mint leaves were packed as tightly as possible, leaving just enough room for the vodka to trickle through. i added a cup to each jar, closed it up, and set it on my windowsill to do its thing.

and then i waited. and waited. a full four weeks. every few days i'd give the jars a shake and flip them over. the leaves slowly changed from a bright green to a brown-green and didn't look out of the ordinary (nothing growing or changing weird colors), so i kept waiting and flipping until it was finally time.

i imagined the burst of mint when the jars were opened. i imagined it smelling so strong i'd have to avert my nose. i opened slowly and carefully. and nothing. neither jar really smelled like anything. bummer. but i was still optimistic.

spearmint (L) and peppermint (R) after their soak

until i started straining it. the leaves were fine - not slimy or gross - but the vodka just didn't smell all that minty. still, i forged ahead, straining both jars, using my hands to squeeze the vodka out of the wilted leaves.

right about now is when i knew i was defeated. visions of more mint ice cream. gone. mint candy. gone. mint brownies. gone. all i had left were two cups of green brown vodka. the peppermint had a slightly minty aftertaste and the spearmint just tasted like weeds. weed flavored vodka. gross. and down the sink it went.

strained spearmint (L) & peppermint (R)

now i'm right back to where i started. i have pounds of spearmint & peppermint growing in my backyard. what can i do with it? i can only eat so much mint chocolate ice cream and drink so many mojitos. any ideas?


  1. You could add a few chopped leaves to salads to add a nice freshness, use the mint in savory meat dishes (especially lamb), add a mixture of mint and cilantro to pico de gallo to change it up. Make tzatziki with mint instead of dill and use it for bread, veggies or on grilled meat. Also, you could mix up some mint jullips instead of mojitos.

  2. I say try again. If Edison had given up after just one try where we might still be reading by candlelight!

  3. First of all, I love your blog! This is exactly what I was looking for. I love to hear others' stories, be they successful or not. I'm finding very little on making mint extract, so this was a welcome find.

    One of the only other sources I've found has been this: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1761,128180-255199,00.html . They recommend crushing or bruising the leaves (the better to release the oils?). No idea if it'll work or not. I'm still researching before I start anything. I'll probably try a few methods.

  4. I've read elsewhere that the mixture should be put in a dark, cool, dry place for 30 days.
    I think your mix got messed-up by exposure to sunlight on your windowsill.

    If you're not completely bummed-out, I'd recommend trying again and putting it in a cupboard.

  5. I read to put it out in the sunshine for 4 weeks. I just opened my jars and it STINKS!! I can't explain what it is like, but not minty, and terrible. I did exactly as you did, but it sat outside. Maybe I should try inside in the dark.

  6. I recommend drying the leaves first and keeping it in the dark.

  7. Avoid cramming the jars full of mint leaves. If the space is 99% plant matter and 1% solvent (alcohol), there's no space for the oil to go.

    Try filling the jar half full with *warm* vodka before putting the crushed/bruised mint leaves in.

    Extracting mint oil requires steam distillation for best results. More heat means more mint oil. Catching that steam and cooling it down makes mint oil in a couple hours rather than a couple weeks. Getting too warm could scorch it instead though.

    It doesn't matter whether you keep it in the dark or sunlight beyond any heat the sunshine adds.

  8. I haven't tried making my own yet, but the recipes I've read say to keep it out of sunlight, and then after the few weeks it sits, strain the leaves out and put the liquid in the freezer. The oil will freeze and separate from the vodka. Strain out the vodka and you are left with mint extract!

  9. would it help if the jar wasn't sealed tightly to allow for the alcohol to evaporate off?

  10. Ok.. I did just that, and left the jar slightly open during the "stewing/fermentation" process. The results were pretty good. Didn't blow my head off with the alcohol vapors that I'd experienced before, and had a very nice mint essence.
    Once I removed the mint leaves, I placed the jar in the freezer for a couple of hours to get the water to solidify. Once in a frozen state, I removed the jar from the freezer for a few minutes. The oil extract returned to a liquid state before the water, so I could pour off a couple of teaspoons very easily. The extract wasn't clear, but rather a dirty brownish green. We made mint chocolate chip ice cream that was delicious!

  11. I don't know if it matters for mint extract, but I've made several batches of vanilla extract by soaking the beans in vodka for several weeks. For the vanilla, using 100-proof vodka seemed to work much better than just using 80-proof. I have a bottle of mint leaves in a cabinet that has been soaking in 100-proof vodka for several weeks now, and it smells very minty, although the leaves are somewhat brownish and unattractive now. I have yet to cook with it though...

  12. Please reconsider using a better grade vodka. It really does make a difference. After all, it is half of the ingredient list and you aren't making jello shots. Sunlight is also a culprit. You want to store it in a cupboard not near the stove.

    My neighbor has a prolific mint garden so I'm lucky enough to get some dried leaves for tea. It's especially nice added to chamomile.

    Good luck on your next attempt!

  13. I recently brewed a batch of chocolate mint stout for the holidays and decided to make my own mint extract for the same reason you did-I have tons of mint growing in my garden too. I found that if you muddle/bruise the mint before you add the vodka, you will get a very potent extract. I used about 1/4 cup vodka with ~50 leaves and let it sit on my kitchen table for a week with successful results. Hope this helps someone.


  14. Thank you for posting your results. I can't tell you how helpful it is to see a recipe which doesn't work. I have had trouble with extracts and flavoured vinegars in the past and am glad to know it's not just me having trouble but probably a flaw in the recipe itself or with the method.

  15. An easy way to remove the oil from the alcohol is to freeze it. The vodka won't freeze, but the oils will congeal, and then you can scoop it off. You can then use the vodka again.

  16. Hi, try simply apple juice with some mint, perfect refresh in summer :)

  17. It is nice to make your own stuff. But, if mint extract only costs 3.56 per once in the store, is it worth it? How much does the good vodka cost? Just a thought, I was thinking about trying. Mint grows wild in San Diego, Ca..

  18. Maybe this would help? Try not packing the jar so full. http://craftingagreenworld.com/2012/05/21/how-to-make-homemade-mint-extract/

  19. This is enlightening! I have been wanting to try making mint extract and at least I know one thing NOT to do now.

  20. I'm currently waiting for mine to finish off :)
    Here's where I got some tips: bruising the leaves, not over-packing, keeping in the dark & cool place, etc.


    Maybe try it again? :)))

    1. What if all my mint is freshly frozen.after I harvest my spearmint I wash and immediately freeze it in water.this keeps the leaves green and fresh.would this hurt the extracting process?

  21. There are directions for making an herbal hydrosol at home on this page:


    It's easy and you can use a lot of mint and make quite a bit of hydrosol this way. You can spritz the hydrosol around the house, pour some into the tub for a minty soak, pour a little in tea or lemonade, add to recipes or whatever moves you! It's actually quite nice to soak in or rinse your hair with.

  22. Leaving it the sun will affect the flavor, as it breaks down the chlorophyll in the dead leaves. Also, wringing or squeezing the leaves extracts more of the chlorophyll which makes the stuff taste very bitter and earthy (like dirt). You want the essential oil, not the other plant compounds. What has always worked for me is to slightly bruise the leaves, then leave them in the jar of everclear in a cool dark place for about a month. After a month or so, strain the whole mess through a coffee filter. You can pour it back in the jar, and place a towel or coffee filter over the mouth of the jar and put it back in the cool dark place for a week or so. This lets the alcohol evaporate, and concentrate the oil a bit.

  23. Glad i found this post, lots of useful tips all over! I had tried to create a mint extract not long ago and failed... I placed a bunch of mint leaves in a jar, put in some everclear, placed the jar on top of a brick outside in the sun, and left to visit california for two weeks. I came back and took the dry brown leaves out of the jar and i could smell the mint. The only thing now is... the oil is not wanting to freeze. From reading all these posts I have a better idea of how to do it better the next time so my plan now is to leave the jar in a dark place, if that doesn't work then i might switch to vodka and see what happens from there!

  24. I was looking for advice on making vanilla extract after I had similar problems with mint. It made me feel better to hear I wasn't the only one whose mint (peppermint) extract failed...

    My experience is at http://artofnaturalliving.com/2012/12/30/the-worst-of-2012-ten-ideas-that-did-not-make-my-blog/) and I described the flavor as "brown" (love "weeds")...

    Wish me luck with the vanilla!

  25. Bash the mint leaves first then try again but leave it for SIX weeks. :-)

  26. I tried a few weeks ago to make the mint oil - with also very high hopes, and I ended up with the exact results as the original post. Just brown vodka. No oil. I was so sad, since I have so much mint it is crazy. So I am going to try again this time I am going to do things a bit differently -
    1. I will get the higher quality vodka (from 80 to 100 proof)
    2. I will not pack the mint so firmly (I packed it quite tight the first time, there was hardly room for the vodka.)
    3. I am going to bruise the leaves a bit. (I just washed them last time.)
    4. I am going to seal the glass jar. (I just has plastic wrap on top last time)
    5. I am placing in a dark place in the basement. (I had it on the kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight last time)
    6. I will wait for more than 2 weeks (I waiting the minimum 2 weeks last time.)
    7. I am going to start several batches at the same time and see how it goes in each jar.

    It will obviously be weeks before I know what happens. But I will keep you posted when I have an update.

    Thank you so much for this post, it was so helpful to me. I am back to excited again - rather than sad.

  27. What you're trying to do is make a solution of oils that dissolve into alcohol. The purity of the alcohol from 80% to 100% is probably not as big an influence in your setup as the ratio of leaves to liquid. Having said that, you could experiment between 80 proof vodka and Golden Grain at 190 proof to test the efficacy of the alcohol content in dissolving the oils. That's a big enough change in the ratio of alcohol in the liquid to make a noticeable difference.

    I'm guessing the correct things to look at are:
    * High concentration of alcohol in the liquid (so higher proof would be better)
    * A proper ratio of leaves to liquid to maximize the dissolving of oil
    * A short enough time so the leaves don't decay or other substances start to dissolve too (another reason to increase alcohol content and reduce water content)
    * A consistent temperature and environment that #1 doesn't encourage alcohol evaporation and #2 causes the process to happen quickly

    You might try this:
    A) Cut the mint so that only the leaf parts are in your batch (remove the stems, flowers, etc.)
    B) Lightly wash them to remove dirt and dry them thoroughly in a salad spinner then maybe some air drying (some water probably won't be bad in high proof alcohol)
    C) Bruise the leaves by putting them in the jar and lightly mash with a spoon, or put them in a bag and whack it a small number of times with a rolling pin)
    D) Start with a high volume of alcohol to leaves (maybe 2 or 3 parts alcohol to 1 part leaves by volume and increase the leaves each time you make a successful batch to see what the limit is)
    E) Put a lid on the jar and store it in a cupboard or on the countertop away from drafts or windows
    F) If you've done the above and it's really a simple matter of dissolving oil into the alcohol, then you've done all the major things to help. Time now will only help you to a certain point. The leaves will start to decompose after so long and start to mix what you do want with what you don't want. Let the leaves steep only so long as they still appear fresh. Feel free to remove them after a few days. Keep increasing days with each successful batch to figure out where the time limit is.
    G) To increase the flavor, you should increase the concentration of oil. So the thing to do now is remove the alcohol. I'd guess that freezing the liquid would help. The oils will probably coagulate and separate out somewhere below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Try putting the jar in the freezer with the top loose and see if it will do that. If it does either the top or bottom layer will be the oil. You should be able to scoop it out and end up with a stronger flavor as it will be mostly the oil.

  28. any updates on success???


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