August 09, 2009

Good Alcohol Gone Bad

Being out of work for the last 8 months has given me plenty of time to do some pretty crazy things I would normally have avoided due to a 'regular' work schedule. Some of them were fun and brought me back to my days in college (sour dough starter, dying my hair green), while others made me scream for ever thinking it was a good idea in the first place (sour dough starter, dying my hair green). So what was I, a kid with a short attention span, to do with a limitless amount of time?

Hey how about making my own wine! Yeah, no, wait that costs money and I was broke. What could I do that was cheap and had plenty of. Being a former college student I had a surplus of alcohol and wine. Why not make vinegar? Okay so that wasn't my first idea but you get the point.

So out of boredom I started making a hodgepodge of what I thought would be a good idea. Blueberry wine, tequila, Guinness, whiskey, port, and maple syrup (inspired by Ideas in Food). Crazy, yes. Bound to fail, more than likely but I liked those odds. How hard could it be, instructions were mix unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with alcohol and toss into a dark place and forget it for 4 weeks. Not hard, right?

Well one month of fermentation later and what do we have...failure, failure on an epic level but not completely. (I'm not sure how wine to vinegar goes wrong but I actually grew mold on one of them) Out of everything that went bad the only two that survived were the blueberry wine and maple syrup. I learned a lot with this little pet project though I want to review it later to get it down pat.

If you want to make your own vinegar here are things you should know...
-Alcohol content should be around 10 percent by volume. Less will not give enough food to the acetic acid, the bacteria that turns alcohol into vinegar, more will cause the bacteria to over produce.
-Store in a dry dark place around 60 to 80 degrees.
-Place it so that you won't have to move it for 1 month or more. It needs time to ferment and if you move it the cellulose on top will sink.
-Buy unpasteurized, unfiltered cider vinegar or vinegar mother.

Maple Syrup Vinegar
8 1/2 oz. Maple syrup (not the stuff in the log cabin at your local mega mart, the real stuff)
7 oz. unpasturized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 oz. light rum or vodka
2 oz. filtered water

The instructions are pretty easy, just get a glass jar large enough to hold everything and put all ingredients inside. Cover with just one layer of cheesecloth and put a rubber band over to hold it in place. Place in a cool dark place for a month and wait.
Once a month is over give it a smell, if it tickles your nose and does not smell like alcohol it's ready. Filter using a coffee filter and place in mason jars and cover.
At this point your vinegar is still pretty harsh so let it age for a few more months in the jars to allow the flavors to mellow. Or if you wish, filter into a nonreactive pan and let simmer for a few seconds, this will 'pasteurize' your vinegar and just place in jars.
It won't age like it's brother (or sister, how ever you see it) but I have found that people freak out when you tell them it is still alive.

I just realized my first 2 posts involved vinegar in some way. Good times, Goooood times.


  1. Good idea. I've never thought of flavoring it with maple syrup. My friend showed me how to make vinegar using Mother of vinegar as an acidic agent. I have flavored it with sugar cane and it was delicious. Check my version at

  2. I think I've always taken vinegar-making for granted, having always just bought it. Maple syrup vinegar sounds interesting. Great post!

  3. mmmm vinegar is so much fun, plus it isn't time consuming like other activities.

  4. Interesting ideas. I've never tried making my own vinegar...