To make your own vanilla extract, spilt three or four vanilla pods lengthwise, leaving the top half of inch of the pod connected. Place the split beans in a clean glass container, and add about a pint of good quality vodka or rum. Close the container and let it sit in a cool, dark place for one month (for rum) or three to four months (for vodka). You should gently shake the bottle periodically. The longer you can allow the mixture to soak, the more rich the vanilla flavor.
You can also use brandy to make your extract. In this case, cut three or four vanilla beans into small pieces and let them steep in the brandy for 6 to 8 weeks. Try making your own “vanilla sampler,” trying different types of alcohol bases to see which you like best.