I never considered making limoncello until I got a bag of Meyer lemons and didn’t want to waste the beautiful, aromatic peel after using the juice in another recipe. It turns out that it’s super easy!
Two lemon recipes in a row in the dead of winter? You’re probably wondering what I’m thinking. Well, I want you to plan ahead (hey, that’s what I tell my clients all the time :-p). If you do the math, it takes about three months for the limoncello to be ready, meaning if you start now, your batch will be ready in June when it’s warm and sunny out and you can enjoy an icy cold drink by the pool. Put it on your to-do list and don’t wait any longer!
Whenever I’m eating fruits and vegetables with the peel on – such as apples and pears – I like to buy organic in order to avoid ingesting too much of the chemicals that are sprayed on the fruits (pesticides, wax, preservatives). Same goes for citrus fruits, especially since I’m always using the zest in recipes. For the limoncello, you should try to use organic lemons so that you don’t get those chemicals into your infusion. By the way, Meyer lemons make a sweet, delicate, and floral limoncello, but regular lemons are just fine if you can’t find them in the store.
It takes quite some time to remove the pith from the yellow peel – and you want to be as patient and thorough as possible, otherwise the limoncello will taste bitter – but once you do, place the peels in a lidded jar. Fill the jar with grain alcohol, which is a potent, 190-proof alcohol. Everclear is the oft recommended brand, but it may not be for sale in the state where you live. I couldn’t find it anywhere in New York City, so I used the highest proof vodka I could find.
Want to know the lazy girl method I came up with? I opened a new bottle of vodka, poured out about a quarter cup (make a cocktail for yourself!), rolled up the lemon peels and pushed them right back into the bottle. Done and done! No need to go look for a jar big enough to hold the mixture.
Next, place the container in a cool, dark place, and let it sit for about 40 days, shaking it every couple of days. On the bottle, I mark the date when I make it and the date when it is ready. That way there’s no confusion about how much longer you need to wait until it is ready. Once the time is up, you strain out the peels, mix it with a batch of sugar syrup, and then let it sit for another 40 days. The amount of sugar syrup and the sugar to water ratio I provided below are just for reference. Feel free to use more or less depending on your preferred level of sweetness, how strong you like your drink, and the alcohol you’re using (if using a lower proof vodka, make a more concentrated simple syrup so that your limoncello doesn’t get too watered down).
Now, this sweet and tangy is delicious on its own, but do let your inner bartender go wild. You can mix it into white sangria, champagne, or even make a refreshing cooler with the limoncello by mixing it with lemon juice, mint leaves, and club soda.
Cheers, and Happy Friday all!
- 7 organic lemons, washed
- 750 ml grain alcohol or vodka
- 3 ½ cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- Remove the peel from lemons using a paring knife, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Place the peel and vodka into a lidded glass container. Seal tightly and set the vodka in a cool dark area to infuse for 40 days, shaking the jar occasionally.
- After the vodka has infused for 40 days, discard the lemon peel by passing the infused alcohol through a sieve into a large pitcher. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, add sugar and water and simmer on low until all of the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Add the sugar syrup to the pitcher and stir to combine. Pour into clean, corked bottles and sealed tightly. Shake the bottles occasionally to disperse the sugar. Keep chilled in the freezer.
- Serve chilled in cordials as apertif or digestif.