Friday, May 21, 2010

Cocktail Hour: Limoncello

It was only about a year ago that I discovered it was possible to make homemade limoncello. I'd been playing with vodka infusions for years, but asoundingly enough, had no idea that limoncello was essentially the same thing - grain alcohol infused with lemon peel, albeit over a much longer time span. 

Immediately, I started researching recipes. I soon learned that there are many conflicting opinions on the proper infusion time - I found recipes that advised anywhere from one week to 90 days. I even read one that recommended leaving the peels in alcohol for A YEAR.  I do not have that kind of patience, people.

The only way to figure out it? Try it for myself, of course! I decided to work with a very basic recipe using high-quality ingredients, and let the lemon peels steep as long as possible.  Given my aforementioned lack of patience, I'm going to try very hard to leave the limoncello alone until July, but don't judge me if I end up breaking it out a little sooner.

Here's the basic recipe:

 1.5 liters 190-proof grain alcohol
10 lemons, washed (I grabbed organic lemons since this recipe uses the outer peel)

(Really. That's all you need.)

The first step to a limoncello is to infuse the lemon peel.  To do this, peel just the zest from each lemon  into wide strips with a sharp vegetable peeler, being careful not to include any of the white pith. 

If you do get any of white pith with your lemon peel, just use a sharp paring knife to trim it away. 

Any pith that makes its way into the jar will impart a bitter taste to your infusion - though it's tedious, trimming it away will ensure you have a tasty, smooth end result.

In a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine lemon peel with grain alcohol. Swirl to mix well. Set jar in a cool, dark place and give it a swirl every couple of days to help the peels break down.  The clear alcohol will start to turn yellow and cloudy after a few days.

After I've left the limoncello alone for a few weeks, I'll add some simple syrup (2 cups sugar to 2 cups water) and let it infuse a little longer. I'll post updates on its progress - and eventually, on its taste!

What to do with your ten naked lemons? Juice them, of course, then refrigerate your fresh-squeezed lemon juice for another use.

Homemade lemonade, anyone?


  1. Oops, I drank it all while you were at work... ;)

  2. You can call it "grain alcohol" all you want, but we all know that you are using Everclear. *shudders*

  3. Guilty as charged. It was an excellent way to finally use the Everclear that someone left at my college apartment after a party in 2003.