Making Limoncello

Back in the summer I fell in love with a new drink that made quick work of a bottle of homemade limoncello I had received as a gift. Eager to continue enjoying my Sunshine Spritzers, I hit the liquor store for a bottle of limoncello — only to discover that the commercial stuff is pretty terrible.

So, like most things in life, if you want it done right, you need to do it yourself (doubly true when your limoncello-making friend moves away). Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do:

First, I had to zest 10 lemons, which is by far the hardest part of the job if you are elbow grease-averse. (I am not.) All the zest went into a big half-gallon Mason jar, along with a liter of vodka:

I put on a lid and let it sit for a couple weeks in a fairly dark corner of the kitchen. In that time, all the essential oils from the lemon zest were infused into the alcohol.

When I got around to the next step, I made a simple syrup of 3 cups sugar and 4 cups water (boiled for 15 minutes without stirring).

When that cooled, I added it to the big jar — now filled to the brim! — and let the whole thing sit for another couple of weeks. Sugar can’t dissolve directly into alcohol, so it that’s why you need the simple syrup: The water allows the sugar to transfer. 

When that was ready, I used a funnel and some cheesecloth to filter the lemon zest out of the limoncello as I decanted it back into the original vodka bottle:

Now that somewhere just shy of an extra quart of simple syrup has been added to the vodka, there’s a lot more volume (and proportionally less kick). In addition to filling this full liter bottle, I also poured the remaining quart(ish) of limoncello into a smaller Mason jar and popped it in the fridge to use first. The big bottle is at room temperature in the liquor cabinet, where I expect it to be shelf stable with no trouble — our similarly sweet Cherry Bounce is still doing fine there.  

This recipe makes quite a sweet drink, but I don’t ever plan to have it straight. It’s perfect for mixing this way — too bad it’s so emphatically not summery outside now that it’s finally ready!    


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