Homemade Limoncello

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Smooth and sweet with an bright lemon flavor, limoncello can be sipped on its own, mixed into sparkling water, or shaken into cocktails.

Bring the Amalfi Coast to you with this easy-to-make Italian liqueur. The lightly sweet, lemony flavor is perfect as a mixer or an after-dinner drink and makes a festive holiday or hostess gift. 🍋

 

 

 

 

 

My mother-in-law introduced me to this light-tasting, lemony Italian liqueur several years ago after she and my father-in-law traveled to the Amalfi Coast. This region of Italy is famed for its picturesque coastal towns, beautiful stretches of coastline, and an abundance of lemon orchards.

The peels of the lemon, not the juice, are responsible for Limoncello’s lightly sweet, fresh taste, and the liqueur can be enjoyed as a dinner cordial, cocktail mixer, or a flavoring component in sangria, cakes, fruit salad, and iced tea.

The bright flavor is refreshing when used as a mixer in the spring and summer months, and a shot glass-size serving (sipped not gulped) can be a delightful meal ender in the colder months. Happily, you can create Amalfi Coast flavor right in your own kitchen, and the resulting liqueur makes a lovely holiday or hostess gift.

I’ve long thought of homemade gifts as a thoughtful, often economical way to show someone you’re thinking about them. They’re ideal for all the people in our lives who don’t want or need more “stuff”-and they can be a fun project, too. All of those things seem especially appealing this year!

The process-which I learned by reading how chefs in Italy make their own liqueur, along with a bit of trial and error-is simple. The flavor, however, takes several weeks to develop, so allow time before you plan to drink it or give as a gift.

To complete the package for gift giving, I like to add a festive ribbon and label. Last year, I found some pretty tags on Etsy. For those who may be interested, I bought them from Dazzling Daisies. I looked before posting and I didn’t see the same labels, but it would be worth messaging Sabine, the seller, to inquire further. (Or simple Google Limoncello labels-or make your own!) The labels were shown with personalization, but Sabine said she could make them without. Similarly, fun bottles can be found at craft stores, although Mason jars or repurposed jars that have been sterilized could also be used.

The do-it-yourself Limoncello ended up being a really fun gift and was well received by all.

Below are some photos of the process, followed by the complete how-to in the recipe card. Under the recipe, I’ve included several drink ideas to provide added inspiration.

To date, my favorite way to enjoy the lemony liquid is to sip from a small, frosty-cold glass. A little bit offers a lovely meal ender. Recently, I was served a Limoncello variation on my favorite Aperol spritz, and that is now on my list of things to recreate.

 

 

Bring the Amalfi Coast to you with this easy-to-make Italian liqueur. The lightly sweet, lemony flavor is perfect as a mixer or an after-dinner drink and makes a festive holiday or hostess gift.

Smooth and sweet with an bright lemon flavor, Limoncello can be sipped on its own, mixed into sparkling water, or shaken into cocktails.

 

🍋THE SIMPLE STEPS…

Begin with the lemons, which look rather pretty sitting in a bowl on the counter!

Bring the Amalfi Coast to you with this easy-to-make Italian liqueur. The lightly sweet, lemony flavor is perfect as a mixer or an after-dinner drink and makes a festive holiday or hostess gift.

Start by washing the lemons well and then drying. You want to make sure there is no residue on them since you’ll be using the peel.

How to make Limoncello

Peeling the lemons is the one somewhat tedious part of the process, but it goes pretty quickly. I think it’s easier to remove the zest when the lemons are cold, so store in the refrigerator until ready to use or pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes or so. In that case, set a timer so you don’t forget about them!

How to make Limoncello

My niece, Grace, made lemonade with the lemons after I zested them. The juice, which is not needed for the Limoncello, may also be frozen in small portions for later use.

How to make Limoncello

Some limoncello recipes call for 150-proof Everclear (also known as grain alcohol) instead of 100-proof vodka. I have made this recipe with both, and while the harshness of Everclear does temper over time, I think the end result is smoother and more desirable when using vodka.

How to make Limoncello

The peels are transferred to a 1-quart (or larger) jar or lidded container, preferably glass, and then the entire 750ml bottle of vodka is added. Make sure to completely submerge the peels, and then let the mixture steep for 10 days to 3 weeks. A coolish, dark place is good for this. (I place the jar in my pantry and give the jar a gentle shake a couple times each week – although shaking is not mandatory.) Over time, the vodka will take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

How to make Limoncello

After the allotted time, line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter (what I use) and place over a bowl. Pour the lemon mixture into the strainer to remove the peels, and then press to extract the excess liquid.

Bring the Amalfi Coast to you with this easy-to-make Italian liqueur. The lightly sweet, lemony flavor is perfect as a mixer or an after-dinner drink and makes a festive holiday or hostess gift.

The cooled simple syrup is then stirred into the strained lemon vodka, at which point you have Limoncello, which can be transferred to bottles or jars for storage. It’s best to allow the finished Limoncello to rest in cool dark place for 1 week or longer, as the flavor will mellow and become smoother over time (although it’s pretty tasty now, too!). 

Homemade Limoncello
Yield: 9 cups
Bring the Amalfi Coast to you with this easy-to-make Italian liqueur that calls for just three ingredients. The lightly sweet, lemony flavor is perfect as a mixer or an after-dinner drink and makes a festive holiday or hostess gift. It takes several weeks for the flavors to develop, so allow time before you plan to drink it or give as a gift.
Ingredients
  • 10 large lemons*
  • 1 (750ml) bottle 100-proof vodka**
  • 3 cups (575g) granulated sugar
  • 4 cups water
Instructions

WASH & DRY THE LEMONS: You want to make sure there is no residue on them since you’ll be using the peel. (Tip: I think it’s easier to remove the zest when the lemons are cold, so store in the refrigerator until ready to use or pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes or so. Set a timer so you don’t forget them in the freezer!)

PREPARE THE INFUSED MIXTURE: Use a vegetable peeler to peel the lemons. I find a sharp peeler works far better than a zester here, but you may use the latter if preferred. Note that you only want the top yellow layer. If the white pith comes off, scrape away the bigger pieces with the tip of a paring knife. You will be fine, however, if there’s a little pith here and there.

Place the peels in a 1-quart (or larger) jar or lidded container, preferably glass. Pour in the entire 750ml bottle of vodka, making sure to completely submerge the peels. Put the lid on the jar and let the mixture steep for 10 days to 3 weeks. A coolish, dark place is good for this. (I place the jar in my pantry and give the jar a gentle shake a couple times each week – although shaking is not mandatory.) Over time, the vodka will take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

MAKE THE SIMPLE SYRUP: At the end of the allotted steeping time, place the sugar and water in a pot, bring to a simmer and cook just until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature.

STRAIN THE LEMON PEELS: Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter and place over a bowl. Pour the lemon mixture into the strainer to remove the peels, pressing against them with the back of a large spoon to extract the excess liquid. Discard the peels.

ADD SYRUP AND BOTTLE IT: Stir the cooled simple syrup into the strained lemon vodka, and then transfer to bottles or jars for storage. (A funnel is helpful when transferring to a narrow-necked bottle.) Screw on the lids and allow the limoncello to rest in cool dark place for 1 week or longer. The flavor will mellow and become smoother with age (although it’s pretty tasty now, too!).

HOW TO SERVE: Limoncello is best served icy cold; it can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. (The alcohol content will prevent it from freezing solid.) Serve it in small cordial or shot glasses straight from the bottle or use as a mixer. When serving straight up in small glasses, I like to first place the glasses in the freezer to make them frosty. (See accompanying recipes for more ideas.)

STORAGE: Store the limoncello in a cool, dark place for 3 to 6 months. For longer storage, refrigeration will extend the shelf life to a year or more.

Notes

*If your lemons aren’t particularly large, use an extra 2 or 3. When in doubt, you’re better off with more zest than less. For those with a kitchen scale, I aim for about 130 grams of zest. Because the skins are the main flavoring agent, I like to use organic lemons when possible.

**Some limoncello recipes call for 150-proof Everclear (also known as grain alcohol) instead of 100-proof vodka. I have made this recipe with both, and while the harshness of Everclear does temper over time, I think the end result is smoother and more desirable when using vodka.

What to do with the leftover peeled lemons? They can be juiced for lemonade, or the juice may be frozen in small portions for future use.

 

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Adapted from Fine Cooking and The Yummy Life

🍋 A few more ways to enjoy Limoncello:

🍸 Limoncello & Bubbles
Forgo the mimosa or Bellini at your next brunch and make these instead.
Instructions: In a Champagne flute, combine 1 ounce Limoncello and 5 ounces Prosecco. Garnish with a cherry or red raspberry.

 

🍸 LIMONCELLO SPRITZER COCKTAIL
Easy and refreshing!
Instructions: Combine equal parts limoncello and club soda or seltzer water, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and garnish with a lemon slice and sprig of mint. Serve it straight or over ice. This can be made in individual glasses or in a pitcher for a big batch.

🍸 Limoncello Collins
The Tom Collins is a warm weather classic—gin, lemon, soda, like a grown-up lemonade. Here, limoncello swaps in for the sweetener, with just a touch of real lemon juice to brighten it up.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce gin, ¾ ounce Limoncello, and ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake well and strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with 4 ounces club soda, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

 

🍸 Stirred Sour
This fun summer cocktail drinks a lot like an old-fashioned, but the Limoncello keeps it lighter.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces bourbon and 1 ounce Limoncello. Add a dash each of orange bitters and Angostura. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a glass without ice. Garnish with a long, skinny lemon peel. (Food & Wine)

 

🍸 Limoncello Vodka Collins
A variation on a Tom Collins, another popular cocktail.
Yield: 4-6 drinks
  • 1½ cups good vodka, such as Grey Goose
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons simple syrup
  • ¼ cup Limoncello
  • 1½ cups cold club soda, such as Pellegrino
  • Ice cubes
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
Instructions: Combine the vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Limoncello in a large pitcher.  Just before serving, pour in the club soda and stir. Fill highball glasses with ice and pour the mixture over the ice. Garnish each drink with a slice of lemon and serve cold. (Barefoot Contessa)

🍸 Lemon Drop Martini with Limoncello
Sweet and tart with bright lemony flavor, the addition of Limoncello offers a little something special.
Yield: 2 drinks
For the martini:
  • 4 shots of vodka
  • 2 shots of Limoncello
  • 1 shot of triple sec
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
For the glass garnish:
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Mint leaves, optional
Instructions: Slice half of the lemon and set aside. Juice the other lemon half into a small, flat-bottomed bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of another similarly sized bowl or small plate. Dip each of two martini glasses into the juice, followed by the sugar, to lightly coat the rims. Set aside.
In a large cocktail shaker with ice, combine the vodka, Limoncello, triple sec, sugar, and lemon juice. Shake until completely combined and the sugar is dissolved.
Pour into the prepared glasses, and garnish with a lemon slice and mint leaf.

🍸🍋

 

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