Chill with a limoncello

  • Tue Mar 27th, 2012 5:24pm
  • Life

By Sharon K. Ghag McClatchy Newspapers

H ere’s to life handing you lemons. Lots of them.

With vodka and sugar, you’ve got the makings of limoncello, and an excuse for a get-together.

Julie Jean did just that recently, gathering with friends to make the aperitif. The drinking comes later — much later.

“We picked, washed and peeled multiple buckets of Meyer lemons,” said Jean, of Hilmar, Calif.

Then she and her friends added the peels to vodka.

“I don’t really have an exact recipe,” she said, but she offered plenty of ideas on how to use the vodka-based drink.

“We enjoy our homemade limoncello as a mixer with soda, champagne, fresh margaritas and on the rocks,” she said in an email.

“We also chose to reserve some lemon-infused vodka into a separate container to use as a homemade citrus vodka for mixed drinks.”

Limoncello really needs no adornment. Pulled chilled from the fridge or freezer, the after-dinner drink is like a cool breeze on a stifling day.

Its bright, intensely citrus notes offer a nice counterpoint to any meal.

Readers who shared recipes followed a basic method:

•You zest some lemons and put the rind in a jar with vodka.

Put the jar in a cool, dark place for six to eight weeks.

After about six weeks, add a simple syrup to the jar.

Store for six more weeks.

Filter out the zest, add more water to bring down the alcohol content and freeze.

Pour yourself a little glass, and sip slowly at the end of a difficult day.

Variations on limoncello can be made with any type of citrus, or a combination of lemons, limes and oranges.


Peel of 15 lemons

750-milliliter bottle of vodka

3 1/2cups water

2 1/2cups sugar

Wash and pat dry the lemons. Use a vegetable peeler to zest them, making sure to omit the white pith. (The pith will make the limoncello bitter.)

Add the lemon peels to the vodka in a glass jar. (There is no need to stir or mix the liquid.) Cover and keep in a cool dark place for 30 days. When it is ready, the liquid will smell strongly of lemon rinds and be a deep-yellow color.

Bring water and sugar to a boil and boil for five to seven minutes; let cool.

Add sugar syrup to the vodka and lemon zest, stir and let rest for an additional 30 days, to let the flavors further mellow and blend with the sugar syrup.

Strain the limoncello through a moistened cheesecloth or coffee filter. Discard the lemon zest, pour the strained limoncello into your choice of bottle and seal tightly.

Makes 11/2 quarts.”

From “Lidia’s Italy in America,” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich


Zest of 6 lemons and juice of 2

750 milliliters vodka

2cups granulated sugar

Remove zest from six lemons and squeeze the juice from two. Add to a large Mason jar with the 750 milliliters (25 ounces) vodka; seal. Leave for about a week, inverting or shaking the jar every day.

In a pan, heat 2 cups water with sugar until dissolved. Leave to cool. Stir the sugar mixture into the vodka mixture and leave for 10 more days. Strain into bottles and keep in the freezer.

Makes 1 quart.


15 organic lemons

2(750-milliliter) bottles Everclear (151 or 190 proof)

4cups granulated sugar

9 1/2cups water

Wash 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot soapy water and dry. Scrub lemons in warm water and dry. Remove the zest from the lemons and place in prepared jar. Pour in one bottle of alcohol. Secure lid and place jar in cool, dry place to steep. After 20 to 30 days, add the second bottle of alcohol to the mixture.

Place sugar and 71/2 cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Decrease to a simmer and cook 10 minutes to ensure that all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. When sugar syrup is cool, add to the lemon and alcohol mixture. Secure lid and return jar to cool, dark place for 20 to 40 days.

To bottle, wash bottles in hot, soapy water. Strain liquid through fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Add 1 2/3 cups of water to the limoncello if you used 151-proof alcohol. Add 2 cups if you used 190-proof. Ladle limoncello into prepared jars. Limoncello will keep for several years.

Makes 4 1-liter bottles.

From “Gifts Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving,” by Diane Morgan