homemade essentials: limoncello liqueur

a recipe by
Andy Anderson !
Wichita, KS

This is a great liqueur, and is the second most popular one in Italy, the first being Campari. It is easy/peasy to make, and since you only need vodka, lemon zest, sugar, and water, it is assembled quickly and then it is just a waiting game. Aunt Josephine used to make this all the time; especially, during the holidays. And I actually got a sip now-and-then. So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

serves Several
prep time 15 Min
method No-Cook or Other

Ingredients For homemade essentials: limoncello liqueur

  • 3 - 4 lg
    organic lemons, washed and dried
  • 10 oz
    vodka (80 – 100 proof)
  • 1 - 2 c
    sugar and water, to taste

How To Make homemade essentials: limoncello liqueur

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    What will you need? You will need a non-reactive container, like a mason jar, to use for the mingling process (from 4 days to a month), a small saucepan to make the sugar water, and small jars, or one big one to hold the finished product.
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    What is it? Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, produced primarily in areas of Southern Italy. It is smooth, with an intense lemon flavor, and based on how you make it can range from very sweet to super tart and citrusy, but we will talk more about that in the recipe.
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    What to serve with it? In Italy, it is traditionally served chilled after dinner in a small glass. This helps to clear the palette, and acts as a digestive. However, as a liqueur it can be served in a number of ways, for example mixed with other spirits or juices in a drink, or splashed into tonic, or soda water. Many times, I will pour a small glass, and sip it while reading a good book in front of the fireplace. Up to you… be creative.
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    How to store it? You can store this in the fridge for about 4 – 6 weeks, or you can stick it in the freezer for up to a year. Depending on how much sugar water you use, it will probably not freeze, but it will get slushy.
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    The Vodka The higher the proof of the vodka, the better it will be able to extract the lemon oil. There are several 100-proof vodkas on the market (like Smirnoff) that are very reasonably priced. The bottom line is use what you have. This batch I made with 80 proof. The Lemons I like organic; however, any good lemons will do just fine. Just remember that if the lemons are not organic, they will probably have been sprayed with a wax-like coating, so make sure you scrub them really good to remove it.
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    Additional Note: Most Limoncello is cloudy, this is due to suspended particles in the vodka. You will notice that mine is clear. I tried out a distillation process that removed the particles and made it a clear yellow. This step is not necessary, and does not impact the flavor, but I just wanted to give it a try. So, when yours comes out a bit cloudy, just remember that is the traditional way it is supposed to look.
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    Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
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    Thoroughly wash and dry the lemons, then remove the outer skin, being careful not to get any of the underlying white pith. A zester is a good tool to accomplish this.
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    Pour the vodka into a clean sealable glass jar, like a mason jar.
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    Add the lemon zest.
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    Seal the jar and then place it in an out-of-the-way spot, away from direct sunlight.
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    The more you let it sit, the more of a lemony flavor you will get, and after the second week it begins to develop bitter flavor notes. Actually, the bitterness is a good thing, like Campari. Times 4 days to 1 week – light mellow lemon flavor. 2 weeks – medium mellow lemon flavor. 3 weeks – more lemon flavor, with a hint of bitter. 4 weeks – same amount of lemon flavor, but with a bit more bitterness. Once the vodka is where you want it, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids.
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    It is time to add the sugar water. Mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water, and warm up in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Allow it to cool and then mix with the vodka. Give it a taste, and if it is too strong (it probably will be), make another batch of sugar water and pour a bit in at a time, until you like what you are tasting.
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    I usually use about twice the sugar water as the vodka. So, in this case we are using 10 ounces of vodka, therefore I usually add about 20 ounces of sugar water. But the final mix is up to you.
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    Store in one large bottle/jar, or place into individual jars (like Weck), and give out as gifts to your drinking friends and family. Enjoy.
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    Keep the faith, and keep cooking.
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