I think I mentioned several weeks ago that we had a batch of limoncello on the go here. We have a Meyer lemon tree that is producing lots of fruit. So, ten lemons and three cups of grain alcohol later, we have a really good version of this classic Italian liqueur.Apologies for the rather poor photo above, but it gives you a sense of how the process works: you strip the zest from ten, large, organic Meyer (or regular) lemons, put them in a resealable jar, and cover them with neutral grain spirits. We used a product called “Everclear”, which we purchased at a local wine store. If you are unable to find neutral spirits you can substitute a high-proof vodka. The result will not be as good, but it will still beat most of the stuff that’s on the shelves (with added Yellow #5 dye, and a fragrance more akin to cleaning products than beverages). It’s important to remove all the bitter white pith from the lemon zest before you put it to soak. Let the mixture sit, in a cool dark place, for at least a week, preferably three to four weeks. As it steeps the liquid will take on a sunny hue and the flavor will intensify. When you are ready to bottle your liqueur, strain the contents of the jar and add sweetening with a simple syrup. When the sweetness is to your liking, return the mixture to your sealed jar and let it rest for a day or two, to mellow. Then strain the liqueur through a coffee filter, and bottle it. You can store it in the freezer or in your liquor cabinet. It gets even better with age. As for the cocktail pictured at the start of this post, it’s simple. Pour an ounce or so of your limoncello into a cocktail or wine glass, top it up with well-chilled, bubbly wine, and voila! Use an inexpensive Prosecco, Cava, or domestic bubbly of your choice. You can vary the proportions to your taste (keep in mind, if you used Everclear for your limoncello, it makes for a very strong liqueur. Everclear is one hundred and fifty proof!). Float a few frozen berries in your drink; they will act as sweet and colorful ice cubes. We are planning to try an orange version of this liqueur, so stay tuned. You can bet that something citrusy and bubbly will be the signature cocktail at our house.
Homemade Limoncello and a Bubbly Cocktail
- 10 large, organic Meyer (or regular) lemons, scrubbed well
- 3 cups (750 milliliters) neutral grain spirits, or 100-proof vodka
- 2 cups, or more, of filtered water
- 2 cups, or more, of granulated sugar
- Carefully remove the zest from the lemons, avoiding the bitter white pith as best you can. Place the peels in a resealable, glass jar and add the spirits to cover. Seal the container and store in a cool, dark place for at least a week, and preferably 3 to 4 weeks.
- When you are ready to bottle your Limoncello, strain the peel from the liquid. Discard the peels. Make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a brisk simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a large measuring cup and set aside to cool.
- Add about ¾ of the total volume of simple syrup to the lemon-infused liquid. Taste for sweetness and add syrup, if desired. If you still require more sweetness, make another small batch of simple syrup. Don't add granulated sugar, on its own, to the liqueur mixture. Return the sweetened mixture to a resealable jar and let it mellow for a day or two, in a cool dark place. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, lined with a coffee filter, then bottle in containers of your choice. Store in the freezer or liquor cabinet.
- Use for a bubbly cocktail, mixed with Prosecco, or add to gin or vodka, for a Limontini. You can also enjoy Limoncello on its own, over ice. Cheers!