Nothing is better on a hot summer day than a Cold Beverage.
Except a Cold Alcoholic Beverage.
One of my favorite summer sippies is Limoncello, a lemon cordial of Italian origin that consists of lemon-infused vodka, sugar and water. Am I going to tell you my favorite brand and where I get it? Hell no – I’m going to tell you how to make it. Because making Limoncello is half the fun. (The other half is of course drinking it.)
Let’s get the recipe part out of the way, and then we’ll discuss Technique – but don’t worry about gathering everything together just yet:
Approximately 15 large thick-skinned lemons (more about this later)
2 750 ml bottles of Vodka
4 cups sugar
5 cups water
That’s it! Those ingredients, and time. Three months of time. Oh, and a big-ass glass jar with a lid – one that will hold at least 4 quarts.
The Big-Ass Jar
I can see the face you just made – believe me, it’s worth the time.
Limoncello happens in three parts, and the biggest pain-in-the-ass part is Part One – Peeling All Those Lemons. This step requires the lemons and one bottle of the vodka.
Part One – Peeling All Those %#*@&% Lemons
I said “approximately” 15 lemons because you might only be able to get smallish lemons where you shop, so you might have to get a couple more. But try and get them as big as you can – here’s the size I try for:
The main thing is that you want to be able to get nice, big peels off these lemons, because after you peel them you have to scrape off ALL the white pith off the peels.
When life gives you lemons… peel them!
ALL OF IT. I mean it. If you leave it on, the limoncello will taste bitter and nasty. So save yourself a little hassle and don’t peel the lemons too thick. I use a sharp knife to scrape off the pith. When you’re all done peeling and scraping, rinse the peels in a colander and toss them in the Big-Ass Jar (hereafter BAJ).
(Of course now you have a crap-ton of peeled lemons. Go troll Allrecipes.com or your favorite recipe site for yummy things to make with lemons!)
Now, the vodka… This is a personal preference, and a monetary one as well. I have made a truly remarkable Limoncello with Belvedere vodka, but that’s pricey stuff. You want a nice, smooth, not-too-expensive vodka. This latest batch was done with a very reasonable Polish rye vodka called Sobieski, and it is STELLAR. Actually quite close to the Belvedere. But if you want to be fancy and use Absolut, be my guest. Whichever brand you choose, pour ONE of the bottles into the BAJ with the peels, put the lid on, and stash that puppy in a dark place like a cabinet. Mark the date on your calendar, and then go ahead 45 days and mark that date as well. That is the date you do Part Two.
Part Two – Water, Sugar and Vodka
In a large sauce pan, add the sugar and water and boil it for five minutes. Then let it cool completely. Pull out the BAJ, admire the awesome yellow-ness within, then pour in the cooled sugar syrup and the SECOND bottle of vodka. Stir, put the lid back on, and put it back in its hidey-hole. Mark that date on the calendar, go ahead another 45 days and put a big drunken smiley face on that day – that is Limoncello Day.
Wasn’t Part Two easy? And now…
Part Three – Awesome Limoncello of Awesome
A BAJ of Lemony Love
(The dark green one is my precioussss…)
This is the easiest step of all – Bottling and Enjoying. How many bottles and how big they are depends on whether you are sharing your bounty with friends or clutching it in a corner and calling it your ‘Precious’. I like to share, so I look for nice decorative bottles that hold about 12oz apiece. I found these lovelies at the Christmas Tree Shop. You can find corks at a craft store like AC Moore or JoAnns.
Waaaay easier with a funnel.
Make your life easier and get a cheap funnel! I was too lazy and had to use a spouted bowl. This recipe yields a little over 3 quarts, which gave me seven 12-oz bottles to give out and one 22-oz bottle to call ‘My Precious’.
You can store the bottles in your pantry/cabinet, and keep one in the freezer for imbibing. Happy Sipping!
Here’s the print-ready, not-so-rambly version of the recipe and instructions:
15 Large Lemons
2 750 ml bottles of Vodka (I recommend Sobieski)
4 1/2 cups Sugar
5 cups Water
Part 1 – Peel lemons, scrape pith from peels. Rinse peels and place in 4-quart glass jar, then add 1st bottle of vodka. Cover/put lid on jar and store in a dark place for 45 days.
Part 2 – In a large saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Let cool COMPLETELY, then pour cooled syrup into the jar. Add second bottle of vodka, stir, and return to dark place for another 45 days.
Part 3 – Pour into clean, unused bottles, cork and share the love!