I told my dad I was making limoncello a month and a half ago and he asked how I was making it. I told him, “It’s super easy, you just put lemon peel in vodka for about 40 days and then add simple syrup. That’s it.” He said, “Is that how they make it in Italy? I always had visions of little old ladies putting whole lemons out in the sun to ferment!” It gave me doubts about the process I had seen everywhere on the internet but sure enough, it appears this is how they make limoncello in Italy, too.
That bottle on the right is low because I drank it. Just kidding. It’s low because I drank it with friends. But the amount I made would have filled both of these bottles and then some and each bottle is a fifth aka 1/5 of a gallon aka .750 milliliters. But perhaps I should start at the beginning?
My first picture is from Instagram but it shows that the vodka was clear and that I put about 7-8 lemons’ worth of peel in there. I used a vegetable peeler to avoid the pith and for my first bottle I used Meyer Lemons.
Fun fact: A .750 milliliter bottle of vodka fits perfectly into a large mayonnaise jar. The jar on the left is regular lemons from a friend’s backyard tree and the jar on the right are the Meyer Lemons. Notice how the Meyers are a little more orange in color? The smell/ taste is also distinct. You will also notice that this is after I let these sit on my counter for almost seven weeks so the vodka has picked up the color of the peel.
On the lid of each jar I marked the date I started each so that I would know how long it had been. I also marked the name on the left jar of our friend so I would remember but as I mentioned, the color was a giveaway all along. I’m going to make him and his wife a bottle as a “thank you” for giving us lemons. What a great way to give back, right?
Really you can wait anywhere from about four days up to about two months depending on how much lemon flavor you would like. In the shot above you can see the bits of oil from the rind of the lemon in there which is exactly what I was looking for– that’s where the flavor is at!
At this step– the simple syrup step– there are many different conflicting measures all over the internet. It’s probably why limoncello might be so diverse in Italy, everyone adds a different amount of sugar, lets it steep for different amounts of time, etc. I will tell you that I used 3 1/2 cups of water and 2/12 cups of sugar (pictured above) and thought it was WAY too sweet. For my second jar I might make a little less (3 c. water, 2 c. sugar) and then add it gradually to taste as opposed to using it all at once. I would recommend this gradual addition so you get the limoncello to taste how you like it.
Use a large container to add the steeped liquor to the simple sugar (or vice versa). At this point I had to pour some of the liquid into a bottle because most places recommend adding the rind to the limoncello mixture to steep one more day.
One bottle of vodka, some lemon peel, and simple syrup turned into two bottles of liqueur. I still have that second jar sitting on my counter to be mixed and bottled but I will need to visit the thrift store and see if I can find more bottles. The bottles above are just the vodka bottles with all stickers removed and I used wine corks instead of their screw caps to close them. They now reside in our freezer waiting to be sipped with or without ice. I’m really excited to use this in any number of summer cocktails including mixed with a little basil over ice, maybe some frozen strawberries or blueberries or any berry really, and more. So here’s how I did it:
La La Limoncello Recipe
7 – 8 Lemons, ideally organic so they aren’t waxed (any kind or try oranges, limes, or grapefruit!)
.750 milliliters of 100 proof vodka
3 cups water
2 cups white sugar
- Peel the rind only off the lemons with a vegetable peeler, try to avoid the white pith which is bitter.
- Add all lemon rind and the vodka to a jar or sealed container. Let the mixture sit out of the sun at room temperature for at least two weeks up to two months.
- When the lemon rind mixture has steeped to your liking prepare simple syrup: add water and sugar to a pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the mixture is completely clear (before begins to caramelize), remove from heat and let it come to room temperature.
- Add the rind mixture to a large container, gradually add the simple syrup until you have reached the desired sweetness. Let this mixture sit over night for added flavor.
- Strain and bottle liqueur, enjoy very cold!