We admit it. We’re guilty of taking the humble lemon for granted.
While it’s an essential cocktail ingredient, the citrus fruit gets scant attention and rarely top billing—even when in season. It’s time for that to change.
Lemons are, of course, available year-round, but the summer is actually when domestically grown ones are at their ripest and juiciest. We suggest you take advantage of the bumper crop and honor the noble fruit by whipping up a batch of traditional Italian limoncello. The delicious sweet liqueur, which is usually grappa- or vodka-based, is easy to make and, when chilled, is a welcome relief on a sweltering evening. (A bottle is also the perfect host gift if you’re getting away for the weekend.)
Our favorite limoncello recipe comes from talented New York mixologist Nick Mautone’s book Raising the Bar and is ready in only a week. His secret is to use whole juiced lemon rinds instead of just the zest.
While you wait, you should shake up cocktails with the excess fresh lemon juice. Try fixing the classic cognac Sidecar or the historic Tequila Daisy. Both are a true taste of summer.
Contributed by Nick Mautone
- 12 Lemons
- 1.5 cups Sugar, plus more if desired
- 1 L Vodka or grappa
Juice the lemons, reserving the juice for another purpose. Cut the remaining rinds into quarters and place in a large pitcher or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Add the sugar and stir well, pressing the lemons with the back of a spoon to extract any remaining juice. Add the vodka or grappa and stir well. Cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Stir well and taste, adding more sugar if desired. Refrigerate for 6 days more, stirring each day. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing the lemons to extract all the liquid. Store in the freezer.