Opening a bottle of limoncello has a transporting effect. Like stepping into a sun-drenched citrus grove, the clouds part and the golden liquid is a temporary reminder that sunshine can indeed survive indoors.
Many like to take credit for creating limoncello. The intensely flavored liqueur is produced with equal passion in multiple areas of Italy, including in Sorrento, along the Amalfi coast and on the island of Capri. Limoncello is a staple digestivo after dinner in parts of Italy, and most restaurants hawk their own brand. Family recipes also differ greatly, with some leaning sweet while others embrace the drink’s tangy, acidic potential.
When making your own limoncello, the balance of flavors is up to your palate—and the recipe couldn’t be simpler: Peel, soak, sweeten and chill. And soon you’ll want to play with other flavors. The same imagination can be applied to any citrus fruit from limes to grapefruit to vanilla and orange. It’s time to get squeezing.
A few tips for preparing limoncello:
- Select organic thick-skinned lemons that don’t have wax and pesticides on the peel.
- If you can’t find organic fruit, wash and scrub lemons with hot water before peeling.
- Use high-proof alcohol like 100-proof vodka or even Everclear. Higher proof means a better infusion.
- Avoid peeling the bitter white pith of the citrus, use only the peel itself.
- Store the in-process infusion in a cool, dark place.
- Start with one cup of sweetener, then taste before adding more.
Now, how to drink it? Traditionally, straight from the freezer. Limoncello benefits from a strong, frosty chill. Drink it as an after-dinner palate cleanser or marry it with gin and fresh thyme. It’s also an easy shortcut to a fabulous Lemon Drop. Limoncello never resists a dance with bubbles and can even be served drizzled over fruit and ice cream. Shine on, you Italian stud.
1 bottle 100-proof vodka or Everclear
1 cup simple syrup
Use a vegetable peeler or zester to remove the peels from all of the lemons, avoiding removing the bitter white pith. Place the lemon peels in a large jar and cover with the alcohol. Allow the peels to steep for four weeks somewhere dark, like a closet or cabinet.
Strain the infused vodka into a large bowl and discard the lemon peels. Add one cup of simple syrup to the infused vodka and stir. Taste for sweetness, adding more simple syrup as desired. Use a funnel to bottle the limoncello and return to a dark area for two more weeks for the flavor to mellow. Chill thoroughly in the freezer before serving.