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Limoncello

Photo by Mattia Luigi Nappi (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur produced mainly in Southern Italy and served as an after dinner/dessert drink. It is served chilled in small glasses (a shot glass will work if you don't have apertif glasses).

Limoncello is easy to make, but takes a while - up to 90 days. Have patience and you'll get a delicious dessert cocktail that also can be drizzled over vanilla ice cream to change things up.

Preparation

Wash the lemons to remove any dirt, then carefully zest each lemon, being careful not to get any of the white pith underneath the peel. The pith is bitter, so take your time to get just the zest. I recommend a good quality zester. Put the zest in a 1-gallong glass jar with sealable lid. Add the vodka, then set aside in a cool dry place (not refrigerated, and out of direct sunlight). Let sit for 45 days. Some recipes for "quick" limoncello say you can let it sit 1 week, but the longer you let it sit, the better the results. Put it aside and set an alarm on your calendar 45 days ahead.

At the 45 day mark, it's time to make the simple syrup. Heat the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a slow boil for 5 minutes. Let cool completely. Once the syrup is cooled to room temperature, add to the lemon/vodka mixture. Stir, seal, and let sit another 45 days.

After the 2nd 45 days, it's time to strain. This part is time consuming, but not difficult. Take your time and you'll be fine. Do a first pass with a fine-mesh strainer, straining into a second 1-gallon glass jar. Discard the zest that collects in the strainer. I use a mesh coffee filter as a strainer, and it works great. After straining out bulk of the zest, do a second pass, but this time add a #4 paper coffee filter to the strainer. This part will go slow, because you can only add a little liquid at a time and it takes a while to work itself through the paper filter. Be patient and add a little bit at a time.

Once strained, pour into bottles and store in the freezer. If you're going to be giving some away as gifts, look for nice glass bottles.

Serve chilled, directly from the refridgerator or freezer.

Ingredients

  • 2 750ml bottles of vodka (or grain alcohol such as Everclear)
  • Zest of 17-20 organic lemons (Sorrento lemons if available)
  • 3.5 cups organic cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)
  • 5 cups spring water