Homemade Limoncello: Italian Moonshine

I’ll take limoncello over dessert any day.  Limoncello is a lemon liqueur made primarily in Southern Italy, and especially renowned from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.  Italians drink limoncello as a digestivo, or after dinner drink.  It’s fantastic and I tend to order it anywhere it’s available.

 

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Limoncello at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami

Typically I buy limoncello at a local liquor store, but our Meyer lemon tree in the back yard was especially productive this past December, so I decided to make a homemade batch.  My running partner, Katy, also had a productive lemon tree in her back yard.  Collectively we had more lemons than pairs of shoes (that’s a lot, trust me).

 

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Katy’s lemons (variety unknown)
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My Meyer lemons

Homemade limoncello is easy, but it takes time.  If you’re going to make it as a gift, give yourself about 8 weeks prep time.  Limoncello is made with a clear grain alcohol infused with lemon rind without the pith, and simple syrup added halfway through the infusion process.  After sufficient infusion, lemon peels need to be strained from the liquid, the resulting liqueur bottled and stored in the freezer.

 

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The layout

I wanted to try Limoncello four different ways this time.  Since Katy and I had different varieties of lemons, that would be two different (I suspected) flavors.  A mixture of the two varieties would also be a good medium for herb infusion as well.  So in one jar I added rosemary and in the other jar I added thyme.  With an unlimited supply of lemons, and random bottles of vodka and everclear in the pantry, this would be a fun science experiment.  Here’s the infusion process in pictures, and the recipes below.

 

 

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Lemon zest, herbs, and everclear
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Infusing
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Straining through cheesecloth

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Limoncello

 

500 ml vodka or everclear

8 large lemons

2 cups simple syrup

 

Pour vodka/everclear into a quart mason jar.  Peel lemons (try not to include any white pith) and drop peelings into vodka in jar.  Seal and let sit for 4 weeks in a dark cabinet or closet.  Add room temperature simple syrup to jar, seal, and let sit in dark cabinet for another 4 weeks.  Strain mixture though cheesecloth into a clear decorative bottle.  Cork and store in freezer.  Serve directly from the freezer.

 

Yields: ~24 oz or 750 ml

 

Note: Zesting the peels would yield a cloudier limoncello, and that’s a matter of personal preference.  We tried both ways.

 

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Rosemary (or Thyme) Limoncello

 

300 ml vodka or everclear

5 large lemons

~handful of herb leaves

1 cup simple syrup

 

Pour vodka/everclear into a quart mason jar.  Peel lemons (try not to include any white pith) and drop peelings into vodka in jar.  Add herbs.  Seal and let sit for 4 weeks in a dark cabinet or closet.  Add room temperature simple syrup to jar, seal, and let sit in dark cabinet for another 4 weeks.  Strain mixture though cheesecloth into a clear decorative bottle.  Cork and store in freezer.  Serve directly from the freezer.

 

Yields: ~12 oz or 375 ml

 

Note: Zesting the peels would yield a cloudier limoncello, and that’s a matter of personal preference.  We tried both ways.

 

Up next: Limoncello Tasting and Notes