Limoncello Recipe

Limoncello reminds me of sunshine. Of being on the beach in Italy or wandering the port of Marseilles. I love citrus, and in the dark cold January of this year, I wanted to mimic some summer sun. Plus, I heard Meyer Lemons were on sale at Costco, so it seemed like a good time.

Even though the sun has returned, I’d still recommend a good round of limoncello making.

What is Limoncello?

Limoncello, also called limoncino depending on where you are in Italy, is a lemon liqueur primarily produced on the Naples coast. But you’ll find varietals wandering their way throughout Italy and into France a la Provence and Cote d’Azur. You know, the places where lemon trees naturally flourish in the balmy Mediterranean atmosphere.

Limoncello is one of those cultural traditions that’s been around so long, no one knows where it originated and everyone’s got their own family recipe. Even so, all the recipes are similar. Slice and dice lemon peels into small pieces that can sit in a high proof alcohol (normally vodka) to leach their tasty volatile oils into the mix. Let it sit for a while, add some simple syrup, and boom. Delectable citrus beverage.

The Recipe

I pulled some recipes online to get an idea of ratios, but like most of my experiments, I get an idea and make it all up from there. After buying my big ole bag of meyer lemons, I got to peeling. 10 lemons for approximately 1.5 Liters of high proof vodka. Rather than zest everything, I used my previous Oleo saccharum trials and a peeler to make strips. I reasoned the loss of oil would be negligible with most of the peel surface area still in contact with the extraction medium. The thing I didn’t think about was that it’s much harder to eliminate the pith when you peel versus zest. But if you’re adding simple syrup, maybe some bitterness is okay? Tally ho!

My vodka-peel concoction sat for 6 weeks mulling. After that, I squeezed some more lemons to add a dash of juice, and made a simple syrup to even it out. The basic formula was 3:1 vodka to simple syrup, then 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Now with a taste test? I’ve got to admit it’s pretty close to my international competitors.

Some notes:

  • Meyer Lemons are sweeter than your standard grocery store citron. This is one of the reasons I went down on the simple syrup. Modify ratios to get a tangier or sweeter concoction as you will.
  • All things considered, I think peeling went well, but next time I’m going to try zesting just to see if it makes a difference.
  • It’s a cultural recipe! There are few rules! Make it your own.

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