Since I won't be traveling to the south of Italy anytime soon, I thought we could bring a bit of Sorrento to Brooklyn. Limoncello is an Italian after-dinner apertif that is delicious on its own, slowly sipped, or mixed in a cocktail. Jamie and I learned, only after we downed it like a shot at a Christmas party, that Limoncello should be sipped slowly. Needless to say we were very festive that year! Although it's sweet and fruity, it's made with vodka high in alcohol content and is not as innocent as it looks.
I assumed only a true Italian Nonna was capable of making proper homemade limoncello, but it's a lot simpler to make than I had thought! And gifting a bottle homemade limoncello looks way more impressive than the time and effort spent making it.
The most rewarding part about making it on your own is that you get to control the level of sweetness. Some of the store-bought limoncellos are cloyingly sweet. By being able to decide how much simple syrup to mix in and tasting it as you go, you can achieve the perfect citrus to sweetness ratio. The homemade version tastes so much fresher than the mass produced kind. It also looks so pretty in a rustic glass bottle with its bright yellow hue.
So put on Fellini's Le notti di Cabiria and start peeling some lemons. A few days or weeks later you'll be sipping the best tasting limoncello you've ever had, just in time for the warm evenings.
- 10 organic lemons, well scrubbed *it's important you use organic because non-organic lemons are coated with wax and pesticides, and alcohol pulls everything from the rinds including all that gross stuff.
- 1 750-ml bottle of 140+ proof or higher - the higher the better (we used 100 proof and just added less simple syrup)
- 3 cups of granulated sugar
- 3 cups boiling water
Peel strips of lemon zest with a vegetable peeler. Try to avoid as much of the white pith as possible and scrape off any pithy parts you miss. (Make lemonade with the leftover lemons!) Add lemon peels to a an airtight container of vodka.
Let the lemon peels and vodka mixture stand at room temperature, avoiding direct sun for at least 3 days and up to a month.
After your chosen infusion period is done, make the simple syrup. Stir together sugar and boiling water until the sugar has dissolved and allow to cool. Combine the lemon infused vodka with the simple syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate for a day.
Strain out the lemon peels and funnel into a bottle.
Chill the limoncello in the fridge or freezer for at least 4 hours before drinking. It can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for up to a year
I can't wait for nights on my rooftop, sipping limoncello with friends. It's truly a perfect way to end dinner on a spring or summer night.
(all photos Jamie Grill Photography)