How to: Make Limoncello

When friends travel to new places, I always tell them to bring me back shoes. Most of the time, they think I’m joking, and return with the usual knick-knacks of shot glasses and postcards. But recently, my friend spent some time in Italy and came back with something equally as fabulous as some Emilio Pucci flats: real limoncello. Sure, I’d had it before, in mixed drinks and such, but nothing compares to the real thing handmade in someone’s cellar in Rome. Unlike the limoncello I’d tried before, this authentic, bottled elixir was so good that I craved more, spawning a little research. To my surprise and delight, I learned it wasn’t at all hard to make, so I set out to create my own batch of limoncello.

How to Make Limoncello

If you look online, you’ll find that there are many conflicting recipes. Some call for vodka, some for rum, but the most authentic advise using grain alcohol. Lucky for me, New Hampshire sells grain alcohol, but not all states are comfortable putting it on shelves. (If this is the case in your hometown, you can always use the vodka recipe. People say it’s just as good).

What You’ll Need:
(2) 750ml Bottles of Pure Grain Alcohol
(17) Lemons
5 Cups of Water
3.5 Cups of Sugar
Large Glass Jar

Day 1

Because you’re going to be using the zest of the lemons, it may be a wise decision to get organic ones. If they’re not organic, just make sure to wash them really well. Peel them, trying to get as little pith (the white stuff) on the rinds as possible, as it will just make your limoncello bitter. After 8 lemons, your hand may start cramping. Don’t give up. This is worth it.

After peeling all the lemons, put them in a large, sealable, glass jar and pour in the grain alcohol. Seal it up, agitate it a bit, and then lay it to rest in a dark place, such as a cupboard or closet.

7 Days to 4 Months Later

How long exactly do you wait? Well, this is the part where if you’ve got patience, it’ll pay off, but it’s not completely necessary. Along with the variation of alcohols from recipe to recipe, the duration you should allow the lemon mixture to sit for is debatable, ranging from 7 days to 4 months. Most directions recommend that you let it ferment for around 45 days. You’ll notice as time goes on, the mixture will become brighter and have a smoother, more mellow flavor.

After whatever duration you choose, there will come a time to make the alcohol sweet. Mix the water and sugar together and bring it to a boil for about 5 minutes. After it’s been heated, let it cool down completely.

While it’s cooling, you’re going to have to strain the alcoholic mixture. You can certainly use a fine strainer, but it’s best to use coffee filters (#4). The small particles that you can miss with just a strainer actually change the flavor over time, so it’s best to be thorough. Strain about 5 times.

Add the simple syrup to your alcoholic mixture and then funnel it into whatever bottles you’d like. They make great party favors in small jars. If you’re planning on drinking it soon (it’s hard to wait, especially after a grueling month and a half), stick it in the fridge or freezer. Wait a few hours, then enjoy!